Navigating the cloud

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The use of cloud technologies can bring numerous risks, which can have implications for security, reliability and business continuity – but managed effectively, companies can benefit from them.

As well as ensuring that their information remains secure, companies typically need to be able to access that information promptly. Relying on a third party to do these things can be hazardous.

Cloud technologies can, however, bring benefits to businesses. As well as reducing their on-site storage hardware and software, companies can reduce their overheads and pay for the provision of services as they need them. “There is no doubt that sensible and properly selected cloud computing usage can bring long-term, bottom line benefits to companies,” says Ewen Ferguson, Director of IT Consulting, Protiviti.

The key to benefiting from cloud technologies lies in effectively managing the risks associated with them. “An organisation’s approach to cloud adoption requires careful analysis of the opportunities and clear identification and management of the risks that could lead to loss of data, availability of systems and reputational damage,” says Ferguson.

Companies using a third party provider should choose carefully. As well as pushing for service portability, to ensure that they do not become overly-dependent on one provider, they should ensure that their cloud model is suited to their needs, to minimise the risk of having their information stolen.

It is also very important that organisations’ risk management strategies accommodate jurisdictional laws. “Even if a company retains ownership rights to its information, the cloud provider may be required to disclose that information under its jurisdiction’s laws,” says Ferguson. “A good example is information sought with Freedom of Information Act requests. It can be difficult for organisations to effectively validate the data handling practices of the cloud provider.”

Like all new technologies, cloud technologies bring significant risks, says Ferguson. “However, with the right traditional and emerging IT governance and risk frameworks in place organisations can – and in many cases should – leverage the significant benefits cloud technology offers.”

Cloud computing refers to the use of remote servers hosted on the Internet to manage data, rather than a local server.

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