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Safe and secure in the cloud

A look at how CIOs are warming up to the cloud as IT leaders balance risk and reward so that business can make the most of on-demand IT.

The cloud is great. It helps businesses scale their IT resources on-demand in relation to the fast-changing requirements of business in the digital age. But those claims of greatness often come with a disclaimer for one key area: security.

CIOs and C-suite executives have been only too keen to purchase infrastructure and software-as-a-service for certain business tasks. Take testing and development, for example, which often requires scalable IT resources for an undefined period of time. The cloud provides spare capacity for developers who do not wish to be constrained by a traditional licensing agreement or spend dearly on hardware which will only be used occasionally.

In most cases, testing and development does not involve critical business data or core production systems. CIOs and senior managers can, therefore, feel safe in the knowledge that the cloud is providing a useful and safe foundation for development work.

Businesses tend to be more reticent about the use of the cloud for day-to-day systems, particularly those that hold sensitive data. CIOs in highly regulated sectors, such as finance and government, have been particularly cagey about using the cloud.

However, a tipping point might have been reached in the conservative and risk-averse public sector. A report from Forbes Insights and Microsoft suggests concerns about using the cloud for public sector IT are being countered by real-world success stories. Worries about data sovereignty, privacy, and security are dissipating as government IT managers see their peers choosing cloud services.

CIOs recognise that, in many cases, big cloud providers are better at managing and securing data than internal IT departments. Why would a public sector organisation, for example, invest time and money building an internal datacentre when a specialist third party offers high quality resources on-demand?

Businesses should only spend money on resources that will improve their competitive advantage. In many cases, IT of all colours - whether in the cloud or not in the cloud - will not be a core business process. In short, your provider might be able to manage your mess for less.

Evidence would suggest IT leaders are recognising the power of partnership and the rewards reaped from cloud services. Research from market analyst IDG reveals that CIO spending on cloud computing will rise by 42 per cent this year.

The survey also shows that cloud computing initiatives are the most important project for the majority of IT departments today - and are expected to cause the most disruption in the future. If your business can manage the risks, a move to the cloud can produce significant long-term benefits.

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