Cloud computing offers clear benefits in terms of efficiency, function and cost, which is why most organizations are already using cloud services or planning to do so in the near future. However, cloud hurdles like security remain top of mind for many verticals such as healthcare.
While Cisco predicts cloud usage will quadruple by 2019, as we saw in Cisco's Cloudy Forecast, some organizations and sectors are still holding back. The question is: What is keeping them back? (See Cisco's Cloudy Forecast.)
To gain insight into the current hurdles and headways of cloud adoption, The New IP spoke with Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid Technologies, and John Grady, senior manager of product marketing for XO Communications Inc. Although both agree that security is the primary concern for organizations that have yet to adopt the cloud, there are other factors at play, as well.
The security challenge
The perception of public cloud as more vulnerable to data breaches than an organization's own infrastructure is what prevents some from tapping into the great potential of cloud computing. However, security challenges are not unique to the cloud, Lahav points out -- no matter what the environment, there's a need for firewalls and monitoring.
Contrary to many fears, the public cloud actually offers a security advantage, according to Lahav, because it has more security behind it than an internal setup. One example she points to is Amazon Web Services Inc. , which invests a great deal in securing the database, coding on transfer and erecting firewalls to maintain its cloud environment. "That's their job," Lahav says, adding that Amazon can invest more in security than any other organization can afford to invest in its own IT department's security.
Because Amazon handles the security on a very advanced level, it enables its clients -- even small businesses -- to obtain a level of security that is usually only obtainable by big companies with the monetary resources and manpower to maintain it. For this reason, smaller organizations have been faster to adopt the cloud than midsized and larger companies.
The connection solution
The real danger point of security cloud networks is not in the cloud itself but in the transmission of the data to and from it over the Internet, according to Grady. The solution to that problem is a direct connection between an organization's system and the public cloud. When the two are integrated, the "level of security absolutely goes up," he says. It also improves performance.
Grady explains that the best way to ensure cloud security is by having internal IT departments managing access through a corporate network. "It becomes essentially a node on your network," he says. In addition to gaining the corporation-applied security for all the users on that network, Grady says being able to scale up or down as needs change is another advantage to integrating a company's internal systems with the public cloud, and something that is not possible when connecting through the public Internet.
"IT at the center and facilitating access across the corporation will be critical in emerging digital economy,” Grady adds.
The public cloud can also complement internal systems and enable a "defense in depth approach," according to Grady. A direct connection makes it possible to "better leverage the security functions, products and services that Azure and AWS have at the ready," enabling more efficient use of an organization's own security in place on its network. That way organizations can set up their own "structured environment in which each department can get access to public cloud resources and tools," he adds.
Regions and regulations
The location of a business is also a factor in cloud adoption. As SysAid serves countries around the world, Lahav is very aware of the differences one finds among various regions. She explained that in countries like the US, India and Australia, where best practices are well-established, there is more cloud adoption than in countries where regulations are not as clear. Organizations feel more comfortable moving to the cloud when they know the "regulations they have to live by," she says.
For example, according to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey, 82.7% of US healthcare companies were already using cloud services in 2014. It made sense for them to move into the cloud for greater efficiency and because they knew what they needed to do to be HIPPA compliant. In contrast, compliance required for healthcare is not as clearly defined in European countries like Italy and France, Lahav says.
The motivation to move
For healthcare, Grady observes, "research and development has very much moved to the cloud in large part because of tremendous increases in computing power." For the same reason, as businesses handle more data and become more agile, it won't be long before they will be compelled to connect to the cloud to be remain competitive. He believes that will also be a factor in overcoming current compliance hindrances.
Basically, cloud adoption boils down to this: Ultimately, most impediments to adopting cloud will fade away, as they are eclipsed by the much greater advantages of performance, cost and even security obtainable through cloud computing.
— Ariella Brown, Freelance Contributor, special to The New IP