Cloud computing may offer numerous benefits – from reducing maintenance hours to improving efficiency and lowering costs – so there's no doubt it represents the future. However, we believe a new ailment, cloud sprawl – the unmanaged spread of cloud services inside the enterprise – is emerging.
I believe many employees are taking matters into their own hands and signing up for their own cloud services, and often doing so without their IT department's knowledge.
Such uncontrolled use of cloud services could pose a threat to company data.
What we are talking about here includes many cloud services we have long been familiar with, such as webmail services like Google or Hotmail. These are often free or cheap, easy to set up and nearly always available, and from anywhere.
But, as with so many corporate IT issues, security and trust often fall by the wayside.
Most businesses, in my view, are not yet equipped to deal with the uncontrolled adoption of cloud services for work purposes by employees.
The move to the cloud has often begun right under the noses of unsuspecting and often powerless CIOs. Almost imperceptibly, users have started using the cloud tools for business that have served them so well for personal use, using applications for email, storage, project management, document editing and more.
IT departments need user-centric cloud strategies and training to deal with cloud sprawl in a common sense way. Otherwise, the sheer number of cloud systems used by any given company will become nearly impossible to manage, posing a potential security risk.
For example, if a user's personal cloud service login details are compromised, how much company data is at risk? The number of separate, unmanaged cloud services would make this difficult to determine.
Some companies need to attend to the problem more urgently than others. If your company is bound by industry regulations, you may need to get a handle on cloud usage to make sure you are fully compliant.
Proper cloud governance and user education will promote open discussion around what type of cloud services are already being used within a business. Education will help users understand the risks and consequences of uncontrolled and hidden adoption.
This then leads to the creation of a roadmap setting out exactly which corporate cloud services need to be put in place. Does the business or organisation need SaaS, a cloud infrastructure offering, cloud storage, or an offering at any of the points in between?
Cloud offerings come in many shapes and sizes; it's just a question of finding the right one for the specific organisation's requirements.
The cloud hasn't yet realised its full potential, and uncontrolled cloud sprawl could be part of what's holding it back.
Nic Merriman is UK head of cloud at Avanade
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