Checking off the costs -- and risks -- involved in migrating enterprise functions to the cloud isn't as easy a task as it seems.
Sure, there's the basic cost of cloud storage, and there are the initial startup costs, including identifying, and cleaning up, the data to be transferred and any necessary training. As for risks, security breaches, cloud outages, and data loss top the checklist.
A recent survey by Symantec, however, details the potential hidden costs of adopting a cloud platform. Some of these are unsurprising; others are eye-openers.
The report, "Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud," was based on the real-life experiences of more than 3,000 companies in 29 countries. One of the main problems reported was loss of data. This might have been anticipated, but the problem is dishearteningly widespread.
More than 40 percent of the businesses surveyed had lost information in the cloud, and almost 70 percent have found that cloud-based backup or recovery systems failed to work. Where data recovery worked, it frequently worked too slowly: Around 20 percent of businesses said it could take three days to be up and running again.
That's not what we ordered.
More interesting, though, were some of the more obscure pitfalls described in the survey. These include:
- Rogue deployments
- Inefficient storage
- Compliance and e-discovery
If IT managers think they have a firm handle on business cloud deployment, they should think again. For every properly examined and approved cloud project, there may be 50 employees using Google Drive, another 50 using Dropbox, and any number putting enterprise files in the cloud simply by attaching them to external emails. Cloud services like these are the easiest things in the world for individual employees to adopt and utilize for business purposes.
One of the main attractions of cloud computing should be elasticity. When you need extra capacity, it's there; when you don't need it, you shouldn't be paying for it. But how many organizations are overprovisioning, or wasting capacity by storing duplicate -- or otherwise useless -- data? According to Symantec, utilization across the businesses surveyed is a shockingly low 17 percent (7 percent for SMBs).
Old-fashioned paper discovery (handing over documents in lawsuits) is a headache; e-discovery is a nightmare. Imagine what cloud-based e-discovery is like? Almost 70 percent of organizations served with e-discovery notices had missed the deadline, while more than 40 percent were unable to comply at all.
It's easier to point out the problems than to come up with solutions. These hidden costs are hardly "easily avoided," as Symantec is inclined to suggest.
Sure, policies are important, but enforcing a policy, for example, that employees should not use readily available, public cloud services -- GMail, anyone? -- is much tougher. Similarly, deduplicating data is a no-brainer in theory. Achieving accurate, thorough deduplication without erasing important data, however, can be a big challenge.
What's more, the report hardly scrapes the surface of multi-jurisdictional compliance problems of the kind, for example, that have beset Google in Europe.
Of course, there's little alternative to confronting these issues. The cloud is the future, and there are going to be bumps in the road.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution