The Move to the Cloud Gains Momentum, but Security is Still a Big Concern

  • More organizations are moving applications and data to the cloud, driven in part by changing work environment caused by the pandemic
  • Ensuring data security is a key challenge in taking full advantage of public cloud resources

This year has seen a few dramatic trends that directly affect IT, in large part results of the global health crisis: the massive shift to a work-from-home model, a significant increase in e-commerce activity, and a big jump in the use of videoconferencing and other collaborative tools—to name a few.

Another prominent trend in this year of business and societal upheaval because of the coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing increase in the use of cloud services.

As research firm International Data Group (IDG) notes in its recently released 2020 Cloud Computing Study, “cloud platforms are playing critical roles in helping businesses react to the current crisis, as they enable operational resiliency and provide necessary work-from-home tools.”

The same study also notes that one of the biggest challenges IT decision makers face in taking full advantage of public cloud resources is a hurdle that has plagued many companies for years: ensuring data privacy and security in the cloud.

While a general shift to the cloud has been underway for several years, it’s likely that few could have predicted how important these services would become for companies in 2020. And there’s no end in sight for this migration.

“As organizations continue to realize benefits from cloud computing, there is no question that cloud tools and solutions are here to stay,” the report says.

As part of its research, IDG surveyed 551 IT decision markers involved in the purchase process for cloud computing, and found that 81% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure in the cloud. That’s up from 73% in 2018. Another 18% said they plan to adopt cloud-based applications within the next one to three years.

A large majority of the organizations say their IT environments are at least somewhat in the cloud today, with only 8% saying their total IT environment is all on-premises. And organizations will allocate nearly one third (32%) of their total IT budgets to cloud computing within the next year.

Cloud-first applications might become more prevalent over time, the report said. Nearly half of organizations’ cloud-based applications were “purpose built” for the cloud. More than half (55%) use multiple public cloud services today, and 21% said they use three or more cloud services.

Eighteen months from the time of the research, 16% of the professionals surveyed expect their IT environment to be entirely cloud-based, 43% expect it to be mostly in the cloud, and 36% expect it to be at least somewhat in the cloud. Only 5% expected their IT environment to remain entirely on premises.

Among the different types of applications and services IT professionals said they are moving to the cloud are customer relationship management (CRM, enterprise resource planning (ERP), line-of-business, storage, file servers, disaster recovery/high availability, data archiving/backup, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and management, data warehousing, and data analytics.

All of this provides a clear indication that the cloud has truly arrived as a vital delivery mechanism for applications, and an enabler of computing, storage, and development services for many organizations in virtually all industries.

And it shows how much is at stake for companies when considering the security and privacy of data in the cloud. IT and cyber security executives have been concerned about cloud security for as long as cloud services have existed. That has not changed, based on the IDG research.

Even though most of the respondents said they have no plans to move applications out of the cloud and back on premises, a majority (79%) also report significant downsides to using a multi-cloud model. About 30% said security challenges was one of the downsides.

Regardless of how many cloud services are in use or how big the organization, a large majority of respondents (94%) said it’s challenging to take full advantage of public cloud resources. Among the biggest obstacles are data privacy and security issues (cited by 38%), securing and protecting cloud resources (31%), governance and compliance concerns (30%), and lack of security skills and expertise (30%).

Of the organizations using multiple public clouds, the leading challenge is data privacy and security, with 40% citing this as a hurdle. That was mentioned more often as a challenge than controlling cloud costs and a lack of cloud management skills and expertise.