Cloud Computing Risks

A recent article was published with the headline ‘Cloud Computing Risks Outweigh Reward‘. The article, based on a small amount of data from a survey published by the ISACA, a leader in IT governance, control and assurance, claimed that around 45 percent of IT professionals surveyed said the risks involved in cloud computing outshone any benefits. With such a strong negative view of cloud computing I felt compelled to investigate further. It is not the ISACA survey but the headline article that used the survey data that my comments below relate to.

To put the article into perspective, the survey questioned 1809 IT professionals on the subject of IT risk/reward. Out of a total of 13 survey questions, only 2 were cloud related. The first question, from which the article derived its headline is repeated below.

Which of the following do you believe about cloud computing(including software as a service)? (Please select one.)
a. The benefits achieved with cloud computing outweigh the risks. 17%
b. The risks of cloud computing outweigh the benefits. 45%
c. The risks and benefits of cloud computing are appropriately balanced. 38%

To write a report with such a negative headline based on the above single question is fundamentally flawed. Cloud computing covers so many different areas, from infrastructure to software applications that the above question is too generic to have any real significance -especially as the respondents knowledge of cloud computing is unknown. In reality, the risk of adopting cloud computing varies significantly for different types of projects – it can significantly reduce risk as well as increase risk depending on the type of project and the personnel involved. For example, an organisation wanting to develop a new, innovative Web application or service with an unknown, but hopefully fast growing customer base, leveraging the clouds pay per hour server model reduces costs and therefore project risk significantly. Equally, moving business critical applications to the cloud for an organisation without cloud computing skills represents a high risk strategy.

Another revealing question in the survey was the industry sector respondents worked in. The highest sector (28%) was banking/finance/insurance, followed by Government/military (14%). These two industries, both IT risk averse, require high security and strong governance as I covered in a previous blog.

In summary, the kind of negative headline, lack of understanding of the broad spectrum of cloud computing technologies and their associated benefit/risks is what motivated me to write the Cloud Computing Technologies course for Learning Tree. The course introduces all the different cloud computing technologies, how to evaluate them and determine if they can be utilized by organisations of different sizes with minimal risk.

Chris Czarnecki

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