‘Is it about time we made the move to the cloud?’
For many, or even most businesses, moving to the cloud can represent a significant opportunity to improve their capacity, increase the speed of deployment for new services, and ultimately generate a more streamlined IT infrastructure.
There is, however, one problem. How can organisations begin moving to the cloud when the majority of their employees are already there?
Over the last few years, the availability of free online storage services has come to form its own infrastructure beyond the reach of official IT systems.
Through the use of free online services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote and Wunderlist, more employees than ever are ‘going rogue’ and unwittingly saving confidential and potentially sensitive information in their own ‘hidden clouds’.
As increasing numbers of employees have turned to these services, their usage is now considered more mainstream than that of the company’s own approved communications channels.
As a result of this ‘standard practice’ mentality, organisations are losing control over their data, putting themselves at risk of security breaches, compliance issues and even potential legal action.
According to research by Symform, as many as 88% of corporate employees are storing work-related documents within these hidden clouds.
Rather than perceiving employees as having ‘gone rogue’, and departed from the traditional model of ‘assigned apps’ and ‘locked doors’, IT needs to recognise that the ground has shifted beneath its feet.
This kind of cloud engagement is the new reality, and businesses need to adapt, not to prevent it, but to manage it as effectively as they can.
While many staff members may be ‘early-adopters’, IT departments are more likely to cling to old, familiar models, and reluctant to embrace new technologies that could potentially decentralise control over their systems.
Such conservativism is, perhaps, logical, given the expenses and potential complications involved in any technological upgrade.
By sticking to what they know, IT managers are in the best possible position to protect and maintain order within their companies, minimising downtime and reducing risks.
The only problem comes when the decisions surrounding technology are taken out of their hands, as has been the case with the cloud.
Modern employees not only know what they want, they also know the best ways to get it. With the ability to collaborate, edit and easily share documentation between multiple devices, it was only a matter of time before workers realised the benefits of cloud-based applications.
As a result, they will do everything in their power to reap those benefits – with or without the IT department’s permission.
Companies need to realise that they are no longer on the cusp of making a decision on cloud. That starting pistol fired a long time ago, and it looks like their employees hit the ground running. The only thing left for IT departments is to try and catch up.
IT managers have two options: open up their systems to provide employees with free reign across all cloud services, or try to regain control wherever they can.
Option one may sound like the easiest solution, but it has disadvantages. By storing company information in the cloud, employees are risking personal privacy violations, data-protection breaches, potential damage to the company’s reputation, and unnecessary expenditure on security protocols.
In the long term, each one of these issues will need to be addressed, and expensive post-breach safeguards will probably have to be put in place.
Experience has shown that simply forbidding and blocking cloud services only causes employees to go off-piste, downloading apps in different ways or to different devices.
Workers are used to getting what they want, when they want it. While it’s important to have appropriate policies and security in place, users will almost always find a way to get the apps they need.
There is however, another option between unregulated cloud usage and purely centralised control. IT departments need to focus on removing the need to seek out these apps in the first place by offering staff the apps they want in a controlled manner.
By taking the time to find out what their staff want, and providing it, IT departments can retain ownership of all the keys, helping them to guard, secure and manage their company’s cloud estate and application spend. A regulated system – without restriction.
With regards to the specifics of this approach, there are a number of potential solutions that businesses can undertake.
Most common amongst these is the development of a company-owned app store. By auditing their applications, IT departments can better understand which internal and external services their employees are using on a regular basis.
On the back of this understanding, they can then begin to improve their own internal application offering to ensure that they still meet the needs of their employees.
Once businesses have established these applications, they can bring them together into their own cloud-based corporate app store. This will provide the security and traceability of traditional apps, while also creating the feeling that users can simply download what they want, when they want it.
Ultimately, this store should act as a portal that is even more useful to a company’s employees than the hidden clouds they have created themselves.
This will provide IT managers with the opportunity to regain control over their systems – dismantling the hidden cloud from the inside out.
Sourced from Adrian Foxall, CEO, Camwood