How to Avoid Hidden Costs of the Cloud

Originally Posted on GovLoop 

Agencies have been looking at cloud computing as a way to reduce waste, increase efficiency and cut cost. The benefits of the cloud are clear, as proper cloud adoption can assist agencies to increase software capacity, increase staffing capacity, improve collaboration and become more agile. For many, the cloud presents dozens of benefits to help agencies serve their most critical mission objectives. Yet, the cloud does come with a host of implementation and security challenges. Although the cloud certainly can deliver on benefits, agencies must be sure that technology is implemented properly to deliver on the promises of cloud technology.

In a recent report by Symantec, Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud 2013 Survey, the findings show that in some cases, organizations have moved to the cloud too quickly, neglecting to take proper steps to implement cloud technology. If the impact of migrating to the cloud is not fully understood, agencies may face a host of new and complex challenges within the cloud – not fully benefitting what the cloud offers. Undoubtedly, the cloud will continue to be imperative to transform the way government operates, but like all emerging technologies, agencies cannot rush to adopt cloud technology. The report found five hidden costs of cloud adoption:

  • Rogue Cloud Implementations
  • Cloud Back Up and Recovery
  • Inefficient Cloud Storage
  • Compliance and eDiscovery
  • SSL Certificate Management

Two trends in particular that are important considerations for government are rogue cloud implementations and cloud back up and recovery.

Rogue Cloud Implementations

One of the interesting sections in the report identifies that rogue cloud deployments lead to increased costs and security risks, as sensitive data is being placed in the cloud absent management. An example would be sharing materials via an unauthorized Dropbox account. The report identified that for many, rogue cloud deployments were happening, and employees did not realize what they were doing was wrong.

Rogue cloud adoption indicates the need for IT departments to embrace emerging technologies. With tight restrictions to government information and data, IT departments cannot risk pushing people outside the walls of IT. This is true for cloud adoption, BYOD implementation, mobile apps and the various workplace productivity tools that are being implemented in government. Employees are looking to improve how they do their job, and are savvy enough to find tools without the formal assistance of IT departments. By embracing emerging technology, IT can provide the tools employees desire in a safe and secure workplace environment.

Cloud Back Up and Recovery

A second area of interest was cloud back up and recovery. For government, there is great importance in preserving and protecting data and information collected. The report states, “More than 40 percent have lost data in the cloud and have had to restore their information from backups (47 percent of enterprises and 37 percent of SMBs). Two-thirds of those organizations saw recovery operations fail.  Furthermore, recovering data from the cloud is slow. Just one-third [of those surveyed] rate cloud data recovery as fast. How slow? More than one-fifth estimates recovering from the cloud would take three days or longer.”

With the increasing amounts of volume, and the speed at which data is collected, any cloud adoption program must address data back up and security. This trend will only continue to grow in importance, as agencies move towards real-time analysis, complex algorithms and use predictive analytics to drive improved decision-making. The report concludes with some strategies to avoid hidden costs in cloud implementation:

  1. Focus policies on information and people, not technologies or platforms
  2. Educate, monitor and enforce policies
  3. Embrace tools that are platform agnostic
  4. Deduplicate data in the cloud

As the cloud continues to grow as an important way to improve the efficiency and productivity of government, agencies must understand the impacts of adopting the cloud in terms of culture and business process. Symantec’s lessons learned of policy, education, tool agnostic, and validating data is a great start to avoiding some common pitfalls of cloud adoption.

For the report, Symantec worked with ReRez Research to conduct a survey of business and IT executives in 3,246 organizations in 29 countries. The report also samples companies ranging from five to over 5,000 employees.

What is your greatest challenge with cloud computing? How can you avoid common pitfalls?

 

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