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Steps to Overcome the Business Risks of Cloud Services

Do any web search on the inhibitors of moving to cloud and you’ll find a primary challenge rises to the top—business risk. The benefits of cloud often outweigh risks, which is why more and more business information is being shared in the cloud. In fact, 50% of Global 1,000 companies will have customer data stored in the public cloud by 2016 according to Gartner.

The rapid transition of critical data into the cloud and the use of SaaS for business processes mean that organizations need to have a solid approach to manage the business risks of cloud.  We have worked closely with customers and Cisco’s own IT department to identify some initial steps that organizations can put in place to mitigate the risks of cloud services with IT governance.

Revise how your company data classification system applies to cloud services. 

Businesses typically have already established a tiered classification system including private, confidential, public, etc. This system needs to be revised to detail what and how information should be shared in the cloud. These policies also need to take into account any regulatory or compliance requirements.

Communicate an employee policy specific to cloud service usage.        

Recently, I was speaking with a large healthcare provider about what policies they had that outlined what employees could share in the cloud. The customer’s IT group believed that a general company code of conduct safeguarded them. However, as the conversation progressed they realized that their current policies were not explicit as to how this applied to cloud.

Employee policies need to clearly outline what can and cannot be shared with approved corporate cloud vendors. For example, even though a vendor like Salesforce.com or Box.com might be approved, an organization may not want certain confidential information to be shared with an outside vendor. Additionally, these policies also need to address personal use of cloud services (file sharing services, for-free email accounts, etc.). These policies need to be periodically communicated to employees as well as how their actions might be monitored to ensure compliance.

Discover and determine the risk profile of shadow IT.

According to a recent Forrester study, 43 percent of respondents believed shadow IT practices were major threats to their respective organizations. It is critical to discover and classify the services being used that have not been approved by IT. Once identified, there are typically three approaches to handling the risks of shadow IT.

1)    Assess and onboard critical cloud applications.

2)    Block risky cloud applications with secure web gateways or data loss prevention solutions.

3)    Monitor applications and as-a-service usage with alerts for unusual activity.

Establish a data security assessment process for new cloud services.

A vital way to ensure that business data is kept safe is to have a thorough risk assessment process as cloud vendors and services are brought on-board. This process should take into account the following five elements:

  • Initiation – Establish what elements of your business a vendor will be involved in and what data will be shared with the vendor. Will they handle confidential/private information or only public data?
  • Data encryption and integration – Test the encryption of data as it passes from the organization to the vendor as well as how the data will be stored at the vendor’s data center. Understand how a vendor would integrate with your systems (creating single sign-on, pull corporate data, etc.).
  • Vendor data security policies Can the vendor uphold the policies for protecting your corporate data based on the classification system defined above, and do so the same way or better than your IT department would? Evaluate the vendor’s disaster recovery plan, compliance and regulatory processes, and identity and access controls.
  • Vendor stability and proprietary policies – According to Gartner, 1 out of 4 cloud service providers will be out of business in two years.   This is largely due to financial instability or acquisitions. Businesses need to ensure that vendors they choose to work with are financially stable. Find out how the vendor would handle your data in the event of a business closure or acquisition. Additionally, do they use a proprietary technology approach that might lock you into using them? Insist that vendors use an open source approach that would help you transition to a new vendor if an SLA was not met or if the vendor was acquired or went out of business.         
  • Ongoing vendor monitoring – Establish a process to regularly review vendors (annually for those dealing with business critical processes, less regularly for those with less impact).

These are some initial steps to managing the business risks of cloud. However, businesses that are looking to reap the benefits of cloud and avoid risk must put in place a lifecycle approach to manage cloud services.

