Cloud technology has been gaining traction among businesses – whether large or small and changing conventional business operations on a broader front. Gartner predicts that cloud computing will remain a crucial part of the businesses which will strategize the technology through 2018 and in the coming years as well.

Another study from the SMB Group predicts that cloud adoption will continue to significantly gain more SMBs as cloud is the backbone for new technologies such as AI, Blockchain, Machine Learning, etc. that will help them grow their business.

So, the coming years are set to be the busiest ones for IT departments, as more and more businesses move to cloud services to save money and improve the efficiency of their business operations. But the risk associated with the cloud is directly proportional to benefits.

Directly Jump To Most Common Cloud Risks and Their Control:

— Data Access Control
— Lack of Independence and Vendor Lock-in
— Shared Access
— Data Availability
— Enhanced Vulnerability
— Compliance Issues

Undoubtedly, cloud computing is making the world a better place and changing the way businesses are executing their daily operations. But there are still some drawbacks with the layouts and overall security of the cloud which has brought forth a considerable amount of stress and hassle for the users.

However, a well-planned cloud system and a reliable cloud service provider can overcome all these drawbacks and can serve a business well beyond its actual potential.

cloud risks and mitigation

Image: Cloud Computing Concept

Here are some of the most common cloud risks along with how to avoid or mitigate these risks that businesses should keep in mind while migrating to or using the cloud.

1. Data Access Control

Risk: Every business wants to have absolute control over its operational data. With cloud technology, businesses have to somewhat part with their “absolute data control”. By providing your critical data to the service provider, you are indirectly warranting them access to all of your businesses processes and confidential data.

What if your cloud service level agreement (SLA) does not give you the ability to backup the data from your end? Such loss of data control makes it seem useless to have your business on the cloud.

Control: One of the key characteristics of the public cloud is its shared access. When you opt for the public cloud, you share the same computing resources such as memory, CPU etc, as you would with any traditional IT setup.

This can create several security vulnerabilities, like cyber-criminals being able to hack their way in and get their hands on confidential and financial accounting data.

Always ask your provider to furnish detailed information about who can access your data, who has the administrative control over it, and how they maintain activity logs. The private cloud does a better job when it comes to access control. It gives you better access controls and additional customization on your data and other online resources.

2. Lack of Independence and Vendor Lock-in

Risk: One of the major problems with cloud adoption is the fear of vendor lock-in or sufficient independence from cloud providers. What if you change your mind or want to move out?

quickbooks-hosting-migration-checklist

Most of the cloud service providers out there don’t offer the ability to quickly and securely migrate the data and applications from their server to another service provider’s server, should such a situation ever arise. The numerous causes are put in the service-level agreements which make it difficult for the businesses to terminate the service contract.

Control: New and emerging standards such as TOSCA and CAMP by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) are enabling businesses to move to the cloud without locking themselves with a single cloud service provider.

Businesses should use these standards to maintain their independence so they can easily switch over to new and better-suited cloud providers any time they wish.

3. Shared Access

Risk: The data on the cloud is accessible from every place where a stable internet connection is available. Right?

No! Its accessibility like this which lets hackers and data thieves can gain access your data and if a big corporation like Sony was not been able to handle hacks in the past, what makes you think you can?

Moreover, you do not know the intentions of the provider. He might be a spy or someone who trades in confidential business information. Such a scenario may be rare, but possible. You may be able to live with a lighter wallet, but not with such fear!

Control: Gartner also suggests asking your cloud service provider to give detailed information on the people who manage your data and what type of privileges they have. Also, make sure to prioritize the confidentiality of the data you have on the cloud, as it helps filter data according to its required access authority.

4. Data Availability

Risk: Imagine you are working on a time-critical project and suddenly you are not able to access your application that’s hosted on the cloud. That could the because of internet disruption at your end or some outage with the hosting services.

In the recent years, the internet connectivity has improved in various ways when it comes speed as well as availability. However, it is not available abundantly enough that one never faces any disruption. Talking about the outage at the hosting provider’s end, a lot depends on the technologies that they rely on.

Control: Picking a reliable internet connection is the first step, but preparing for unavailability is also required. For the operations that are critical, there is no harm in having them available in offline mode.

You can maintain a local copy so that you can access it when required. As a guard against cloud provider’s service outage, you must pick a provider that offers SLA-backed assurance. Look for the SLA carefully and how they compensate for the damages in the case of service(or data) loss and/or corruption.

5. Enhanced Vulnerability

Risk: Tweeting the latest happening, tagging a friend, uploading on Instagram, this is a ritual which most of us go through daily. The paradigm shift from real to virtual life has come with a cost, i.e. your privacy and security. A cloud service provider uses Virtualization technique to integrate and run multiple applications onto a few physical servers.

These servers or virtual machines (VMs) are more secure than standalone servers in many ways. However, it is possible that these virtual machines may succumb to hardware or software related problems or an attacker may illegally gain access to these machines.

Control: As a client, you have no idea of Virtualization tools and software that your service provider is using. Ask your cloud service provider about the Virtualization technology, its security, and what Virtualization management tool or security practice they are using.

6. Compliance Issues

Risk: When you opt for cloud services, you don’t have the much knowledge about where your data is going to reside. It certainly won’t be at your irritating relative’s place or at a location where data storage from different countries is prohibited.

The compliance with the different rules and regulations is totally provider dependent. If it complies with the rules you are good to go, if not, you have to look elsewhere!

Control: In reality, customers are also responsible for the integrity and security of their own data, even when it is hosted and managed by a provider. Many standards such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA allows you to evaluate and measure your data protection methods and policies, which includes ensuring proper controls over following key things:

  • What data is stored on a system?
  • Where is the data stored?
  • Who can access the data?
  • What level of access can they have?
  • Is the access appropriate?

Wrapping Up

Cloud technology offers what every business wants – remote access, disaster recovery, improved collaboration and the ability to respond instantly to the business needs.

However, every organization or one who is the cloud customer must know various risks associated with the cloud; what the current environment is and what measure your cloud providers are taking to mitigate these risks.

When these risks are considered and tackled, it’s simple to see why cloud computing is more effective and cost-effective than traditional IT infrastructures and so quick on adapting to every-day business transformations.

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