Cloud Services Can Boost Productivity, But Are They Safer?

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    When it comes to the cloud, it appears that the enterprise is signing up for the savings but staying on for the services.

    Across the board, cloud providers are adding a wealth of new capabilities to their cloud platforms aimed at making enterprise data more productive. These are coming in the form of advanced search capabilities, collaboration tools and a wealth of other value-adds that the enterprise, or, more accurately, individual enterprise knowledge workers, are finding hard to resist.

    One of the ways top-tier providers are doing this is by leveraging their strengths in other areas, like search. Google recently unveiled a new Cloud Search feature that allows enterprise workers to quickly find information they need from multiple sources, such as company email archives, directories and cloud storage repositories. The service is actually the latest iteration of what was once called Springboard, with new proactive features that are intended to make it easier for people to drill down into disperse data sets to locate and access the information they are looking for. At the moment, the service is geared toward Google Cloud infrastructure, although the company says it will incorporate third-party platforms in the coming year.

    Meanwhile, Oracle has launched a new Data Integrator Cloud that organizations can use to combine data from disparate sources for applications like real-time analytics. As explained to Silicon, the service is intended to take on the difficult task of hard-coding data from multiple applications and data platforms in order to prep it for the high-speed processing being built into emerging Big Data and IoT engines. Oracle claims that not only will this improve the quality and value of data that organizations have under management, but it will lower costs across the board by improving the exchange of data across multi-vendor infrastructure.

    Other providers are looking to improve the enterprise’s ability to foster emerging applications like file-sharing and collaboration. Cloud storage provider Box has unveiled a new version of Box Notes that simplifies online collaboration on the desktop and streamlines workflows across distributed data environments. The system provides for easier access to the Notes service on both the user’s and collaborators’ desktops, while at the same time enabling continuous access to both the Box management stack and data stored in the Box cloud so users no longer have to manually access these services through a web portal. The system is also built on the open source Electron framework that supports leading apps like Slack and Visual Studio.

    Of course, many organizations prefer to utilize their own custom apps across internal and external infrastructure, which can lead to security and other troubles if not managed properly, says service broker Skyhigh. The company recently issued a survey of cloud practices across the enterprise industry that describes the typical organization running 464 custom apps in the cloud, with more than 70 percent of them classified as mission critical. At the same time, IT security is aware of only about 30 percent of these services, while most developers are unaware of the security policies of many service level agreements that may extend protection only to cloud infrastructure, not data or access-level functions. The takeaway here is that regardless of how the enterprise establishes its suite of cloud services, it must still bear the primary responsibility for ensuring their availability and security.

    It’s been clear for a while that the cloud represents a new operational paradigm for the enterprise, not just a change in infrastructure. It is also clear that pressure to avoid being left behind in an increasingly fast-paced economy is leading many organizations to shift critical workloads to the cloud without fully understanding the potential downsides of such a move.

    Cloud providers will naturally do everything in their power to differentiate their offerings from competitors in order to tap into the lucrative enterprise market, and indeed many of these services offer productivity boosts and other advantages that cannot be matched by traditional infrastructure. But when things go wrong (and they will), it is the enterprise that users will look to for redress, not the cloud provider.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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