Listening to the hype, one may be tempted to consider cloud computing in the enterprise a foregone conclusion. However, a recent ISACA report (PDF) found that 42 per cent of Canadian business and IT professionals still believe the risks of cloud computing outweigh the benefits.
The most frequently cited concerns about implementing cloud computing focused on security, privacy and lack of control over data and compliance issues. This provides a great opportunity for channel partners, who can help companies understand and balance the risks and rewards of cloud computing.
The cloud provides enterprises with elasticity and flexibility to access IT services they need during peak periods, without investing in hardware that is needed just a few times a year. Enterprises instead can focus capital expenditures on a mid-point period, and use the cloud for cost-effectively managing spikes in demand.
Enterprises also can achieve better speed to market with the cloud. As enterprises adapt quicker, more effective and efficient applications, cloud providers can be better equipped to handle the dynamics of those changes than an internal IT department. The IT department, in turn, can better align its efforts with the strategic needs of the business, instead of the latest service pack upgrades and security patches.
However, in today’s environment of hacker attacks, phishing expeditions and downright nasty malware, risk management is at the forefront of any enterprise cloud-computing implementation. The concept of an enterprise’s data being outside of its complete control may be difficult for decision-makers to accept.
Channel partners should be playing a central role in this dynamic shift to the cloud. They should be working with customers to assess what level of risk is acceptable to the business, and then determine which cloud approach is the best course – public, private or a hybrid approach.
For some companies, a public cloud strategy may be the best approach, enabling them to get out of the IT business and have a cloud provider handle their infrastructure needs. Other companies, concerned with regulatory issues such as the Data Protection Act, may consider a private cloud approach.
Others may prefer a hybrid approach. This method puts fewer mission-critical applications in a public cloud, placing those that offer a competitive advantage or require higher security needs in a private cloud environment – with a common “cloud management umbrella,” so the customer has greater visibility and monitoring capabilities.
Channel partners can also help define the unique needs of customers’ data-centric security models. By examining the individual data elements that comprise the information within the enterprise, a channel partner can quickly address the key security, visibility and compliance issues an enterprise should consider during cloud migration.
A channel partner also can help identify the workloads and classify the types of data that should be put into the cloud, as well as how to structure the data lifecycle management process in the most optimal way. At each step, channel partners are key partners in helping clients to protect and manage their data.
Even with all of the concerns about security, visibility and compliance, cloud computing continues to grow. ISACA found the percentage of respondents whose organizations now use the cloud increased from 16 per cent in 2010 to 26 per cent in 2011.The trend to increase cloud usage is expected to accelerate into 2012 and beyond.
By helping companies effectively manage risks associated with the cloud, channel partners can play a critical role as their customers better align their business and IT strategies – and help their businesses grow.
Siobhan Byron is the President of Forsythe Technology Canada, an IT infrastructure integrator headquartered in Toronto, with offices in Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary. Siobhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-283-1801.