We recently introduced Cloud Consumption Optimization, an annual subscription service that helps customers govern their cloud adoption from end-to-end and continually monitor cloud use. Learn more about how we can help you govern cloud and manage cloud risks at http://www.cisco.com/go/cloudconsumption

 

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Banking in the InterCloud: Delivering Additional Computing and Storage

July 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm PST

Financial Services firms are being challenged and forced to change the way that their applications, information, content, compute, storage, and network resources are deployed and consumed. It is a multi-dimensional issue that is forcing financial services firms to change of how IT is delivered. They are beginning to look for ways to stretch their data centers, as they often need more compute and storage capacity than their own facilities provide, especially during those peak high-demand times. The move is toward the service delivery of IT through cloud computing, a dynamic and service-oriented delivery paradigm that organizes and allocates IT-enabled services to meet business demand as needed.

Challenges With Financial Services IT Delivery

Data centers are costly to build and operate, but there are times when you need more resources. Cisco’s InterCloud solution lets banks create a hybrid cloud to extend their data center and cloud capacity when needed. Through InterCloud, banks can store more data and have more computing power, operating just as if it were in an on-premises data center. InterCloud could also be used to augment current big data and risk/analytics environments that banks have deployed in recent years. In many cases, additional compute capacity is needed only for a short time in order to run certain risk models or to provide additional reporting for regulatory requirements. Read More »

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The Future of Cloud, Part 4: Building a Resilient Cloud for the Future

(This is part 4 of a 7-part series sharing insights from Cisco partners about the Future of Cloud.)

At Cisco Live!, Derek Siler, Director, Solution Engineering – Channel Sales at Sungard Availability Services, shared his company’s vision of the cloud and how they bring value to the market.  “Our real unique differentiation is our focus on availability and our ability to give a very resilient hosted environment for production instances,” said Siler.  “We have Cisco Powered cloud services for both hosting and instances of a client’s production environment.  We can do that with our managed cloud, which has all the benefits of a multi-tenant cloud environment but a full managed service layer all the way up to the operating system.  We also have a true public cloud offering which has that elastic spin up/ spin down capability.”

Building a resilient cloud that can carry businesses into the future requires a resilient foundation.  “We’ve been with a Cisco partner from a technology perspective for years,” said Siler.  “We’ve also been in the Cisco partner network for multiple years now too.  We’ve even won a Cisco Cloud partner of the year award.  We were very honored to receive that recognition.”

“Not only do we work extensively with Cisco, we work with many of the top Cisco partners in the Cisco partner ecosystem.  We’re building our cloud future around Cisco and around enterprise-grade architectures.”

“For us, Cisco is absolutely vital.”

You can also learn more about how providers are addressing the need for enterprise class services in the latest edition of Unleashing IT.

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Three Steps to Secure Cloud Enablement

I’ve been pretty forthcoming in sharing my belief that the security industry in general continues to struggle to transition from old ways to new, and that in today’s day and age we have to adapt quickly. The rise of mobile computing and communications (users, data, services) combined with increasing volumes of cloud services data traffic (from, to, and via) intersecting with the hacking community’s ever-increasing capabilities, all have made me more than a bit on edge.

I recently participated in an on-line webinar, teaming up with a cloud services provider and a cloud security solutions vendor. It would be indiscreet for me to name the companies in this blog or signal any kind of Cisco “endorsement,” but speaking personally, they are on the right track in a number of ways.

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Cisco is Moving Fast with our Partners to deliver on the Promise of an Intercloud

It’s hard to believe it was only eight weeks ago that I announced Cisco’s $1B investment in a bold Intercloud strategy to 10,000 partners and colleagues in Las Vegas..

Today, Cisco announced additional Intercloud partners and offerings, and on the main stage at our 25th anniversary Cisco Live! event in San Francisco this morning, I’ll demonstrate how fast we’ve been able to move by driving a partner-centric Cloud strategy.

FYI: You can watch my keynote on the Cisco Live web site.

Our customers have been asking Cisco to expand beyond our hosted collaboration and SaaS offerings (such as WebEx, Meraki and Cisco Cloud Web Security) with a richer set of cloud services. Today, in San Francisco, we are announcing a substantial expansion of those services with new infrastructure-as-a-service offerings and cloud disaster recovery applications that leverage the cloud platforms of new Intercloud partners Dimension Data and Sungard Availability Services. They join Telstra as our first Intercloud partners.

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