Myths can be fun and entertaining when they involve the exploits of ancient gods and heroes. The amusement stops quickly, however, when a myth hampers IT or enterprise success.
So it goes with the stubborn misconceptions that delay or prevent the adoption of potentially productive cloud services. "We are still in the early stages of the cloud revolution, but it's far enough along to see the results early adopters achieve by moving to cloud computing," says Bernard Golden, vice president of cloud strategy at bank holding company Capital One. "Failing to recognize the implications of this revolution poses dangers far beyond merely running IT a little less efficiently; it presents a mortal threat to companies that stick to the old ways of doing things in a digital age."
Is your organization using the cloud to its full advantage? If not, here are 7 myths that may be holding it back.
1. Moving to the cloud automatically saves money
This is often true, but only when planned carefully. "Due to its elastic nature, the cloud can be more cost efficient, but a cloud migration and a strong cloud-based business requires upgrades and work to an organization’s applications and base computers to fully benefit from those savings," says Paul Sussex, Americas financial services principal at financial and business consulting firm EY.
Sussex says transitioning to the cloud is like moving from a house with fixed-rate water billing to one with a metered supply. "Essentially, moving to a pay-as-you-go model for any service, water or cloud, means you may pay a little more for [what] you do use," he explains. "But if you understand your consumption model and adjust your habits to switch things off when not used, then you can achieve great cost benefits."
Cost is just one of the dimensions to consider when thinking about cloud. "It's also important to look at the context of the overall business strategy," advises Jonathan Stone, CTO and COO of Kelser, an IT consulting firm. "For instance, it may be worth an increase in cost to run workloads in the cloud if it enables the realization of a business goal," he notes. "If the main objective is business growth, and business growth depends on the ability to scale up very rapidly, then even if cloud is more expensive than on-prem, it could be a business growth enabler and could be justified as an investment."
2. The cloud still isn't safe for storing data
This is one of the biggest and most stubborn cloud myths. "Cloud providers take security extremely seriously," says Siki Giunta, global managing director and cloud strategy lead at IT and business consulting firm Accenture. "They have to; otherwise, they would have no business." Cloud providers are subject to myriad regulatory bodies and compliance requirements. "They employ dozens of different security frameworks and controls — many more than the typical company uses in its own facilities," Giunta notes. The fact is, data in the cloud is likely more secure than that in the average company’s data centers.
A reputable service provider will encrypt all data, both in transit and rest, with only the customer having access to the encryption keys, says Laz Vekiarides, CTO of cloud storage provider ClearSky Data. "Few organizations encrypt their data to this degree with traditional on-prem systems," he explains. Additionally, connecting to the cloud via dedicated private lines, instead of through the public internet, not only improves performance, but also strengthens security.
A cloud management platform should also be based on a set of security standards and security best practices that include the full range of controls necessary to create a secure environment, says Michael Liebow, global managing director of Accenture Cloud Platform, a hybrid, multi-cloud management service. "With PCI- and HIPAA-compliant blueprints, organizations can deploy a complete environment that will pass a PCI or a HIPAA audit," he adds. Liebow also urges organizations to automate the deployment of key security activities. "These include identity and access management, authentication, web application firewalls, security configuration monitoring and threat and vulnerability management," he says.
3. Cloud computing can be layered over an unchanged IT infrastructure
Cloud computing is nothing less than a major platform shift, profoundly changing application capabilities in terms of agility, functionality, scalability and cost, Golden says. "Therefore, failing to migrate the entire IT estate to the cloud risks falling behind competitors more committed to succeeding in the digital age," he explains.
Cloud computing is analogous to manufacturing's transition from handwork to assembly lines, Golden suggests. "Manufacturers that failed to migrate to the new model of manufacturing found themselves unable to compete in productivity and price; most found themselves driven out of business shortly thereafter." Similarly, failing to commit to cloud computing risks maintaining outmoded IT practices, placing the enterprise at a competitive disadvantage.
4. Transitioning to the cloud is quick and easy
Flying deeply into the cloud without spending a significant amount of time and effort carefully constructing a cloud strategy is inefficient and risky. Whether an enterprise is already utilizing the cloud, or is only ready to begin its cloud transition, it needs to think about building a cloud-ready foundation.
Chuck Kirchner, a senior director at West Monroe Partners, a multinational management and technology consulting firm, notes that a cloud transition strategy should include descriptions of guiding principles, required skills, necessary organizational changes, oversight responsibilities and the technology architecture that will facilitate an efficient transition and successful operation. "Without successful migration and operation of your systems, the cloud's benefits of controlled costs and a more responsive infrastructure cannot be realized," he explains. "If you have the right plan, and put the right foundation in place, you will be able to approach cloud migration and operations proactively and on your organization’s terms."
5. The cloud is difficult to audit
One of the most pervasive myths is that cloud data can't be audited as effectively as physical servers, which can be seized and tagged or placed into evidence bags. "In fact, with proper tooling, you can conduct much better audits in a cloud-based environment," says Marina Nitze, CTO of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from 2013 to 2017. "Spending time with those who actually conduct audits day to day and walking them through how they can use tools ... and how these tools can alleviate some of the current pain points in their jobs, can help bust this myth," she notes.
6. The cloud is an IT job killer
When an enterprise transitions on-prem services to the cloud, the IT administrator does not automatically lose his or her job. In most cases, the changeover transforms the administrator's role into one of a trusted advisor and technical solutions facilitator. "More importantly, while the cloud provider may manage the network and data center security, [customers] are still on the hook for administering their own logical access," says Doug Barbin, principal and cybersecurity practice leader at Schellman & Co., a security and privacy compliance assessor.
7. A single hyperscale cloud platform is sufficient
Many organizations begin their hyperscale cloud transition with just a single platform. Most soon discover that mastering a hyperscale cloud is actually pretty easy. "The people, processes and tools used to manage these environments become more efficient over time," observes Carl Ramkarran, a principal consultant at IT product and services provider SHI International.
Things can turn sour, however, when an organization becomes so satisfied with its single hyperscale cloud that it becomes reluctant to add additional hyperscale cloud platforms, fearing that the benefits will be relatively minimal and that staff performance will be burdened by new responsibilities. "Tunnel vision has you so entrenched in a single [hyperscale] cloud provider, you overlook how fast that technology has matured on the other side of the fence," Ramkarran notes.
Organizations that hold tightly to a single hyperscale cloud platform risk missing out on innovations that can, over time, more than compensate for any added management costs. "Hyperscale cloud platforms deliver massively powerful capabilities, such as machine learning and natural language processing, that can be leveraged to deliver tremendous value beyond just replacing old infrastructure," says Josh Crowe, CTO at Sungard Availability Services, an IT disaster protection and recovery services provider.
Ramkarran concurs. "That second or third hyperscaler may have developed some unique intellectual property that you may benefit from," he says. "It might help drive time to market faster, increase the quality of service being developed or maybe enhance your security posture."
"When IT leaders are faced with the need for new or upgraded infrastructure, they often seek to justify the use of cloud as a replacement platform with similar costs rather than focusing on potential value cloud can bring to the business,” Crowe notes.
Ramkarran suggests working with technology advisors who take a cloud-agnostic approach and can present multiple alternatives. "Attend vendor conferences to gain exposure to new innovations in a short amount of time," he adds. "Maintain a small test/development account in a secondary hyperscale provider so that you can quickly compare and contrast features and functions."