The benefits of cloud storage outweigh the risks, say tech chiefs - but several remain wary of using a public service for corporate data.
Cloud storage could be the next big thing on the CIO's watchlist, as the recently-launched Google Drive joins Dropbox, Microsoft's SkyDrive and Apple's iCloud in offering users a way to store documents and data in the cloud.
And while some commentators have raised an eyebrow at the enterprise use of cloud storage services, citing concerns about data security and integrity, it seems that for many CIOs the benefits already outweigh any perceived risks.
When asked, "Are you planning to roll out cloud storage services to your end users?", TechRepublic's CIO Jury panel of tech leaders responded yes by eight votes to four.
Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at media group ITN, said such moves had to be made in a "controlled manner," adding: "Easy global access to shared data is a big win for the business and offers some interesting disaster-recovery opportunities."
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at marketing services company Creston, said as with all things described as 'cloud', much depends on the definition. If cloud means a universally accessible storage area, with access restricted to known users, on a dedicated and managed platform, then there is a business benefit, he said.
"But not on a public platform, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. We have to provide these services to prevent use of these undesirable public platforms. Sophistication will initially be low, but will hopefully improve as budgets allow and solutions become more enterprise-friendly," Whatrup said.
Jerry Justice, IT director at SS&G Financial Services, said these services had a place, "If they hit the right targets." He said he was looking at two areas, cloud access to content for end users and archival storage.
Joshua Grossetti, director of IT, Triumvirate Environmental, said security concerns must be addressed. "Even though prices have dropped, the value proposition isn't there yet for us. We have a very mobile workforce and so from an ease of use and user productivity standpoint, I would love to utilise cloud storage for our users sometime in the future," Grossetti said.
David Wilson, director of IT services at Vector CSP, said: "We use VPN to keep our storage in-house and protect proprietary files. As a backup [cloud storage is] possibly useful, but as the single source of important documents, unacceptable."
Michael Woodford, executive director, IT Technical services, USANA Health Sciences, said until the inherent issues of security are addressed and have time to mature, "the risk of public cloud storage is too high for business usage". He added that there is "some use for consumers" but warned they should be very careful about putting personally identifiable information out there.
This week's CIO Jury is
- Ian Auger, head of IT and Communications, ITN
- Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
- Joshua Grossetti, director of IT, Triumvirate Environmental
- Jerry Justice, IT director at SS&G Financial Services
- Michael Hanken, VP of IT at Multiquip
- Gideon Kay, CIO, LGC
- Joel Robertson, CIO King College
- James Salmon, CIO, BPP Group & University College
- Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
- Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston
- David Wilson, director of IT Services at Vector, CSP
- Michael Woodford, executive director IT Technical Services, USANA Health Sciences
Other members of the CIO Jury panel also made their voices heard. Kevin Quealy, director of information services at Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia said such services can be very important for small to medium business. Graham Yellowley, CTO of equities, risk and client service at LCH Clearnet, said cloud storage services are fantastic for consumers and businesses that have a "large roving contingent" who need access to information that is not critically sensitive.
But he added: "There will be limited take-up within large corporations who rely on corporate email systems and intranet to access information and documents through strong firewalls."
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