Trusting the cloud: End user viewpoints

The cloud adopter…

Retail supply chain provider Dee Set’s policy of handling sensitive transactions in person meant that cloud presents no security threat

Dee Set, a UK-based logistics and supply chain business that serves retail giants including Asda and Morrisons, says it has profited from all three following its decision to swap Microsoft Exchange Server for Google Apps.

When the company was experiencing a phase of rapid growth in 2007, it found that its Microsoft Exchange Server was becoming too expensive and unwieldy to accommodate its burgeoning IT requirements, prompting IT manager Gavin Jones to investigate a cheaper and more flexible solution. “As we grew, the per-user cost became very high,” he recalls. Jones was already familiar with Google’s consumer-focused email service, Gmail, but was unaware that the search giant also offered an enterprise-grade version.

The fact that some of Dee Set’s 1,000 employees were already using Gmail at home ensured that the transition from Microsoft to Google was relatively smooth. “Within three months, we had killed off Exchange and Outlook completely and moved over to Google Apps,” says Jones. He says that cost-effectiveness was the greatest benefit of the move: Dee Set has shaved about £50,000 off its IT bill. And the company can now scale its number of email accounts up and down in a matter of hours, according to requirements and budget.

He insists that the company had few reservations about security when deploying Google’s suite of office applications, as the company has a policy of only dealing with commercially sensitive issues in person, effectively mitigating the risk of data loss or theft: “I look at security like a house. You may lock your front door, but you still keep valuables like your passport and will in a safe under the sink.”

…and the cloud sceptic

For online video content distributor Digital Theatre, the security risks of cloud far outweigh the potential benefits

Founded just last year, Digital Theatre distributes videos of theatrical productions via the Internet. One might imagine, therefore, that it would be an ideal use case for cloud computing.

But for chief technology officer Philip Shaw, the risk associated with hosting its intellectual property in the cloud is too great; it therefore stores all video content on-premise.

“Everything we store is owned by Digital Theatre,” he explains. “If we ever have to demonstrate to a partner that we can protect their content, we have to be able to say that it’s never out of our sight.”

Digital Theatre’s reluctance to adopt cloud services stretches to all functions of the business, with payment card processing regulation PCI DSS being a particular bone of contention. “If we were to offload onto a cloud computing platform and we failed PCI compliance because they were using [secure networking protocol] SSL2, we’d fall foul of all kinds of penalties on transaction fees,” he says.

When it comes to non-core IT infrastructure such as email, Shaw does not believe that the potential for increased flexibility afforded by cloud has a material cost benefit. “There’s not really a great saving in time and effort,” he says. “It’s so easy just to spin up a couple of Microsoft Exchange machines anyway.”

Overall, Shaw is of the opinion that the security dangers associated with cloud computing outweigh any perceived reward. “It doesn’t solve any of the problems we have, it would just bring issues,” he concludes. “We couldn’t control who had access to those physical machines, and we couldn’t say that no copy had ever been taken of an asset – which could then show up on YouTube.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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