Suddenly, everybody’s a cloud expert: What it means for IT

There was probably a time in your career when you were the only person in the company who had heard the term “the cloud,” let alone had any idea of how it works. But two new surveys show the problem might now be that everyone outside of IT feels like they know it all when it comes to the cloud. 

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First, the breakdowns. According to a recent survey by RightScale, 94% of companies are using the cloud. Survey respondents used:

  • the public cloud only (29%)
  • a hybrid of the public and private (58%), and
  • private cloud only (7%).

With 94% at least dipping their toes in the water, it’s clear: Companies are willing to give this service a shot and aren’t scared off by nightmare stories anymore.

A little cloud knowledge can be dangerous

But is that really good news? Another survey by domain registrar 123-reg found that 36% of public respondents surveyed said they had little to no idea what the cloud even was. Only about three in 10 could correctly identify cloud service providers from a list.

That’s OK. Not everyone is an IT pro. But the problem is, when non-technical people are directing information technology strategies, there can be a disconnect. Take the RightScale survey for instance, where:

  • 29% of respondents working in a business unit saw the cloud as the top priority, while
  • only 18% of those working in IT agreed.

So not only has the cloud gotten introduced into business in recent years, it’s now being seen as the driving force in business by many outside of IT. Attitudes on its security also show a gap:

  • 32% of business unit respondents saw cloud security as a significant challenge, but
  •  47% of IT respondents said the same.

With all due respect to your colleagues in other departments, IT is in a much better place to know the security risks of a service than another manager who sees it as a priority, but not a concern.

The cloud security good news

Lest you think it’s all bad, there are promising findings in the RightScale survey. As companies expand their cloud footprint and bring more services into the fold, security becomes less of a concern across the board. In other words, it would seem most companies are having good cloud security experiences.

In fact, concerns with the cloud drop across the board with experience, from security to managing the services to compliance. Security drops from the top concern to fifth on the list for companies heavily invested in the cloud.

The takeaway

It’s clear that IT and the rest of the company should be on the same page when it comes to cloud services. Miscommunication or unrealistic expectations could easily send projects off the rails or put security in jeopardy for the hope of wild returns.

Here are some key points to hit on:

  • Give a primer. It can’t hurt to explain the cloud to decision-makers in very broad terms. Make sure they have a broad overview of what it is and how it may be able to help before they’re sold by a vendor on why the cloud could be huge for profits.
  • Discuss security risks. The risks may not be as high as many companies assume, but be sure to explain that breaches can happen and data can be stolen, altered or lost. At the very least, get them to see the difference between public, private and hybrid clouds, and why information for one might not be appropriate in another.
  • Update on progress. If you have ongoing cloud projects, make sure to brief decision-makers on how these projects are progressing. They might not be overwhelmed with the results, even if everything is working according to plan. That’s because most vendors are a lot better at selling hype than they are at delivering game-changing returns. Remind the top brass that any promises of a huge return should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Keep it in IT. Companies get in trouble when other departments go outside of IT to sign up for services and applications. Keep shadow IT out of it by insisting that IT has a strong voice in cloud decisions.

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