By Stefan Schmid | 01.03.2017
You probably know this situation: you want to send a 25 MB file, but you can’t because the recipient’s e-mail program rejects it. The best-known solution is Dropbox. This cloud solution is extremely easy and quick to use and therefore widespread in businesses, however, internal company policies make it clear that only applications from the network are allowed to be used.
In practice, things look very different. There are lots of other examples of apps that have made the move from private to business use: Microsoft OneDrive, Evernote for notetaking, numerous Google apps and even Facebook and Doodle. And it’s easy to see why. Employees know the tools from using them in their personal lives and already have accounts, plus, they can work from home on their own devices.
Security concerns? Unfortunately, employees don’t really consider the fact that sensitive data are distributed around half the globe and is taken with them when the employee leaves the company.
The security of enterprise data can be critical for businesses, but what can be done? Blocking applications can help, but clever employees will soon find a new app or simply use their own mobile phone to work on the company Wi-Fi. That’s why businesses cannot afford to ignore cloud services even if the IT strategy says otherwise.
What does this mean for companies and their security? There is no way round cloud services. It must always be the aim to give employees the most efficient tools and control the system so that it isn’t possible for users to do whatever they want to. The solution? Cloud computing.
Cloud options range from single services such as file sharing, backups and device management to operating the entire IT infrastructure in a cloud provider’s data centre. A growing number of companies are choosing to outsource more and more resources to professionals. You need to concentrate on your core business to survive in an increasingly challenging economy while ensuring high security levels and satisfied employees.
Let’s go back to the Dropbox example. Employees must be allowed to use the highly efficient and popular app, but the IT department needs to have control. This means that access is secured via two-factor authentication.
If employees want to use business files, they must log in and use a controlled account. Company data cannot be removed from the secure environment of the cloud, but remains the company’s property, making it impossible to mix business and private data.
This can of course work with other apps as well. Cloud services mean that apps can be centrally managed on all end devices such as PCs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones and well-established cloud service providers even use Sharefile tools which are similar to Dropbox. The advantage is that data are stored in a designated cloud in Switzerland and not on a server abroad.
If you still aren’t completely convinced by the cloud, you don’t have to hand over your entire infrastructure right away. A step-by-step approach to test the waters is also an option. The thought that data are no longer stored on an in-house server, but somewhere externally is enough to cause a lot of headaches at management level (even when the data centre is only a few kilometres away in Switzerland). If a company decides to first outsource its backups, management have the opportunity to get used to the cloud and build trust in the technology. The benefits are tangible and so are the feelings of relief.
Then comes the realisation that the own servers and backups might not have been 100% secure. What happens if there’s a fire? Or a flood? If something happens and the company has to close for several days, this can have devastating consequences for business. That’s unless all services are procured from the cloud as these data and apps can be accessed from anywhere. All you need is a PC, notebook or tablet and an internet connection. As mentioned, a step-by-step approach, such as by introducing one service at a time, can be taken.
Various cloud services take the pressure off IT admins and free up resources. The IT department can focus on business-relevant tasks, foster innovation and has more time for the IT strategy. They can once again work productively and don’t have to constantly work to resolve issues or provide support. Change tapes every day and lock them in the safe? That was yesterday. Today, cloud services can automate a wide range of services.
Do you know how much your IT costs today? If yes, do you know how much it’ll cost tomorrow? What happens if hardware fails? Apart from unhappy employees, there will also be costs that you have only budgeted as ‘reserves’. It is very difficult to set – and stick to – a budget for an entire IT infrastructure.
The cloud also offers many benefits in terms of costs, such as use-dependent prices and cost transparency. The budget for the next financial year that the Head of IT has just presented will be stuck to as support, infrastructure investments, operations and maintenance no longer have to be taken into consideration.
The cloud provider makes sure that the service is available and that’s all! It’s the usage – ideally per user – that counts, meaning costs can be budgeted to the nearest Frank.
Paradoxically, the cloud offers exactly the solution for the unauthorised use of private cloud services. An experienced cloud provider can fulfil your employees’ requirements to use the tools they are used to from their private lives.
It doesn’t matter how you make the switch to the cloud – in single, small steps or everything at once – always consider that your employees probably already work with one. You cannot escape the cloud!
Stefan Schmid has been part of the Bechtle family for 19 years and is responsible for the planning and integration of individual client server solutions. As a customer adviser, he sees it as his personal mission to not just satisfy his customers, but to make them happy. In his free time, he cultivates berries and vines – 15 varieties to be exact.