The majority of organisations now consciously using Cloud services, finds new research from the Cloud Industry Forum
Cloud computing has achieved mainstream deployment in the UK according to the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), with 79% of organisations now formally consider Cloud as a part of their IT strategy, and some 78% of organisations formally adopting at least one Cloud-based service. However just one cloud-based service still seems to be the norm, of those using Cloud services, 45% use only one Cloud service formally, 28% use two Cloud services, 13% use three and the remaining 14% use four or more.
Web hosting, email, CRM, data back-up and disaster recovery continue to be the most pervasive Cloud services used. This is followed close behind by video conferencing, collaboration solutions, HR apps and data storage
Looking into the drivers for first time Cloud adoption, flexibility of Cloud as a delivery model continues to be cited as the primary reason for adoption among private sector companies (17%), while operational cost savings dominates the public sector (21%)
Large private enterprises are showing the highest rates of adoption at just over 80%, whilst the sub 200 employee organisations are standing at around 75% and the public sector is still lagging at around 68%.
To set context, the research also recognises that the majority of organisations (85%) operate on-premise servers or data centres. The existence of on-site technology is also a direct influence on the evolution of IT strategy based on historical investment. The co-existence of on-premise and Cloud services by nature leads to a Hybrid IT environment for the majority of organisations.
The move to the cloud also seems to be a way for some businesses to plug skills gaps in their IT workforce. The majority (78%) of organisations run IT predominantly with in-house personnel, however nearly a quarter (22%) opt to use a managed service provider and this rises to 38% in the sub 20 employee organisation.
Simon Bearne, Claranet’s UK Sales & Marketing Director said: “Over the last decade, there has been a shift towards data and information management in IT departments – rather than the ‘nuts and bolts’ of IT. The fact is that many organisations cannot afford to hire software and hardware specialists, so have to outsource, appointing a Managed Services Provider (MSP) in place of the latter.
“That businesses are turning to cloud to plug skills gaps in the workforce is not, in itself, a problem. After all, the ability to effectively rent resources and skills is what outsourcing and cloud are all about. With the UK suffering from a skills shortage in the IT industry, it makes much more sense for businesses to focus existing internal IT staff on higher-value strategic work that maximises their knowledge of the company’s IT systems and their understanding of the business, and to leave the more mundane work to those outside the organisation. But it does create an environment where businesses are increasingly reliant on outsourced IT – making the customer-IT provider relationship critical to business success.
Bearne went on to say that MSPs should play a central role in businesses’ migration strategies, to help determine which workloads to move to the cloud and which to keep on-premise:
“The direction of traffic is of course towards cloud, but the process is gradual and one that needs to be managed carefully. It’s important to realise that with limited resource and skills, a careful balance is needed between holding on to existing systems to achieve the best ROI and the benefits to business operations from using the cloud. While there is no easy answer, end-users should look for an MSP that will take a consultative approach to developing a more bespoke solution based on a full understanding of their requirements and existing skills base,” he concluded.
Easynet, which claims the title of the “largest independent network and hosting integrator in Europe” has joined the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF). Formed in 2009, CIF aims to improve standards and education in the cloud industry, through certification to a Code of Practice for credible online Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), and to assist end users in determining the necessary information to enable them to adopt cloud services.
The adoption of cloud solutions is increasing across the globe as companies realise the benefits of reduced cost, enhanced scalability, and increased availability. Over the last 18 months, the UK market for cloud services has seen a 27% increase in first time users, and that rate of adoption has accelerated in the last nine months. As a result, the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) predicts that 75% of UK businesses will be using at least one cloud service by the end of 2013, and 80% of current cloud users will have increased their spend in this model of IT delivery.
It is important to effectively manage risk when moving to the cloud from more traditional data storage and hosting solutions. The fact that data and networks can be accessed anywhere in the world through cloud raises a number of security concerns for many companies, but there are a series of protocols that can be adopted to reduce the likelihood of security being breached.
Ensuring a suitable firewall solution is in place
Simple steps such as ensuring a suitable firewall solution is in place are vital to protecting the perimeter of data storage. Companies should also ensure that their servers are up-to-date with the latest versions of programs and software by configuring Automatic Updates. Consequently your infrastructure will be protected against the vulnerabilities most likely to compromise its security.
Additionally, an intrusion prevention system (IPS) should be used to monitor the network and/ or system activities to identify malicious activity, log information about this activity, and attempt to block or stop it.
Once the above is in place, other safety practices must be utilised including encryption to protect information both ‘at rest’ and ‘in transit’ e.g. data being transferred via networks or stored on a hard drive. Worryingly, in a recent survey conducted by Onyx Group among IT managers in SMEs, fewer than half (43%) of respondents said that they encrypt their data backups, indicating that organisations are not always giving thorough consideration to the security aspects of data backup.
A strong authentication method is also fundamental to ensuring there is no unauthorised access to your network.
Assurance of continuity
Data preservation and the ability to retrieve data at any time is the foundation of business continuity. The impact that data loss can have on a business is profound, creating the need for effective business continuity planning and the necessary IT solutions to protect data and minimise downtime.
Research from Gartner has shown that 50% of businesses that suffer disruption from data loss can go out of business within two years. This can either be due to lost revenue as a result of the disruption, or as a result of subsequently failing to meet compliance regulations.
This is particularly concerning as the same research has highlighted that 25% of all PC users suffer from data loss each year. Even if data is not critical to the business, loss of data including emails, contacts, and work in progress can have a big impact on productivity.
One of the key advantages of cloud solutions is their ability to ensure business continuity and minimise downtime. As the data is hosted off-site it can still be accessed in the event that a workplace is inaccessible and is also safeguarded against theft.
In recent research conducted by Onyx Group, 93% of companies said it is important for them to be able to access and withdraw their data quickly should they need to. Providers that offer cloud solutions should provide guarantees on availability of service. We recommend that it is at least 99.99% (52 minutes downtime a year) in order to ensure 24/7 access to data.
While steps can be taken to reduce the risk of security breach when moving to the cloud, protecting an IT infrastructure is an ongoing process that should always be reviewed. If the steps described in this article are taken to effectively manage risk when moving to the cloud, cloud computing can actually be used as part of an effective business continuity strategy to mitigate risk.
About the author
Neil Stephenson is the CEO at Onyx Group, a specialist provider of cloud computing, data centre, and business continuity services. Neil Stephenson has been with the Onyx Group for the past ten years, and previously was the operations manager and marketing manager at Onyx Internet.