The cloud applications, platforms and infrastructure that many businesses rely upon today, utilize public web servers and the Internet for data transmission, which leaves their users open to a number of different security risks and vulnerabilities. Cloud users must also contend with additional nuisances like performance issues and service interruptions that periodically impact the websphere.
But even with the risks and nuisances that cloud users face, one must keep in mind that similar issues occur with on-premise IT systems as well. Nevertheless, this article’s goal is to explore exactly how risky cloud computing is and to determine whether or not the benefits of cloud computing outweigh the risks.
In this regard, the research that we uncovered shows that the majority of cloud computing issues that companies face today are relatively minor and nowhere near as catastrophic as many anti-cloud proponents may allude to. In fact, a 2015 survey of 232 executives conducted by Forbes magazine found that only 9 percent of respondents experienced cloud issues that resulted in significant damages or loss on the enterprise level.
The survey data also found that more than half of the respondents (55%) said that that damages suffered from cloud issues were significantly limited in nature, and many of the issues could also be classified as avoidable mishaps.
Along the same lines, the topic of cloud computing risk was also explored in an Economist Intelligence Unit survey and report that was underwritten by Hitachi Data Systems. The report lists the following top concerns, as reported by the executives that participated in the survey:
- 46% Fear the loss of customer data
- 40% Fear the loss of revenue
- 36% Fear a breach of customer privacy
- 32% Fear unexpected extra costs
- 17% Fear a failure to deliver the expected ROI
The same survey revealed that the majority of respondents (70%) were currently using private cloud technology, while the majority of the rest (22%) were using public cloud services. The reasons provided for moving to cloud services to begin with were as follows: 55% – Higher Availability, 53% – Cost Control and 50% – Employee Efficiency.
In terms of actual negative impacts to cloud users, cloud integration issues and cloud service outages were the two most frequently occurring problems for organizations, as reported by EIU survey respondents, followed by cloud data breaches. Overall, 67% of EIU survey respondents reported cloud service issues, with the most severe issues occurring in the following areas, to date:
- 23% Reported a significant outage to a public or community cloud service
- 20% Reported a prolonged failure to integrate public or community cloud services with existing systems
- 17% Reported a data breach resulting from the use of a public or community cloud service
- 11% Reported a permanent loss of data from public or community cloud services
So who’s responsible for the various cloud issues that the participating survey respondents experienced? It turns out that the blame doesn’t fall on the shoulders of just one person or entity, as the causes of the most serious cloud issues for the companies surveyed, were caused by different parties, as follows:
- 36% Caused by technical error on the part of organization
- 35% Caused by Commercial (I.e. contractual/customer relationship management) error on the part of cloud vendor
- 29% Caused by technical error on the part of the supplier
- 27% Caused by a lack of technical skills within the organization
- 21% Vendor failure to meet requirements
Unfortunately, the numbers show that the majority of cloud issues (63%) were due to failures and incompetencies at the organizational level. But regardless of this fact, additional data shows that the executives surveyed can not be accused of passively sitting back on their laurels, without making any effort to actively manage or reduce cloud related issues within their companies. The executives surveyed reported taking the following proactive steps to increase cloud awareness and cloud competency across their organizations:
- 48% Reported training existing staff in relevant cloud skills
- 36% Reported initiatives to improve their cloud vendor selection criteria
- 33% Reported initiatives to add more cloud specialists to their staff
The preceding stats show that the executives that EIU surveyed understand that the final responsibility for mitigating cloud computing risks falls on the end-user organization’s shoulders, as they are the ones who ultimately pay the price when a cloud event, such as an service outage, data breech or other cloud related loss occurs.
In addition to the cloud risk mitigation measures that the EIU survey participants reported, other cloud risk mitigation measures that have been recommended by the EIU include the following:
- Drawing up a set of requirements and expectations for all cloud vendor relationships
- Including data security standards or requirements in all cloud vendor contracts or SLAs (service level agreements)
The EIU survey report also advises companies to look beyond the cost savings factor when moving to the cloud. There needs to be evidence that a business can benefit in other ways, by moving to the cloud, such as improving business operations and employee efficiency.
Business leaders also need to continuously work towards increasing their level of cloud literacy, exploring the various ways that the cloud can be leveraged to make their business operations more agile, more intelligent and more competitive, while opening the doorway to the development of new products & services, as well as new markets.
When you look at all of the benefits that cloud adoption offers to organizations, it’s easy to conclude that the benefits of moving to the cloud far outweigh the risks.