How to feel more comfortable about the cloud

Security breaches come when you least expect them. Despite all the words written about the safety of storing documents online, some of the most high-profile lapses over the past few years have been surprisingly low-tech. Usually they have involved lost laptops or MPs photographed carrying uncovered sensitive documents in their hands on their way to a meeting in Downing Street.

Regardless of the recent revelations about governments trawling social media and other online data to gather intelligence, unless an organisation is holding highly sensitive information, it could be argued that its data is safer when stored centrally and securely and accessed from multiple locations, rather than being physically transported from point A to point B.

But still people fret about trusting their data to the cloud. There’s still a view that the cloud is fine for start-ups and small businesses, but certainly not for large corporations with huge legacy systems full of complex data and in many ways this is a valid concern. In today’s unpredictable and fast-changing world, sending key company information to the other side of globe might sound like a sensible cost-cutting compromise one minute and a foolish risk the next as circumstances change.

There are other fears too. Potential users are also questioning flexibility (once I’ve migrated to the cloud, how easy is it to come out of it again?) and cost (are there hidden charges which will negate the savings?).

All these worries are understandable. Organisations need to trust and feel comfortable about their technology, especially these days with the increased emphasis on transparency and corporate governance. However, at the same time the cloud holds so much promise at a time when many large corporations and government departments are struggling with cumbersome and mismatched legacy systems, platforms and outdated server rooms. Even the UK government is encouraging use of the cloud because of the knowledge that it could cut IT costs in the public sector by an estimated 75 per cent.

So is there a compromise between sacrificing the benefits of the cloud and throwing caution to the wind? Here are four areas to consider for those contemplating entrusting documents to cloud-based applications. Getting these right could go a long way to helping them feel more comfortable about their decision.

See also: Controlling the skies: The rise and role of the cloud service broker

Keep your data as close as possible

The cloud doesn’t mean that data has to be held on the other side of the world. There’s no doubt that businesses have more trust in cloud computing when their assets are held close by. For UK businesses this means a data centre in the UK, rather than in another European centre or the US.

Keeping data close to its source means it is subject to local security legislation and guidelines rather than to the demands of foreign governments. For example, although the US Department of Commerce’s Safe Harbor principles comply with the EU’s Data Protection Directive, some European countries and organisations don’t consider it to provide strong enough protection, and prefer European data centres. Keeping data in its country of origin can also ease the process of checking security protocols and business contingency plans as part of the deployment process.

Choose a solution tailored to its function

If looking for a solution for a mainstream business need such as storing and managing documents, Amazon, Google or Microsoft might appear the easiest choice. These global brands aim to be all things to all people, but largely, they are not designed for the complex needs of particular applications and industries.

Vendors that are experts in specific business verticals or geographies are well aware of any particular security and compliance challenges involved and will have designed their solutions accordingly to work with these.

>See also: Cloud brings application integration out of the shadows

Ensure the pricing model fits your requirements

For a business to feel comfortable about its choice of solution, it needs to feel confident that it is not paying more than necessary.

There’s no point in deploying an enterprise content management system (ECM), for example, that charges by the bandwidth or number of downloads if you have a high volume of documents to process. Instead find a solution where the monthly charge covers unrestricted downloads.

Charges might also depend on the number of people using the application or storage capacity. They may also be based on the number of components used; in this case the customer pays a monthly fee for each functional module. Each model has pros and cons and can work well for different organisations. The key is in matching the pricing model to your needs.

Make sure you can change

Everyone talks about how easy it is to get onto a cloud system – but what if you want to get off? Once you are in the cloud, can you change back to an on-premise version if necessary? Or vice versa? Is there a choice between software-as-a-service (SaaS) and owning the software, but it being hosted by vendor? Circumstances alter and what appeared to be the perfect choice at one point can become a nuisance if there’s a change of focus or strategy.

In a world desperate for new ways to do more for less, the cloud can’t be ignored, especially for those needing to store large volumes of data and share this across multiple locations in application areas such as ECM. A tailored cloud-based solution, with the right pricing structure and a data centre close to where the content has been created can help minimise risk, help organisations feel more comfortable about their choice and deliver the benefits offered by the cloud.

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics

Risk Assessment