7 hazards that can ruin IT’s cloud computing strategy

Cloud ComputingMany organizations will turn to cloud computing in 2012 to save money, consolidate their IT infrastructure, and increase flexibility and agility. But those moving into the cloud will need to watch for a few major pitfalls that could keep those benefits from being realized.

The majority (84%) of IT managers say their businesses are using at least one cloud application, according to a recent survey from CDW. However, just one-third called their organizations “cloud users,” or regular adopters of the technology.

That’s despite the fact that 84% of cloud users said they reduced the cost of applications when they moved them to the cloud. Those costs were reduced by an average of 21%.

What’s holding the others back? Despite the benefits, cloud computing must be approached with care or organizations may not reap the cost-saving or administrative benefits – or worse, they can put data sent to the cloud at risk of a security breach.

Here are the top pitfalls that keep businesses from getting the most out of cloud computing:

1. The company’s own security practices

Security is the number-one concern organizations have about cloud computing, according to the CDW survey and other research. However, many companies using the cloud could be doing more on their part to protect their data and applications.

For example, just 54% encrypt data while it’s transmitted, according to CDW’s survey. Also, only half say they manage employee access to cloud applications, and just 44% require password changes every 90 days. Cloud security measures in many ways must be the same as with a traditional IT environment, but those results show many organizations are taking cloud security for granted or relying too heavily on vendors to protect data.

2. Vendors’ security

Of course, cloud vendors can be blamed for security problems also. Any time data is put in the hands of another organization, IT must make sure it’s going to be protected.

Here are some steps experts recommend to keep data secure when it’s held by a cloud vendor:

  1. Verify security practices – Know what steps third parties take to protect their clients’ data. That includes what technical controls are in place, as well as how the company vets its employees and enforces security policies.
  2. Establish liability – Contracts should lay out what happens if your data is compromised while on the third party’s network.
  3. Validate – The contract should also give your company a way of validating that proper security measures are in place, such as the ability to conduct audits or site visits.

3. Hidden costs

One of the main reasons businesses turn to cloud computing is to save money. However, many find there are hidden costs associated with the cloud that they didn’t take into account while planning.

Those costs can include upload and download fees, one-time charges for moving data onto a cloud server, on-going storage costs, and set-up fees. In most cases, those won’t be a deterrent to using a cloud service, but it’s important to be aware of the total costs of the service while planning.

4. Failing to make sure there are backups

Once a service is put in another organization’s control, it’s easy to assume that the vendor will take care of back-ups and redundancies. But that’s not necessarily the case, as a recent outage of Amazon’s cloud storage service showed.

When setting up a cloud service, it’s up to IT to find out what back-up plans are included in the service and make other arrangements if those aren’t sufficient.

5. Bandwidth issues

Some organizations find that bandwidth issues hurt the performance of cloud applications and create costly inefficiencies.

Some cloud services have huge bandwidth needs, and it’s important to make sure both the cloud vendor’s network and the organization’s own network can handle it.

6. Putting the wrong applications in the cloud

One thing companies must understand is that when they use a cloud service, they may lose control over how much attention an IT problem receives. When a critical in-house application goes down, the whole IT department can drop everything to fix it. That’s not the case in the cloud.

That, along with security concerns, is why experts often recommend organizations keep those critical applications in-house.

7. Lack of planning

Despite the number of companies using at least one cloud application, just 38% of organizations have an overall strategic cloud computing plan in place. If any of the others plan to make further use of the cloud, it’s important to have an overall plan that’s incorporated into the company’s overall IT strategy.

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