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Does security really remain a drag on cloud adoption?

I was fascinated to read a recent post on the Enterprise Tech website, claiming that security concerns remain a major barrier to cloud adoption. 

However, I would argue that this conclusion is more dramatic than the data it is based on would warrant. 

The Enterprise Tech article draws on data from the Dell Global Technology Index, published last year in early November. This is a major mid-market adoption survey, using research that spans 2,000 companies in 19 industries and 11 countries. 

The research shows definitively that security concerns are the ‘biggest barriers to cloud’, with 52% of respondents who have not adopted the cloud agreeing this is the case. However it also points out that: 

“It’s estimated that the average company has 545 cloud services in use, storing a total of 1 exabyte. In fact, most believe that cloud is the future of IT… Today this revolution is well underway, with 97 percent of companies either already using or considering cloud and changing their technology models and mind sets to make way”. 

In other words, despite security concerns, the traffic is very much one way – towards the cloud – and only a minority have yet to adopt it. In the UK, 78% of companies have adopted the cloud, while 20% are considering it. In Brazil and Mexico, an incredible 90% are using the cloud, with a further 9% looking to do so. 

So, rather than security being a major drag on cloud adoption, it is preventing only a small number of companies from adopting software and services of this kind. Most organisations have embraced it with open arms, and rightly so – Dell also found a “strong correlation” between company growth and cloud adoption, with 72% of those expanding their cloud infrastructure growing by 6% or more over the last three years. 

That said, if security issues are holding back a small proportion of companies from adopting the cloud, what are their concerns? 

The first worry is purely financial. Dell reports PWC figures that there are 120,000 security attacks daily, resulting in multi-million dollar losses. 

The second worry is that threats are becoming ever more sophisticated, and only 1 in 4 companies have plans to handle data breaches. Keeping ahead is not always an easy or cheap business. 

The final worry is that there are internal barriers to achieving better security. These are: 

  • More information is needed to prepare for a breach (70% of respondents)
  • CEO and other executives are not fully engaged in security (70%)
  • There is no good way to measure security ROI (67%)
  • There is no good way to measure security effectiveness (64%)
  • Employees aren’t fully aware of the security rules they must follow (60%) 

Given these concerns, what are the best ways to help companies reach the cloud? 

First of all, they need to keep in mind that the gains are likely to exceed any potential losses. Research compiled in the RightScale 2014 State of the Cloud Report details these as: 

  • Capital expenditure to operational expenditure
  • Business continuity
  • IT staff efficiency
  • Geographic reach
  • Higher performance
  • Cost savings
  • Faster time-to-market
  • Higher availability
  • Faster access to infrastructure
  • Greater scalability 

Secondly, they need to understand that the cloud is more appropriate for some activities than others. By undertaking risk assessment on data committed to the cloud, you can ensure that the most sensitive data is kept in the most secure and appropriate way. 

Finally, barriers to adoption are never insurmountable. It is possible to prepare contingency plans for a data breach; possible to take a whole-organisation approach to security; and possible to measure security effectiveness. 

For example, on that last point, the UK Government until recently awarded cloud services available via its G-Cloud portal security accreditation based on independent penetration testing. Our own cloud collaboration software, Kahootz, benefited from this and has subsequently been adopted by a huge range of public sector and commercial organisations. 

To conclude, it’s clearly overegging the pudding to claim that security is a major drag to cloud adoption – the vast majority of businesses are already using cloud technology, often to great effect. However, if you are among the dwindling number of organisations that have yet to take the leap, it’s important to remember that security issues can be overcome – and you can reap major benefits if they are. 

If you’d like to know how our own clients overcame their own barriers to cloud adoption, please get in touch. We’d be very happy to use our experience to address your own security concerns. 

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