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Dirty little secrets of the cloud

According to Gartner Research, public cloud spending today is a relatively small five per cent of total IT budgets. However, spending is supposed to increase at an average compound annual growth rate of 15.8 per cent through 2020, which is much higher than overall IT budget growth. With the rise of popularity of cloud technologies, one would think that organisations of all sizes and industries have come to understand the specifics of implementation and adoption – but in reality, there is still just as much confusion around it as ever before. 

While cloud is often less expensive and more scalable than on premises solutions, organisations tend to invest in technology such as virtual machines (VMs) and don’t think to turn them off when they are no longer needed. This is much like forgetting to turn off the lights or unplug appliances that go unused in your home – resulting in a hefty charge you hadn’t planned to pay. 

There are plenty advantages to shifting your organisation to the cloud, but you need to understand the nuances of the technology before you can reap the benefits. Here, I present some of the dirty little secrets of the cloud that many businesses overlook, leaving them with less than they desired at the time of implementation. 

The cloud is not always a cheaper alternative to on-premises environments

While cloud providers tout the massive cost savings of the cloud on areas such as servers and maintenance, on-premises environments provide a finite amount of resources – providing a natural ceiling to what your organisation can use. The unlimited possibilities of the cloud can pose a problem if not completely understood. In fact, from my conversations with industry peers, roughly 40 per cent of today’s cloud computing costs are considered a waste – including unnecessary workloads for testing and development purposes – due to its seemingly “free utility.”  

So how do you mitigate the potential rise in costs once you’ve migrated to the cloud? Don’t take your cloud vendor’s word for it. Have your IT department continually calculate your cloud usage. For larger organisations, skipping this essential step can cause you to end up with millions of dollars lost over the course of a subscription. Think of it this way – you check your electricity, wireless, and internet usage before paying the bill. Why not do the same with your cloud investment? 

Adding routine employee trainings on cloud usage, as well as implementing solutions to handle VM provisioning and application-level optimisation can also help your organisation realise the real cost saving benefits of the cloud.

The cloud will not erase all of your worries

Uninformed executives have the misconception that once an organisation is in the cloud, there is no more need to consider traditional infrastructure concerns such as data backup. They think that cloud providers can handle any and all data loss at lightning speeds. This is absolutely not the case, and the many examples of ransomware destroying massive company data sets is proof of this. Cloud providers generally have service level agreements (SLAs) around disaster recovery (DR), high availability (HA), and restoring lost data from backups. However, DR and HA alone do not equal backup. One Ransomware-encrypted or corrupted data file replicated five to seven times is still useless to the business. And when it comes to backups and granular item-level restores, cloud providers have to keep the same backup SLA in order to cater to all of their customers. This usually means only weekly backups are available – which is not often enough for many organisations.  

Understanding your cloud provider’s SLAs is the first step to ensuring your backup needs are being met. How often do backups occur? How long will it take your cloud provider to restore the data? Do you have to restore an entire backup – meaning you might lose changes that were made since the backup was made – or can you restore data down to a single document? And is the restore full fidelity so that it retains all the permissions, metadata, and version history of the document?  

Unfortunately, many organisations do not understand the limitations of their cloud provider’s backup offerings. This is especially problematic for small- to medium-sized businesses that do not have dedicated IT resources or limited data governance experience. Without the right plan and tools in place, a single Ransomware attack can cause serious damage. 

The cloud is not always easy enough for all employees to understand

Although the cloud may simplify the end user experience, human error due to lack of training can cause security issues for many organisations. Since you’re essentially storing your company’s data on someone else’s server, not having a proper understanding of what should and should not reside in the cloud can have disastrous consequences. 

Organisations must balance ease of access for employees with proper governance in order to ensure that data remains safe. There is a growing concern around privacy and security across industries – including both external and internal threats – and you could be leaking data without even knowing it. In fact, according to a recent Intel Security study, 43 per cent of data leakage is caused by internal employees instead of hacker groups or other outside malicious sources. 

Automating governance policies and implementing solutions to classify, scan, and redact information are ways to reduce the potential for data leakage. Pairing these activities with ongoing employee training around data security and organisational policies can provide a good foundation for data loss prevention. 

The cloud opens up significant opportunities for many organisations, and it is a great equalising agent for companies both small and large. Harnessing this power can prove valuable for you, but only when you understand the realities that come along with it. Arm yourself with the knowledge to create a profitable shift to the cloud and the rest of your organisation, as well as your customers, will thank you for it.

Dr. Tianyi Jiang, AvePoint (opens in new tab)Co-CEO and Co-Founder 

Image Credit: Chaiyapop Bhumiwat / Shutterstock  

As Co-CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Tianyi (TJ) Jiang oversees product strategy and business development for AvePoint’s global businesses.