Using the Cloud to protect your business
The motto of the Los Angeles Police Department is “To Protect and to Serve”. IT departments don’t tend to have mottos, but if they did I think this motto might be quite appropriate. The “serve” piece is pretty self-explanatory but perhaps the “protect” element needs some elaboration.
IT Departments quite rightly see their role as protecting the organisation from a variety of threats. Here are some examples:
- Fire, flood, power failure
- Hackers, viruses, denial of service attacks, spam
- Outages on business-critical systems
- Data loss or data theft
- Failure to comply with legislation
They also try to protect the organisation from systems which will:
- Be difficult to maintain, upgrade or support
- Not have the required longevity
- Create silos of data
In my experience, this desire to protect the business user is the reason why some IT teams have been slow to adopt the Cloud. CIOs fear that Cloud offerings will reduce the IT Department’s level of control while increasing the likelihood of data silos being created.
There are clear signs now, however, that all of this is changing and CIOs are seeing the benefits of the Cloud with increased protection for key business systems. Here are three common examples:
Backup as a Service (BaaS)
For obvious reasons, companies need to store backups off-site. For some companies this has involved the physical movement of backup media such as tapes. Cloud backup solutions (such as Microsoft Azure Backup) offer a service which is fast (both for backup and restore operations), flexible, resilient and cost effective. Microsoft has even introduced “cool” storage which is more economical where the data is being written more then read (such as in backup and archiving use cases).
Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
Traditionally, DR can be an expensive undertaking as it involves a second physical site and the need for infrastructure there which is managed and maintained. The Microsoft Azure Cloud offers a novel approach in that the DR server infrastructure can be based on Virtual Machines (VMs) which are only spun up when needed. This means that no charges are incurred for the VMs between DR incidents (instead the costs are based on the number of instances being protected, along with storage and data transfer).
Email as a Service (EaaS)
Email is a critical business system for most organisations. By consuming email as a service (e.g. as part of Office 365 from Microsoft) IT Departments can outsource responsibility for protecting users from spam, viruses, Trojans, denial-of-service attacks, and more to a service provider which has the requisite scale, skills, expertise, time and resources. Microsoft can also provide enhanced protection through offerings such as “Advanced Security Management” and “Advanced Threat Protection”.
A recent survey by The Enterprise Strategy Group concurs. It identifies the top two use cases for how companies use Cloud-based services in their infrastructure: backup and archive; and BC/DR.
So some CIOs will start by using Cloud offerings to "protect" their business before moving on to using other offerings to better "serve" the business.