As cloud adoption grows, insecurity about cloud IT security persists, in many cases inhibiting optimal performance. Fortunately the opposite also is true: companies with high trust in the cloud outperform less-trusting peers on multiple measures.
Presenters covered these points in depth during a recent webinar on cloud IT security sponsored by Google, a native-cloud company known for innovation in Internet security.
A number of Google security specialists participated; the insights they shared should help to debunk concerns about data being less secure in the cloud. Other presenters represented governments and global financial services companies that use cloud IT security to protect vast amounts of data while also creating innovative, secure cloud solutions leveraging its capabilities.
The high-level message of the webinar was that data protection — though crucial — is just half of the security equation. The other half deals with solutions that enable access to data, driving innovation and better performance. Being as conservative as possible about data protection means nothing if ultimately you can’t serve customers. The urgency to strike a balance grows as the world creates 2.5 quintillion new bytes of data daily. (Source: IBM)
Trust in the Cloud Improves Performance
One reason to get over cloud insecurity is that it’s good for business. Carol Whelen of the Economist Intelligence Unit, a group providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis presented results of a survey of 500 executives in 10 countries. It showed that companies with a high level of trust in the cloud have benefits as compared with organizations with a moderate level of trust, including up to:
- 3.2X more revenue
- 5.4X more profit
- 6X greater share price.
“Use of the cloud is widespread, it’s growing, and it’s transforming a broad range of activities,” Whelen said. “In fact,72 percent of respondents report that cloud use has transformed their information technology.”
The greatest transformations occurred in IT operations, non-IT functions and profitability. Respondents also reported transformational change in their business models, experimentation, time-to-market and collaboration.
The caveat to gaining these benefits is leadership support, Whelen explained. Just using the cloud isn’t enough.
“The transformative nature of the cloud on an organization’s operation hinges in part on widespread embrace. An all-in approach to cloud is needed to reap its full business benefits.”
Application development has an important role in activating an “all in” approach, however. For example, developers must deal with integration and customization services for in-field mobile devices, distributed endpoints and customer-facing portals, to name just several challenges.
Security Surrounds Us
The presenters cited multiple examples of how Google is always innovating with regard to secure cloud infrastructure — while improving user experience. Three examples follow.
The Android OS has built-in “hooks” so that Google can send security updates as technology advances. Mobile users benefit from stronger security immediately instead of having to wait for an OS revision. (By the way, without the cloud, the level of mobile device use that’s become the norm in personal and business applications wouldn’t be possible, let alone the ability to send secure updates remotely.)
Chromebooks are designed to access cloud-based resources without the risks of traditional PCs, such as spreading malware onto a network or falling into the wrong hands.
“Remote management of Chromebooks was a major selling point as The Charles Schwab Corp. migrated workflows into the cloud,” said Ed Obuchowski, SVP Advisor for Services Technology Solutions. Instead of having sensitive data stored on thousands of computers across the company’s global footprint, the workforce now uses Chromebooks that connect to data stored in a single, secure location guarded by security specialists. Plus, using Chromebooks gives Charles Schwab complete control of remote access to that data.
“We can force the Chromebooks onto our network specifically,” Obuchowski said. “And if one of them falls off the network, we have the ability to remotely wipe it.”
The State of Wyoming has moved all records and workflows into the cloud. Flint Waters, Chief Information Officer, and the state’s citizens have more secure access to public records because of it.
“We keep secure copies of everything,” Walters said. “We are an open-records state, so citizens can request information at any time, and even in the case where an employee has gone off the reservation and is trying to hide content, we can go back and recover those documents.”
Walters explained that with Chromebooks and G Suite, his security team has taken user-introduced risk out of the security equation. Previously, state employees could take work home, potentially using unsecured personal devices. This opened the door not only for malware infections, but also release of potentially private documents.
Safe from Technological Stagnation
Presenters provided a perspective on security that often is overlooked; that data security has the potential to be a differentiator because it affects accessibility to data — a key innovation driver. Using a cloud model for secure storage automatically aligns a company with the latest in technology as well as with the thinking of the world’s experts on security. One company that has benefited from this is accounting and auditing leader PwC.
“First and foremost we need to protect our client’s data, the firm and our client’s customers,” said Scott Penberthy, Managing Director of Technology for PwC. “At the same time, security needs to serve our company and our clients. It has to enable our clients to be agile and responsive to the market.”
Google has helped PwC create a custom monitoring solution that combines Google technology and PwC subject-matter expertise to examine log files that are uploaded to the cloud. This enables clients and others to flag suspect behavior immediately — and work to prevent security problems before they escalate.
Getting in front of security, as PwC has done, requires the storage and computational resources that only the cloud provides. It also requires expertise; using a cloud provider is like acquiring expertise without having to hire it.
“It’s really exciting that more companies are moving more deeply into the cloud,” said Tim Willis, Technical Manager for Chrome Security. “Security is only going to get harder. Moving to the cloud essentially buys you access to the Google security team. It gives you the protection we’re offering and lets you not have to worry about that.”
Onix is a Google Premier Partner, offering a myriad of services to help any organization maximize its cloud investment: cloud computing services, business transformation, custom app development and managed services.