COVID-19 Has Accelerated the Cloud Journey: Data Responsibility Now Needs to Catch Up

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Shridar Subramanian.

COVID-19 has been a significant catalyst for cloud adoption, pushing many organizations past their initial reluctance. Indeed, cloud spending is set to climb 18 percent in 2021, even as overall IT spending is estimated to fall 8 percent, according to industry analyst Gartner.

We recently conducted a major survey that delves into cloud computing trends and how organizations feel about cloud adoption in general. The study revealed that almost half of all respondents (47 percent) increased their cloud backup and recovery services because of COVID-19. 

The pandemic has driven a wide range of cloud backup and recovery investments, with 59 percent of organizations increasing investment in cloud backup use and 39 percent implementing data recovery plans that rely on the cloud. All told, 57 percent of respondents said that increasing their cloud adoption and usage has been a primary focus and concern over the past 12 months.

The cloud adoption trend is likely to persist even after the pandemic subsides, mainly because many organizations now feel more comfortable with remote working. Companies like Facebook and Microsoft have publicly stated that their employees can permanently work from home, even after a widely adopted vaccine.

As a result, more support will be needed to effectively manage and protect data at these edge locations. And that raises an interesting question: Is the cloud secure? A lot of companies don’t think it is. Our survey found that 45 percent of organizations believe data backed up to a public cloud (AWS, Azure, Office365, etc.) is less safe than data backed up on-premises.

This belief is understandable. It is human nature to trust yourself with the care of something valuable, such as your beloved pet or precious house plant, rather than someone else. The same holds for your data. When you go to the cloud, you are handing over the care of your most trusted asset, so there is naturally some hesitancy there, whether the risks are real or not.

Even though COVID-19 has been a significant accelerant of cloud uptake, many organizations are still hedging on their cloud journey due to security, control concerns, and hidden indirect costs. But are these concerns justified? Are the security risks serious enough to put a halt to your cloud transformation?

The short answer is “no.” Most public clouds are more secure than any system you could install in your data center.

As organizations transition their data to the cloud, they should understand that cloud security is a shared responsibility between the cloud service provider and the customer. Cloud service providers, such as AWS, typically secure the core infrastructure and services as part of their commitment. When it comes to securing operating systems, platforms, and data, there are several tools provided by cloud vendors to protect data; however, the customer must still take responsibility to ensure their data is safe.

Similarly, with a service like Office 365, Microsoft guarantees the service, but it does not guarantee your data’s safety. It will secure your data for 30 days, and after that, it cedes responsibility. That is why it recommends that you use third-party software to protect your data long-term.

Indeed, you should have the right cloud backup and recovery solution to protect your data comprehensively and gain the full control you need. It will help if you look for a cloud storage solution that safeguards data by taking continuous snapshots and provides multiple recovery points. This solution ensures that your data remains protected and always gives you easy access and visibility into your data.

The good news is that more and more organizations realize that data protection is a shared responsibility and that they cannot leave it all to their cloud provider. When asked whose responsibility it is to recover data and applications in a public cloud (AWS, Azure, Office365, etc.) in the case of an attack or loss of data, 56 percent of survey respondents said it is their responsibility. In comparison, only 44 percent said that it is their cloud provider’s job.

Of course, there are other barriers to putting data in the cloud, such as compliance and regulation concerns. All told, 86 percent of survey respondents confessed that their adoption of cloud backup and recovery had faced obstacles, with security, compliance requirements, and lack of control of the data cited as the most significant concerns. 

These barriers are even trickier because every industry — whether it be finance, healthcare, education, etc. — is always changing its rules around what kind of security is needed and what certifications are required. Securing compliance and certifications is a costly and time-consuming burden for an organization to take on, so sourcing a cloud provider that already has all the required compliance and regulatory certificates can be a benefit of using the cloud.

A final takeaway of interest: The survey revealed a strong reliance on Managed Service Providers (MSPs) in the cloud migration process. It is perhaps not surprising, as MSPs have proven to be valuable partners in this time of crisis and have played a critical role in helping organizations and their remote employees get up and running as quickly and seamlessly as possible throughout the pandemic. This relationship looks likely to continue. In our survey, more than a third of midsize IT teams said they would increase MSP spending for data backup in the cloud and cloud backup of remote office and branch office locations.

As companies venture further along in cloud adoption, regardless of whether it is a private, public, or hybrid cloud approach, they will inevitably realize the many operational and financial benefits of moving workloads to the cloud. For organizations that advance in their journey to the cloud, it will be critical that they have the right data security posture and processes outlined and implemented — or they may be in for a rude awakening.

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