Name a more daunting a task than transitioning a company's business operations and data to the cloud.
Difficulty arises in explaining how the cloud works to business stakeholders whose knowledge is nebulous at best, but a migration also requires reinventing where the heart of a company lives.
In its 2019 State of the Cloud Survey, RightScale found public cloud is the top priority of 31% of enterprises this year. It also found companies plan to spend 24% more on public cloud in 2019 than last year.
"You get a lot of productivity gains because the cloud enables sharing. It breeds productivity and it just makes it so much simpler to collaborate," Jacob Serpa, product marketing manager for BitGlass, told CIO Dive in an interview. "You can have people working around the world and collaborating in real time. It's really powerful."
Here are three considerations business technology decision makers need to weigh when transitioning operations and data into the cloud, especially when it comes to protecting the data.
1. Security walls have shifted
The cloud does not operate the same as on-premise hardware and security measures will not remain the same either.
"Things used yesterday aren't going to work tomorrow," said Mike O'Malley, vice president of strategy for Radware, in an interview with CIO Dive.
"A firewall protected you from bad things getting inside your building. But now you're in the cloud, and the bad stuff is all around."
A firewall isn't going to cut it anymore.
"A firewall protected you from bad things getting inside your building. But now you're in the cloud, and the bad stuff is all around. The surface area of attack is much more complex and much more sophisticated," he said.
Think about a business as an island, O'Malley said. Before, when everything was on premise, businesses had to protect the island. But in the cloud, information is shoving off — it's on boats, on waves, almost everywhere in the ocean.
The cloud provider isn't solely responsible for security of all that off island information.
"The app vendors themselves are responsible for making sure their apps themselves are safe. They're also responsible for the security of that data that is in the apps," said Serpa.
However, it falls on the company to secure who they let use the app and get access to that data, which is where a third-party vendor usually steps in.
Security is something to think about before making the switch, Jennifer Fernick, head of research at NCC Group, told CIO Dive in an interview. "It's critically important that companies are really deliberate about security by design and in advance before they move into the cloud," she said.
She also recommends having cloud application penetration testing done to make sure that the security solution works.
"It only takes one misconfiguration in the public cloud for things to go wrong and for there to be a massive security breach," she said. "It's really important that all configurations are tested and a second set of eyes is looking at them."
2. The cloud will add flexibility
The shift from on-premises hardware to cloud may be worth it because it can help companies be more agile and nimble, said Serpa. Not only can employees work from more locations — inside a company's headquarters or in another country — it can also allow use of devices of their choosing.
That's because the cloud allows greater implementation of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies while still, if security measures are set up right, ensuring that data is safe no matter where a user is accessing it.
"They get to work flexibly from locations of their choosing and easily with their coworkers. It's good for productivity, teamwork and morale," Serpa said. More and more vendors are also able to access corporate data from personal devices. Securing devices is becoming less of a concern than making sure unauthorized users can get into that cloud data.
"You need a solution and various tools that are more focused on protecting the data itself rather than locking down the devices that are going to access that data because you're not going to get your hands on all those devices," he said.
3. On the cloud, you can scale up
Companies can grow — and grow quickly — once moved to the cloud.
"You have data moving into these applications that provide more flexibility than are typically available in traditional types of tools," said Serpa. Where before, if a company wanted to grow they'd have to "spend a bunch of money on all this infrastructure that we're going to host on premises. When you go to the cloud that's not really an issue. With the press of a button, you're able to build your business."
Think about a company that has just hired a lot of people, he said.
"The IT department will be responsible for ensuring that all systems are working effectively in order to sustain this growth. However, doing this in the traditional fashion will require that they build out more of their infrastructure on premises by, for example, buying additional servers and other technology," Serpa said.
Before, companies need to spend money on hardware and facilities capable of housing them.
But "the cloud is built for this very problem," he said. As resources like storage, compute, and applications are typically delivered as a service, there is no need to tie up capital in IT infrastructure."
Also because cloud services can scale with that press of a button, it "simplifies the process of growing as an organization," Serpa said.