Security, privacy dominate businesses' cloud concerns as technical worries fade

Security and privacy concerns continue to weigh heavily in companies' choice of cloud provider, according to new global research from law firm Baker & McKenzie that found the issue was named by almost 90 percent of cloud buyers as their primary concern.

On this point, businesses were aligned with their customers – 88 percent of whom, the survey found, were most concerned about security and named it as their primary hesitation when buying cloud solutions. This change was particularly pointed given an overall increase in the integration of cloud service offerings into common business solutions.

Privacy was also a key concern, named by 73.3 percent of respondents as a primary hesitation during the buying process. That these two issues were far more commonly cited than third-place control and data portability – named by just 54.7 percent of respondents – suggests strong ongoing concern with both the integrity of company data in the cloud and the protection of customer privacy as required by state and Commonwealth privacy legislation.

“Implementing cloud solutions certainly brings the appeal of ‘better, faster, cheaper’ approaches to everyday computing challenges—but our survey respondents continue to emphasise those benefits can not come at the expensive of security and privacy,” said Anne-Marie Allgrove, global chair of Baker & McKenzie's Information Technology & Communications Group, in a statement.

“In fact, as such technology becomes increasingly ingrained in any business, we are seeing buyers looking to more tightly integrate cloud solutions in day-to-day operations, such as with greater ability to audit providers’ platforms.”

Other security-related issues were less common, with regulatory compliance named as a cause for hesitation on the cloud by 53.3 percent of respondents, hacking by 37.3 percent, and government surveillance by just 18.7 percent.

Interestingly, availability and reliability were hesitations for less than half of cloud buyers – a decrease from the previous year that, the company's analysis suggested was due to “continued maturation of the marketplace.”

“One way to mitigate some of these risks related to integrating cloud services into an organisation's IT environment,” the firm recommended, “is to identify those risks and address them through the contracting process and overall IT risk management strategy.”

Reputation and cost (named by 69 percent and 65 percent of respondents, respectively) were the most important factors respondents named among those when actually choosing a cloud provider, with 61 percent citing contract terms and 60 percent saying published security terms were key criteria.

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Cloud deals were being closed much faster than in the past, with 55.2 percent of deals being finalised within 2 months and 36.8 percent taking 3 to 6 months.

Interestingly, geography was only named by 37 percent of respondents – suggesting that long-running discussions about data sovereignty may be losing some of their sting as executives learn more about the actual impact of geography on cloud deployments and related governance.

The survey also looked at the satisfaction levels of those who had adopted cloud solutions, with 69 percent saying the cloud transition had met their objectives. A further 29 percent of respondents offered a more qualified response, noting that the cloud sometimes met their needs; concerns among those respondents included not vetting capabilities enough in advance, and that the complexity of compliance was at odds with the purported “ease” of cloud services.

Security and privacy were by far the biggest concerns of both cloud buyers and cloud providers when it came to priorities for the future, with 77 percent of buyers and 66 percent of providers naming these issues as their key concerns over the next few years. Second-place system management was named by just 41 percent of cloud buyers, with third-place cost containment named by just 26 percent.

“Managing the risk and compliance related to data processing and the cloud generally continues to be more complex based on rapidly changing requirements in various jurisdictions around the world. Identifying these risks and arriving at a mitigation strategy is a key consideration for both buyers and providers of cloud services.”

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