Today’s small and medium-sized businesses have a variety of technologies available to help them compete in the fast-paced global market. One of the most significant tools at their disposal is the cloud, which lets them take advantage of cost-effective, agile IT services. Cloud-based solutions are quick to deploy and scale according to need, which is especially useful given the limited IT staff SMBs typically have at their disposal.
What today’s SMBs might not know, however, is that deploying the cloud can result in hidden costs. Symantec’s 2013 Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud Survey reveals four important steps to effectively deploy the cloud without experiencing these issues.
Focus policies on information and people, not technologies and platforms
Despite the benefits of the cloud, businesses aren’t taking full advantage of its capabilities. This is usually a problem with users rather than the technology itself. For one thing, we are seeing a significant number of cloud deployments without permission. Seven in ten SMBs have experienced these rogue cloud deployments within the last year, resulting in issues such as the exposure of sensitive information (reported by 40 percent of those businesses). Businesses are also purchasing more cloud storage than they need, which defeats the purpose of the cloud model as a cost-saving measure. SMB, in fact, are using only a small fraction of what they purchase – their storage utilization sits at just 7 percent. This shows that as administrators we’re not making the most of the cloud.
Businesses should create policies that enable the employees to make smart decisions, such as basing cloud storage purchases on current need, and ensuring that we implement proper security before storing sensitive information in the cloud.
Educate, monitor and enforce policies
Because employees are key in successful cloud implementation, they should be educated in order to get the most out of it while maintaining security. Monitor systems to ensure that policies are followed when business information is stored in the cloud, and employees should be taught proper behavior. This is especially important in light of the fact that one in six of those surveyed did not know that rogue cloud deployments were forbidden by their companies.
In most cases, employees bypassed IT to save time and money, but in the end it does more harm than good.
Embrace tools that are platform agnostic
Despite the agility of the cloud, it can make backup and recovery more complex. In fact, the need to back up information in physical, virtual and cloud environments means that most organizations are using at least three different backup solutions. In addition to the extra costs, this means that staff members have to be trained on multiple solutions, and there is a greater chance for human error. This complexity is having a more direct effect on SMB, too, as more than one-third of them have lost data in the cloud. When this happens, recovering data in the cloud can also be a challenge. Most SMBs have experienced at least one recovery failure in the cloud.
This highlights the importance of a multi-layered approach to backup. SMBs should maintain local backups for situations like restoring an entire server, knowing if something happens to local systems they can restore from the cloud. They should carefully evaluate potential backup vendors to see what they offer in terms of large data set recovery, such as offering transfer drives. The ideal backup and recovery solutions will also function wherever information is stored, reducing costs and saving time. A platform-agnostic solution also improves visibility across the network by providing a single source for recovery needs.
Deduplicate data in the cloud
An important step in using the cloud efficiently is deduplication, which eliminates duplicate files and reduces storage needs, which also keeps costs low. Yet 57 percent of SMBs deduplicate little or none of their information. Sorting through too many files makes it more difficult to respond to eDiscovery requests, which are time sensitive and have serious consequences when the requested information is not found. Nearly one-third of SMBs have received eDiscovery requests for files stored in the cloud, and more than two-thirds of those have missed a deadline and were fined as a result. Nearly half of SMBs (44 percent) are also concerned about being able to meet compliance requirements in their industry, and being able to actually prove that compliance (47 percent).
The cloud offers significant advantages over traditional IT models, but it’s important to plan effectively to avoid the pitfalls it can also present. By combining effective training with current technology, SMBs can benefit from the agility of the cloud in a global marketplace, where rapid response to changing conditions can mean the difference between success and failure.