Cloud Crazy: Is the cloud the right solution for my organisation?
The way in which we work, including our use of computers and other devices, has shifted massively over the last two to three years. As a result of the pandemic, for a lot of us, hybrid and remote working is now the norm. An ONS report from the last quarter of 2022 highlights this change. Pre-lockdown only one in eight workers worked from home or remotely, however between September 2022 and January 2023 this figure was still as high as 44%.
The mandated instruction to work from home wherever possible forced businesses to have to adapt quickly or risk losing customers, or worse, be forced to shut their doors for a final time.
Almost overnight, businesses and organisations had to digitise and many were pushed towards cloud computing and SaaS, allowing their workforce to access company files, programmes and applications from outside of the office. And although cloud computing was the saviour at the time, with cybersecurity risks continuing to rise, now may be the time to reassess whether or not the cloud is still the best solution for businesses.
The dangers of cloud computing
By definition, cloud computing is on-demand access to online computer services. Organisations most commonly use the cloud for data storage, but it also encompasses all online access to applications, tools, and servers.
In the last two decades it has taken over the computing space. A recent report found that 98% of businesses used the cloud in one form or another in 2023, while the estimated spend on cloud infrastructure is set to rise by a further 23% this year. This increase shows just how dominant a solution the technology is for businesses. Its popularity is unsurprising due to its many benefits, including making it easier for organisations to scale up or down for a fraction of the price of other alternatives.
However, while cloud computing has made the world easier to access for many businesses, it has brought lots of risks to their doorsteps too.
Since the rapid rise in organisations moving to public clouds, security threats have been going up. An IDC survey of 200 security decision-makers in the U.S found that nearly all (98%) of the companies surveyed had experienced at least one cloud data breach in the past 18 months, compared to 79% the year before. These are concerning numbers.
Due to the nature of the technology, most cyber-attack vectors can be effective against cloud-based infrastructures. Common vectors can include anything from phishing emails, Denial of Service attacks or compromised log-in attacks. With the possibility of all a company’s information being held in these services, it’s vital that organisations understand these potential vulnerabilities and the risks associated with using cloud solutions.
Is the cloud the right solution for my organisation?
There is absolutely no doubt that for lots of organisations cloud computing is often the most cost-effective and efficient way to run a business. However, it’s vital that they also consider all options and choose the right solution based on their own set of unique circumstances, whether this is the cloud, in-house storage or a hybrid approach. There is no ‘one size fits all’ unfortunately. The decision must be based on what is right for the business, and not what is ‘quick’ or ‘easy’. This is why the question of ‘is cloud right for me’ can be difficult to answer.
With increased security risks there are other alternatives that businesses need to be aware of. One of the most common is data-centre storage. This involves hosting your organisation’s data and assets with a third-party storage vendor. In the UK we have strict laws around the handling of data, so most servers are well protected but it should also be noted if a business uses cloud computing, they are still responsible for securing the environment, although it may be bought through the cloud provider. This is an essential consideration, but one that most organisations are not aware of. The other option is handling data in-house on your own network and servers. While this can be costly to set up depending on the amount of information you need to store, it does give you full control and visibility of the protection being used.
To make the best-informed decision on the right data storage solution for your company, you must take the time to understand the nature of your business, and how you and your employees need to use technology. When and where you need to access data, how quickly this needs to be accessed and also how much of the information needs to be retrievable online should all be considered, as well as the resilience of your systems to potential threats. Gaining a true understanding of a company’s digital infrastructure and needs can be a complicated and time absorbing process which is why many businesses engage solutions experts to help navigate these considerations.
If these considerations become a part of our decision-making process over the coming year or so, we’ll likely see a shift amongst organisations towards a hybrid model, which will use a mix of in-house solutions, data-centre storage and cloud-based systems.
The prevalence of cyberattacks and the vulnerabilities and the risk of holding all a company’s data in one place should also be taken into account. Cloud data storage now requires far more cybersecurity measures than it once did, and the cost of this needs to be weighed up against the additional costs of other solutions.
Until the industry can find a way to better protect the cloud, or until it becomes a less lucrative and impactful target for malicious threat actors, data-centre storage will likely become an increasingly common part of many businesses’ IT operating model. Even having a regularly backed up version of your data hosted via a third-party could be a saving grace for many should a cloud breach occur. This is currently what the hybrid model of the future will look like.
David Trump is the Cyber Security Director of Bristol-based BOM IT Solutions, one of the South West’s longest established technology and IT managed solution providers. With over 15 years’ experience in the IT industry, David adds a wealth of knowledge to the BOM IT Solutions’ senior management team.