Cloud security: Problems may lie closer to home

Last-mile issues should also be the focus for CIOs, not just factors in the cloud...

...connect employees to information in a cost-efficient manner. And for John Adey, former chief operating officer at Star Technology Services, dealing with the last mile is all about the creation of equilibrium.

"The biggest opportunity lies in the balance between the aspiration of always-on and the need to provide affordability," said Adey. "The excitement about the cloud is phenomenal. It makes IT more exciting and has significantly increased the expectation of what technology can potentially provide."

But this level of hype also needs to be placed into context. While research from Gartner suggests CIOs view the cloud as their top technology priority for 2011, the analyst also recognises that companies are currently tentative about moving to on-demand provision.

Cloud uptake remains low

Just three per cent of CIOs have most of their IT running in the cloud or on software as a service (SaaS) technologies. And while the growth of on-demand technology is likely to be rapid during the next few years, we are far from establishing which services will be most useful and how the last mile of the network will cope.

Barry Jennings, solicitor in the commercial department at Bird & Bird, said the next transition for organisations wishing to move to the cloud will involve executives establishing trust and passing control to key providers. That is a transition, he said, that will involve some key questions.

"When is on-demand applicable? Is it right for business-critical information and systems?" he said. "The government, for example, knows if they embrace risk, they could use the cloud to cut costs. There's a political appetite for the cloud, but is on-demand operationally viable?"

For David Wilde, CIO at Westminster City Council and an IT leader who is grappling with such questions in the context of the public sector, there is a considerable distance until the journey to on-demand IT is complete.

He said issues concerning information governance are clear and understood. What has recently changed, as identified by the Gartner research, is that organisations now actually want to buy cloud services that meet such governance measures - and that providers are not necessarily ready.

Cloud potential for business-ready and in-depth services

"You either opt for a public cloud or don't worry where the data is being held or you carry on buying your own personal solution that's proprietary, expensive and in the comfort zone for systems integrators," Wilde said. "The market has quite a way to go in adopting and delivering business-ready and in-depth managed services through the cloud, which is what corporate service buyers require."

But with the cloud set to explode during the next few years, KPMG principal adviser Steve Salmon said the CIO must consider the capabilities of internal and external organisations to see if there is a real fit for an effective partnership - and the last mile of the network will be absolutely crucial.

"You have bought into en elastic cloud service that enables capacity on demand and scalability, but does your internet connectivity support that model?" he said. "When considering cloud provision, organisations need to look at flexible internet connectivity that allows them to burst on-demand at a reasonable cost without the need for long lead times."

Depending on an organisation's connectivity, Salmon said businesses might require new internet link provisioning and that can take six to nine months to implement: "As more services move to the cloud, organisations must look at their internal network and ensure it is ready to provide rich media content with a high quality of service."