Availability Over-Rides Cloud Security Concerns

A recent survey conducted by research and advisory company CXO Advisor reveals that South African SMEs are taking to cloud services despite security concerns.

SMEs polled said they had chosen to use cloud services because they are available now, and are perceived to be stable and secure. More than half of the polled organisations said the decision to go to the cloud was part of the company’s IT strategy, while many the others stated that the business had made the decision without consulting IT.

According to the CEO of a local start-up, “The cloud enables us to get operational quickly and cost-effectively without incurring significant Capex or operational expenses. Pay-as-you-grow is the way to go.” As another SME CEO phrased it: “Cloud provides an easy to access solution – no long deployment cycles, and little to no dependence on IT department resources.”

That the cloud removes business’ reliance on often over-worked and under-resourced IT people was stated by several CEOs as a further reason for the shift.

Overall, respondents rated their cloud services deployment experience as acceptable or good, although at least one respondent noted that it would be easier, when shifting to services like Amazon or Google, to be able to speak to a local representative from the organisation. Most of the companies polled however, rated their service providers highly on price, ease of use and features and functionality.

The major concerns for SMEs deploying cloud services were the legal issues, data location and general security. Several respondents noted that cloud policies were needed within the organisation. Other noted downsides were bandwidth cost and network quality.

The majority of respondents had back-up plans in case of cloud failure, with back-up solutions ranging from local access on laptops or client machines to vendor provided copies, to a full IT department supported failover and the more traditional offline back-up systems.

Lock-in was of concern to most of the respondents, but they were willing to take the risk as the convenience outweighs potential future lock-in problems. At least one respondent noted that the exit and migration approach had been defined before the deployment had taken place, with others commenting that some providers make it easier to move than others.

Overall, the respondents viewed cloud as a welcome addition to the range of available outsourced service options. One CIO commented that as cloud matures, deploying and managing cloud services it should become part of IT’s skill set. Another stated that when used correctly, and when cloud providers truly understand the drivers for cloud adoption, then the business benefits of going cloud would be realised.

CXO Advisor Research Director Terry White, says the results of the survey reveal an interesting perspective on security – which is both a concern and a reason for moving to the cloud for the companies polled. This seemingly-contradictory approach comes from the fact that by and large cloud providers are much better at security than end-user organisations, because it’s part of their core business, and they have to provide good security. Conversely, end-user organisations are trusting their data to a third-party provider and trusting that the vendor is doing everything above and beyond to ensure that data is protected, a situation that still makes many CIOs uncomfortable.

For SMEs, data governance will increasingly become a critical issue, especially with the imminent enactment of the Protection of Personal Information Bill (POPI) which will compel companies to process personal information in certain ways, and specifies data security requirements too.

Companies using cloud services will need to evaluate these within the context of POPI’s provisions once it is signed into law, sometime around the end of this year if the process continues as expected.