Cloud Computing

…Costs and Data Protection Concerns

INTRODUCTION

For over 10 years now, organizations have been taking their IT services to the cloud. Specialized IT companies take care of software or hosting. With the increasing quality of Internet access, data centers and mobile devices, cloud computing becomes the norm. But recently, some businesses have been reconsidering their choices. Some services turn out more costly than expected. New data protection regulations and security incidents raise the question whether data are actually in safe hands with service providers.  This is the right moment to make up our mind again about cloud computing.

Different service models in cloud computing

There are different service models in cloud computing. There is a lot of confusion about what cloud computing actually is, but most of the time you hear about the following cloud services:

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): purchasing an online software application

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS):  Operating system and databases are being hosted by an external, online service provider

Out-tasking: as specific package of tasks is being executed by a specialized vendor outside.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS):  Infrastructure and network components are being outsourced.

 

Moving your IT services to the cloud: Is it a valid choice?

Deloitte’s global Tech trend report 2017, as well as Gartner’s 2018 Cloud computing PRIMER quote various reasons why cloud services continue to grow worldwide, a trend that is now also confirmed to be true for the African continent by businesses like Afrihost, Cisco, and a recently published research report “Cloud Africa 2018” by World Wide Worx.

  1. It is cheaper. This is the number one reason quoted to migrate to cloud services. Usually, cloud services will be charged based on a subscription model. There is no need to invest in costly software. A professional IT department to maintain the software is not necessary.
  2. It is better. Moving some of your processes to the cloud helps you focus on your core business processes as you hand over supporting processes like operating a data center, financial accounting, CRM or HRM application to a specialized cloud company. In Ghana an example is Dream Oval, who introduced a cloud based CRM system for online marketing. However, less obvious is whether cloud services are also the best option for your primary (and often unique) business processes.
  3. It is more flexible. Clearly, with a good cloud contract, it is easier to scale up, scale down or change your IT services. New versions of a software application can be installed centrally and all users have immediate access, without the need to migrate local machines. Generally, the introduction of innovations is easier.
  4. It is more secure. Specialized datacenters and software providers take care of your systems, cyber security, and backups. Cyber security issues are a constant, growing and unpredictable threat and a specialized cloud provider may be more capable of mitigating these risks than your own IT department.
  5. It is faster. The cloud has huge computation power to run large operations fast and easily.

Second thoughts: look at the downsides!

Costs may be an unpleasant surprise: Although generally cloud services may be cheaper, this is not always the case. Costs for Internet data, subscription conditions (number of users, storage space) and requirements must be transparent.  A 99.99 % continuity uptime guarantee can be very costly.  It is advisable to assess the “total cost of ownership”, including infrastructure, licenses and service management.

Security: Trustworthy partners and solid contract conditions are key.  Do not take for granted that your data – or worse: your customer’s data – will be secured, but ask your vendor about his business processes and certifications. Very sensitive information may still be best stored in your private datacenter, far away from hackers. Disturbing incidents, like US-based travel booking website Orbitz, with a recent data breach on 880,000 customer credit cards, are increasing.

Business process alignment: Workflows in cloud applications are going to dictate or at least affect your business processes, and your internal organization must be capable to change. After subscribing to a service, working with it is not obvious at all.

Can your IT-department handle the cloud? A certain maturity of your IT department is needed to manage a third party provider, its contract conditions (service level agreement), service issues and performance monitoring. The cloud is not automatically going to take care of those things.

Data management and sustainability: the quality and protection of your data and the data of your customers always remain your responsibility. Make sure that you have control over your information and that it is always possible either to get a data-dump or to exit the relation with your cloud provider without loss of information.

Clearly, cloud services have become the norm as a flexible and cost-effective way to digitize work processes. Recent concerns on data protection are not likely to change that reality, but will encourage cloud customers to be more conscious. Costs and risks in business simply can never be outsourced.

Author: Diana van der Stelt – (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)       

For comments, contact author at dianavanderstelt@trinitysoftwarecenter.com

 

Diana is a board member of Maxim Nyansa IT solutions foundation and sales director at Trinity Software Center in Kumasi, a company providing its customers with web applications as well as local IT solutions.