What businesses want from cloud platform services is changing. Pure cloud adopters fear vendor lock-in and we’re increasingly seeing organisations spread the risk by utilising multiple cloud providers. In fact, our own research found that more than half (58%) of companies that currently use one cloud provider plan to expand their portfolio across multiple cloud platforms. This gives them the greatest chance to deliver the best, most responsive customer experiences.
Meanwhile, those running a hybrid cloud model have the option of operating their most critical workloads on-premises and using cloud platforms for less sensitive transient data, data that feeds customer-facing applications. To hedge their bets, some companies opt for a hybrid and multi-cloud approach, using their on-premises sites as well as a multitude of cloud environments, to ensure they have the best service outcomes whatever the circumstances.
A hybrid and multi-cloud framework may be the next stage in an organisation’s evolution towards the cloud. But it poses an urgent risk if data protection and availability aren’t taken seriously.
Trouble in paradise
As they continue their migration to the cloud, organisations have come to realise that different workloads are better suited to certain IT environments. When used strategically, these environments deliver a combination of greater speed, flexibility, agility, endpoint security and savings when organisations have visibility over their IT estate and pay close attention to matters like cloud usage.
A multi-cloud strategy has all the agility and scalability of the cloud without depending on a single provider. It gives businesses the ability to move workloads to other clouds for the purpose of disaster recovery. A hybrid approach, meanwhile, allows an organisation to reduce unexpected cloud costs and customise certain applications further than what’s possible in the cloud. It’s a good option for companies that want to take full control over application and data availability, its protection and ability to have insights that provide visibility into their operations and help ensure regulatory compliance.
However, if organisations aren’t careful this greater flexibility comes at a price. Hybrid and multi-cloud environments are extremely complex: an application may have its tiers residing on multiple different clouds or physical data centres. This complexity only increases with the number of environments and applications businesses have. A highly complex and fragmented data environment is difficult to monitor and control, providing many points for failure and intrusion.
Businesses risk fragmenting their IT management strategies and toolsets if they don’t utilise solutions that can operate in hybrid environments, resulting in numerous overlapping and contradictory policies. Without a unified approach to data management and protection, businesses may find inconsistencies not in only the tools they use but also in their policies on retention of data, encryption of data and most importantly recovery of their data in critical situations.
Many cloud service providers (CSPs) offer data protection services in a bid to become more competitive and capitalise on growing awareness around data protection. However, coverage differs drastically between providers when what organisations need is comprehensive protection across all environments. In short, companies can’t rely on their CSP to keep their data safe. The majority of contracts still place responsibility for data protection in the cloud on their customers. Yet this isn’t clear to many – 69% of organisations still incorrectly believe data protection, privacy and compliance are the responsibility of the cloud provider.
It’s worth remembering also that data protection regulations like GDPR place responsibility for data loss on the organisation, not its cloud provider. Those that fall foul of the regulator face the prospect of considerable fines, reputational damage and the risk of shrinking market share. The only solution is for companies to take responsibility for their own data protection. A critical part of this is having a strong, well-defined data backup plan in place.
Preventing data downtime
A multi-cloud strategy can help spread the risk when it comes to downtime – if an application environment goes offline, it can be switched or failed over to run in another cloud or hybrid environment that is being used for online storage. The challenge always occurs should multiple complex applications go offline. How would businesses recover their mission critical services within the agreed SLA? Organisations need to plan on implementing both application and data availability but also application and data resiliency. The nirvana would be to have it completely automated.
Organisations must also contend with ransomware. Once malware infects their system, it spreads like a virus. Ransomware can surge across a company’s network, knocking out any onsite data centres one minute and blocking access to their private cloud the next. If a ransomware attack can’t be contained, it rarely matters how many different environments you run.
A multi-cloud approach may be more flexible and efficient than relying on a single cloud for antivirus protection, but its many moving parts can make security and governance highly complex. To resolve this, organisations need a backup plan. Backing up the most crucial data and services ensures that any business interruption, whether it’s caused by a server outage or ransomware attack, won’t stop a business in its tracks or incur massive costs while they wait for systems to come back online.
The first step in delivering a strong backup plan is visibility. Organisations cannot protect what they cannot see. When data is visible it is easier to protect under a single, consistent set of policies, so investment in tools that link together disparate data environments and the infrastructure that supports it is vital for success. –