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6 cloud risks you can't afford to ignore

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Integrating new technologies into your business is essential if you want to remain competitive. Cloud helps. See how.

At its best, the cloud is cheap, easy and hassle-free. Migrating to a more virtual workspace can be highly beneficial… but it is not without risk.

1. Security, security, security
The risk: Without a doubt, the biggest risk to businesses using 3rd party services is data security (or lack of it). The AshleyMadison scandal made headlines this year after hackers stole sensitive customer information and posted it online. While some commentators cheered the naming of ‘cheaters’, the theft of files containing credit card transactions and personal details should give others some pause for thought. Placing information into the public cloud means criminals can target your data. It’s not just hackers who can share your online data. The design of some cloud services may unintentionally expose your data to others. In 2014, it was revealed that sharing links for documents on Dropbox can make that same information visible to others.
The solution: Choose your vendor wisely. Think carefully about what data you store and where. It pays to keep up to date on data security—if you’re not thrilled by the prospect, talk to an expert about getting professional help to manage risks to data security.

2. You need your vendor, wherever they may be
The risk: you need to have access to the internet to function, and so does your vendor. An outage at your host’s location can cost you critical time in your working hours. A major outage— whether it’s caused by an extreme weather event or the outbreak of war— could cost you dearly.
The solution: identify the location of your vendor and any associated risks. Look closely at your service level agreement. You may have the option of storing your data in more than one location so that it’s always accessible, even if one site fails.

3. You need the internet
The risk: It sounds obvious, but to access cloud-based systems and services you need to have access to the internet. If your connection is patchy or prone to failing you could be cut off. If it affects your whole network, your staff might not be able to access the files they need or log in to basic services. If your employees need access to data offsite, you need to be confident they also have access to an internet connection.
The solution: Plan ahead. If you’re developing a customised cloud solution for your business, you can build offsite and offline functionality into the design. Assess your data connection and Wi-Fi services for reliability and ensure your data will automatically update when you’re back online.

4. Economies of scale don’t apply
The risk: Shifting your IT to the cloud can be cheaper than purchasing and maintaining onsite infrastructure—up to a point. For large companies it can be cheaper to keep technology in-house.
The solution: Evaluate the cost-benefit of the cloud for your business. Or… wait for cloud costs to come down. Major vendors have acknowledged this is an issue and they expect to cut prices in due course.

5. Reliance on a third party keeps your business running
The risk: One of the promised benefits of the cloud is that they’ll take care of your IT for you. No longer do you have to maintain servers or hardware, or coordinate software upgrades. You could consider doing away with dedicated tech staff altogether. The flipside to outsourcing your technology is that you are relinquishing control to someone else. Cloud providers have no sense of loyalty or obligation to you as an employer. It’s less personal, and there’s far less you can do about it when things go wrong.
The solution: Consult with your best tech staff before making any major changes and have a good risk management plan in place.

6. There’s no looking back
The risk: If your business decides to shift software systems to the cloud you need to be 100% certain it’s the right solution for your organisation. Because once you free your business of hardware and specialist staff, reversing the decision and reinvesting in equipment or personnel becomes very costly.
The solution: Take the time to approach the change process strategically. Look closely at the providers, agreements, and solutions on offer. If you’re not sure where to start, ask an expert.

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