Cloud of suspicion
Cloud of suspicion

When it comes to efficiently managing resources, outsourced computing still is not well understood, reports Karen Epper Hoffman.

More and more enterprises are embracing cloud computing, both through service agreements and private development, to gain greater efficiencies and better scalability in tough economic times. Many industry estimates show that IT costs can be reduced by as much as 85 percent when businesses move software, infrastructure or platforms to the cloud. A recent report from Visiongain, a London-based business information provider, forecasted the worldwide market for cloud servers will generate $40 billion by the end of this year. But, if analyst firm Forrester Research is correct, this market will grow more than six-fold by 2020 – to more than $241 billion in revenues, with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) leading the way. 

But the path to this future is not without its hurdles, and security is perhaps the most major concern that stands between many enterprises and their implementation of the centralized computing paradigm. Indeed, Forrester also found that more than three-quarters (76 percent) of IT managers have issues with cloud security and compliance. 

“Our role is breaking down those barriers and allowing enterprises to use private or public cloud,” says Kevin Bocek, vice president of marketing for CipherCloud, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of cloud encryption gateway technology.

On the road to that acceptance, cloud computing evangelists not only need to deal with the practical issues of security standards and practices, they also must overcome misconceptions about the technology's security. Case in point: A study released in May from Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group found that out of the small and midsize businesses which have not yet used cloud computing, about two-thirds (67 percent) said they are concerned with the lack of accepted security standards. 

However, among those surveyed businesses that had already embraced the cloud, more than half said they were able to add products and services to their business faster because they were not as burdened by security management. Also, more than two out of five respondents (41 percent) said they were able to employ larger teams in areas that have a direct impact on business growth, while 39 percent invested more resources into product development, and 37 percent said a cloud increased their competitiveness.

The irony is that, if Microsoft's findings are to be believed, 35 percent of companies in the United States have experienced “higher levels of security” since moving to the cloud. And 32 percent say they spend less time worrying about cyber attacks – in addition to being five times more likely to have reduced their security management expenditure as a percentage of their overall IT budget.