The cloud: will it ever be trustworthy enough for your precious data?

Is it a viable alternative for data storage?

There can be very few people left that doubt cloud computing is well on its way to becoming an integral part of the IT environment. And it's becoming harder to argue against as the momentum for cloud continues to build. Recent research published by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) showed 78% of UK organisations surveyed had adopted at least one cloud-based service.

CIF CEO Alex Hilton predicts 90% of all businesses in the UK will formally adopt at least one cloud service by the end of 2015, adding that UK cloud adoption has grown 61.5% since CIF's first survey in 2010.

The CIF survey identified web hosting, email, CRM, data backup and disaster recovery as the most pervasive cloud services. Those findings are borne out by research conducted for Barracuda encompassing more than 900 businesses across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Cloud is gaining traction for data storage

The State of Backup study found 83% of all businesses backed up some of their data to the cloud and only 17% did not use cloud at all. Over half (53%) of those who did use the cloud stored more than 50% of their data in the cloud. But despite these impressive figures, there was reluctance among some businesses to fully embrace cloud adoption for data backup. Over a quarter of them did not believe the cloud was secure enough for them to back up 100% of their data.

The big factor undermining their faith to make the leap completely was their lack of trust in the public cloud. Nearly seven in ten (69%) of those surveyed viewed the data they stored in the cloud as sensitive, so they were understandably reluctant to entrust that data to the public cloud. As a result, private cloud was three times more trusted than the public cloud, and a strong third choice in the rankings behind removable storage and site-to-site replication.

If the cloud is to become comprehensively adopted for data backup, concerns over data loss and security issues need to be addressed. Businesses need to be confident their data is secure when backed up to the cloud, so they will then entrust it with sensitive data.

The Barracuda study found a fifth of those using cloud storage had suffered significant problems with their provider, including lost data and security issues. Over a third reported instances where their data hadn't been available when they needed it and 42% said their data wasn't secure.

Security and compliance concerns remain

Security is a major issue for many businesses. A massive 89% of firms described the security credentials of their cloud provider as an important or very important consideration. This suggests customers will look much more favourably on storage providers that place a strong emphasis on security and can prove their credentials.

Resellers looking to build a cloud business model should consider aligning themselves closely with security vendors, because the most trusted cloud providers will be those perceived as having the most secure credentials.

Compliance is another area of concern. The legal and moral responsibility for safely storing company, employee and customer data falls to the organisation itself, but almost one fifth of those in Barracuda's survey said they did not know if their cloud provider met the legally required data compliance regulations for their business sector. Ignorance is no defence. It is the responsibility of the business to ensure it abides by the requisite national and international laws, regulations and standards.

This blind spot could be a serious area of risk for a business and a major concern to board members across the globe. MSPs and technology partners need to work more closely with customers to help them understand the standards and regulations they are bound by, and ensure they understand if, and how, they comply.

Most businesses prefer to stay in the halfway house

While cloud storage adoption is still in its infancy and there is some reluctance to embrace the medium fully, there's no doubt people are starting to bring it on board. The popularity of private cloud infrastructures as a 'halfway house' shows that businesses are keen to use cloud storage if they can, but they want to do so on their own terms as much as possible.

The CIF survey found that 85% of organisations were deploying a hybrid on-premise/cloud strategy, and would continue to invest in on-premise IT alongside (and integrated with) cloud solutions. Hilton describes this state of affairs as "the normalisation of cloud in the hybrid IT market".

IT industry has a role to play

But even as organisations continue to choose to use a hybrid of removable storage, replication and private and public cloud infrastructures, the quality of the strategy they implement will be critical to their success. In order for businesses to evolve their backup strategies, it is imperative they feel they can trust and rely on the options they have.

To achieve this, they need the full support of the IT industry and service providers to work with them to address thorny issues such as compliance, regulation and data privacy. Technology advancement will not drive mainstream adoption of cloud storage among businesses without the back up of knowledge, guidance, support and good customer service to help ensure its success.