Addressing security in a cloud-enabled organization

The adoption of cloud computing is rapidly gathering momentum, as more companies use this technology to store data and access applications online. However as cloud computing becomes more mainstream, security concerns are being raised.

A recent Robert Half survey of 150 CIOs and CTOs in Asia Pacific revealed that security was the most prevalent concern among the respondents when migrating their technology functions to the cloud.

In fact 44% of those surveyed in Hong Kong were concerned most about security. Other concerns included data integrity (26%), lack of internal knowledge on cloud computing (18%) and migration cost (8%).

In the same survey, when asked what their companies were going to do about cyber security, 30% of CIOs and CTOs in Hong Kong said that they were looking at identifying cloud computing management systems, 26% were developing business continuity processes and 24% were aiming to improve the security systems on their own computer systems.

While cloud computing is deemed to improve business processes and increase company competitiveness, security in the cloud continues to remain a global challenge, particularly as more and more critical functions are migrated. So what can be done? Here are some tips on dealing with security issues in a cloud-enabled organization.

Ensure your data is secure

Make sure your cloud computing provider takes proper measures to secure your company data and any applications that are used in the cloud. While providers have an obligation to do this for their clients, a review should be done to confirm that your expectations on cloud security are being met.

Companies and providers need to ensure that all critical company data is masked and that only authorized users have access to it. They also need to ensure that individual identities and credentials are protected. At the same time, they must be aware of, and comply with, company compliance procedures, as well as laws relating to data protection in the markets they operate in.

Any applications that are accessed via the cloud also need to be secure. Additionally companies need to work with their providers to make sure any computers that are used to access data in the cloud are secure and that all access is documented.

Mitigate against disaster

When choosing a provider, make sure they have data continuity and data recovery plans in place in case the worst case scenario happens and their systems crash, which could render all of your data inaccessible and, in rare case, unrecoverable.

The same rings true for any applications used in the cloud. A company can survive if a non-mission-critical application goes offline, but what happens if a mission-critical one does?

Hire the right staff

When hiring IT staff, it is essential that they understand the security models and security technology needed to manage in a cloud environment. Depending on the size of the organization, it may be possible to hire a cloud security specialist whose main responsibility is to keep the company's operations in the cloud as secure as possible.

Along with the requisite technical expertise, we see more employers looking for candidates with strong management and communication skills. These candidates are in demand as they will be able to collaborate and communication effectively with non-technical business managers.

In addition, your organization should create a security policy for all in-house staff to follow when accessing and working in the cloud. Best practices should be shared broadly and continuously reinforced.

All staff should also be encouraged to keep up with any changes in technology advancements within cloud computing. This will allow them to more effectively work with, and monitor, the service provider.

Whilst cloud computing is deemed to improve business processes and increase company competitiveness, security in the cloud remains a challenge for many organizations. In order to remain competitive, the IT function -- in partnership with management and providers -- needs to continue to work closely to identify, assess, monitor and mitigate these new and emerging risks appropriately.

Pallavi Anand is director at specialized recruitment firm Robert Half.

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