Many companies are still very reluctant to use cloud computing. The NSA espionage affair and security concerns in particular are causing IT managers to hesitate. But are the data on the company’s own server really secure? And isn’t cloud computing the better choice after all?
Cloud computing offers great advantages especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, as you can also read on digitalnibbles. This is a sentence that any IT manager would probably sign. Nevertheless, many companies in Germany show a strange reluctance when it comes to actually using the much-praised cloud services.
The obvious advantages of this technology, that employees can access applications and data at any time and from any location, which is very important for international teams, do not seem to convince some IT managers. According to a study by the industry association Bitkom, only 37 percent of small companies (20 to 99 employees) use cloud computing.
Many companies, and not just small ones, are afraid of data theft and security gaps in the cloud. 77 percent alone cite fear of “unauthorized access to sensitive data” as an obstacle to “use or more intensive use”. And the NSA affair has done its bit to fuel mistrust of the cloud. On the other hand, cloud usage is increasing very slowly, but continuously. Probably because cloud computing has the arguments on its side when viewed soberly.
More secure than expected: data in the cloud
This applies, for example, to safety. IT managers who store all company data on their own server may run an even greater risk than entrusting it to a cloud provider’s data center. Because your own server must be constantly supplied with security updates and protected against attacks. This entails high maintenance costs and requires a lot of know-how.
Especially smaller companies that may not have the budget to employ an IT administrator experienced in security issues may be better off in the cloud because they are more secure. Cloud providers also employ trained security staff who ensure that servers, data centers and applications are constantly maintained with the necessary updates, bug fixes and security tools so that they are always up to date in terms of security technology.
The cloud provider is thus also responsible for the security know-how and thus relieves the burden on corporate customers. Although their IT staff should at least have a good basic knowledge of security issues, they are not forced to study security newsletters or install bug fixes every day.
Compliance with the Federal Data Protection Act
However, the cloud only offers more data security if the provider stores all data in a data center in Germany and contractually guarantees data security and in particular compliance with the Federal Data Protection Act (§ 11, BDSG). Corporate customers who commit themselves to a cloud provider should pay particular attention to this point when concluding a contract.
- Serious providers such as Deutsche Telekom, which offers a wide range of different services and applications on its Business Marketplace cloud platform, explicitly advertise data storage in German locations and the corresponding security.
- But cloud computing also has a number of other advantages. Software updates that provide new functions are automatically handled by the provider. The customer then no longer has to download the updates, install them and restart the PC. Instead, they always work with the latest software version.
Another advantage is the flexibility. If, for example, more software licenses are required for a specific project, these can be quickly and easily activated via the cloud. If the software were installed on desktop PCs in the classic way, you would have to buy additional licenses and then install the programs and integrate them into the network.
Telekom’s Business Marketplace currently offers more than 40 applications. The data centers are located in Germany and are subject to the Federal Data Protection Act.
In the classic PC era, a problem regularly arose when an employee needed a lot of computing power for a task, such as a CAD program. In this case, the only option was to provide a fast PC. In the cloud age this is no longer necessary. If more computing power is required for a certain project, the provider can allocate more computing power accordingly and deduct it again after the project has been completed.
Complex software for small businesses
An advantage for start-ups and small companies that should not be underestimated is that they can also use complex CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.
Cloud computing also enables flexibility and fast responsiveness when choosing the necessary software tools. For example, if a specific project quickly requires project management software, a teamwork application and a video conferencing tool, the company can book them quickly and easily. Employees can get started after a short training period.
Since the software is paid for in cloud services according to the subscription model, i.e. on a monthly basis, the company can cancel applications that are no longer needed after the project has been completed.
So there are a whole range of advantages that speak in favor of the cloud. Platforms such as Telekom’s Business Marketplace offer a wide variety of different cloud services and applications. Whether it’s payroll accounting, e-mail management, project management, human resources management or social networking, a company can find just about anything it needs to be productive. And with Microsoft’s Office 365, a complete office suite including word processing, presentation and spreadsheet is available.
What the IT manager needs to know
Despite these advantages, companies and their IT managers should of course not delegate all responsibility to the cloud partner. A good basic knowledge of security standards and the connection of programs and data to the corporate network is still required.
IT managers at cloud service providers should therefore always ensure that the transfer of data between the company and the data center is encrypted. They must continue to read the small print in the contract, keep an eye on notice periods and make sure that the selected applications also fit into the workflow of the employees. Even in the cloud age, there is still a lot for IT managers to do.