The CIA Trusts the Cloud, and So Should You

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Cloud Computing is Secure, Proven Technology with High Adoption Rates

If you’re nervous about cloud computing, you’re not alone. A new report on IT decision makers shows enterprise trust in cloud security at its lowest — yet they’re flocking to use it.

The study covering 11 countries reveals that more than three-quarters of IT decision makers are “extremely anxious” about security using cloud-based services — yet 79 percent of U.S. enterprise execs (70 percent globally) are adopting cloud storage and web applications within their business.

Why? Because clouds and virtualization offer extremely powerful and cost effective new ways to manage and use digital information. But they also create new complexities for organizations in meeting the fundamental challenge of getting the right information to the right people over an infrastructure that they can trust.

It’s the cloud’s paradox of risk and reward: with increased computing power and sharing capability comes increased information security responsibility.

Amazon Cloud

Back in October 2013, Amazon won a $600 million deal to move the CIA’s computing infrastructure to Amazon cloud servers. It’s important to note that the CIA isn’t putting its data into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud – instead, Amazon is building a replica of the AWS public cloud to run in its own data center — which is basically a private cloud.

Even so, the AWS-CIA cloud deal is a significant endorsement of the cloud’s ability to handle sensitive data sets. And since most organizations don’t have $600m cash on hand to build their own private cloud, they could benefit from companies like Amazon doing it on their behalf.

What Cloud Computing Customers Want: Clarity, Simplicity, Support

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The major problem with company executives not adopting cloud technology isn’t just about security or cost, however. It’s about execs not getting the information they need to make an informed decision.

For company executives who are unfamiliar with technical jargon about complex systems involving virtualization and data security, making a good decision without the help of an IT consultant can be very stress-inducing indeed.

Here are just some of the issues:

  • Overwhelming options about cloud vendors, services, pricing
  • Fragmentation, some departments already use their own solutions, no comprehensive shared solution
  • Pricing models are confusing

A new study from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) finds market confusion abounds. The survey of 415 executives finds a great deal of interest in the cloud, but at the same time, confusion about options and services.

Along with pricing confusion, cloud-consuming enterprises are often surprised — to the downside — by performance issues with “noisy neighbors” who drag down cloud provider server performance.

Annoyance with lack of vendor support crops up just as frequently — executives are not aware that the monthly or annual subscription they purchased does not include full support.

“The realities of cloud support contracts often take customers by surprise,” the EMA report states. “Simple email or ticketing support may only be available to customers at lower tiers. Customers purchasing higher-end support may still have difficulty getting access to adequate levels of hands-on expertise.”

The learning curve is often steeper than expected, and vendors just aren’t willing to do a lot of hand-holding. An enterprise cloud engagement brings with it a lot of complexity, and some of the marketing around cloud has suggested that it’s as easy as waving a magic wand, which isn’t the case.

Managed IT Service Providers Can Help

The cloud doesn’t magically work on it’s own, and requires professional management to deliver maximum benefit to a company. The good news is that there are plenty of help options for executives who are looking to transition their company into the “Cloud Era” of computing and reap the benefits of this powerful technology.

For most small-medium businesses (SMBs) with 100 users or less, hiring a Managed IT Provider to aid with the company’s cloud migrations, mission-critical IT projects, and everyday tech support is a smart decision.

Rather than rely on somebody from within the company, who may or may not be an IT professional with experience in dynamic technical environments, consider the benefits of hiring a Managed IT Provider:

  • Transparent pricing: Confusion over the assortment of pricing models inevitably lead to challenges communicating pricing to management, estimating costs and making sound investment decisions. Managed IT Providers are experts at consolidating price information and helping companies meet their cost objectives.
  • Ease of management: The cloud represents a new platform that needs to be managed, and one of the main functions of a Managed IT Provider is to select and manage cloud vendors so that the company doesn’t have to.
  • Support: Since most cloud vendors offer only limited support options, a major benefit of employing a Managed IT Provider is additional support: not only with managing vendors, but also with managing general computer and network infrastructure.
  • Services: Company executives understand their own strengths and limitations first, and are remarkably self-aware in identifying areas where their in-house expertise falls short. A Managed IT Provider can help by offering an honest assessment of a company’s current IT services.

The bottom line is that despite its name, cloud computing doesn’t magically happen in the sky — it comes from someone’s server somewhere. It requires proactive management. Cloud services must be selected, workloads must be migrated, and usage must be tracked.

Not unlike other complex IT systems, these cloud infrastructures must be monitored and managed. Capacity and performance management continue to be paramount, as the cloud’s much-touted ‘easy scalability’ depends on a watchful eye identifying and correcting problems.

Performance is very much a shared requirement between the cloud provider and the IT service team.

Author: Kevin S.

Kevin Sanders is a Los Angeles native who has worked in tech support and customer service since 2000. He specializes in professional IT consulting, cloud technology, cyber security, networking and Wi-Fi, hardware/software diagnostics and repair, and custom systems building.