2021 Predictions: As Cloud Adoption Accelerates, Governance and Security Become Critical

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Click to learn more about author Keith Neilson.

Digital transformation continues to skyrocket as enterprises shift operations to adapt to the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To power this digital-first strategy, enterprises are increasingly adopting cloud services to support remote workflows. As cloud initiatives continue to accelerate in 2021, enterprises must ensure they understand the complex nature of cloud environments and implement proper security and governance measures to keep data secure and avoid financial loss. 

The predictions below encompass what we can expect to see for multi-cloud adoption, cloud security and governance challenges, the role of MSPs, and security’s new global workforce in 2021. 

AI Will Gain Momentum in Cloud Security and Governance

In 2021, AI will go far beyond simply detecting anomalies and thereby flagging potential threats to security teams. Cloud governance is an increasingly complex task and is quickly reaching a point where it’s impossible for humans to manage alone. AI will increasingly be relied on in the coming year to maintain cloud hygiene by streamlining workflows, managing changes, and archiving. Once proper cloud hygiene is established and maintained with AI, it will also be used as a strategic predictive knowledge tool. By predicting and addressing threats and vulnerabilities, AI will help enterprises create the best possible outcome for their cloud environments. Leveraging AI as a strategic asset will empower CIOs to make informed decisions about their cloud environments, such as evaluating costs and compliance risks.

Multi-Cloud Adoption Will Continue to Accelerate as the Global Pandemic Keeps Work and Learning Remote Through 2021

According to 451 Research, enterprises anticipate workloads primarily executed in cloud-based external environments to increase from 36 percent in 2020 to 63 percent in 2022. As organizations and managed service providers accelerate cloud initiatives to support remote work and learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they will gain a deeper understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each public cloud provider. After understanding the different types of applications that run better in which cloud, the need for adopting more than one cloud provider will become clearer. In a recent survey, Gartner found that 81 percent of organizations work with two or more cloud providers already. The trend toward multi-cloud adoption will only accelerate in 2021, and the disparity of tools used by enterprises creates demand for a consistent management solution to maintain visibility and control, as well as reduce costs. 

Securing and Governing Multi-Cloud Environments Will Be the Top IT Challenge Facing Enterprises

As digital transformation accelerates, the complex and self-service nature of cloud infrastructure makes it easy for mistakes to be made (e.g., access granted to users or machines that should never have been granted), and lack of visibility into the cloud makes these mistakes difficult to spot and correct. In fact, Gartner predicts through 2025, 99 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault, and 90 percent of organizations that fail to control public cloud use will inappropriately share sensitive data. Because of this, identity and access management (IAM) for individual and machine users will be a top challenge in 2021. To make IAM digestible and manageable by humans and therefore avoid data exposure, organizations will increasingly implement cloud ownership guidelines and governance policies to visualize who — or what — has access to specific resources in the cloud.

A Surge in M&A Deals Requires Visibility into Inherited Infrastructure

Most M&A deals were put on hold amidst the economic and political uncertainty of 2020. Despite the shift for many organizations’ budgets, M&A activity within the United States is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels within the next 12 months, according to research from Deloitte. Previously, we have witnessed companies suffer massive data breaches as a result of poor infrastructure documentation and visibility following an M&A deal, triggering record-breaking fines and great financial loss. These incidents have forced the issue of IT security and proper hygiene to the forefront of such deals moving forward. If one or both of the parties does not have proper security controls and documentation of their infrastructure, it is sure to stall the acquisition process. Visibility and risk assessment of inherited infrastructure will be a key component of the due diligence process in 2021 and beyond.

With Diminished IT Budgets, Enterprises Will Increasingly Look to MSPs for Guidance

Gartner recently revised its 2020 security spending forecast amid COVID-19, reducing the originally predicted 8.7 percent growth rate to only 2.4 percent. Unfortunately, as spending goes down, companies may be unable to expand their teams or adopt new technology — but the high expectation of security and functionality remains the same. To cope with the increasing budgetary pressures while continuing to support a secure and productive remote workforce, organizations will heavily rely on MSPs for guidance on how to manage, govern, and secure their IT operations in a cost-effective manner.

Companies Will Be More Global Than Ever Before, Demanding Democratized Security

A talent gap has existed in cybersecurity for years, making it difficult for organizations to recruit and retain the security professionals they need. However, as companies dealt with stay-at-home orders and a forced shift to remote work over this past year, it has become more and more obvious that people can perform their jobs from almost anywhere. This means companies can look at an expanded geographical pool of candidates for new hires in all business departments, not just security. And with this increased globalization/dispersion, security must evolve to a more democratized approach where it is delivered at the edge and on the various endpoints used by the global workforce. 2021 will see the demise of the centralized security strategy. 

As the future remains uncertain, several factors are out of an enterprise’s control in 2021. However, enterprises can control their cloud environments to ensure data stays secure, avoiding breaches that average $3.86 million each. As multi-cloud adoption accelerates and IT budgets diminish, it is critical enterprises have visibility into cloud environments, ensure cloud governance policies are in place, and leverage MSPs to help support cloud management.

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