Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tips from an industry insider: What every CIO, CFO and CEO needs to know about how cloud storage.

Back in 1988, I worked for Apple Computer in their college development program. I remember my ugly beige Macintosh box with that funky greenish screen. The computer had very little storage, so I went and purchased an external hard drive. It was a whole 20 Megabytes! It cost a fortune.  It weighed about 5 pounds, was a foot long, 6 inches wide and 6 inches tall. How things have changed.
Today, physical hard drive demand is actually dropping yet cloud based storage is one of the fastest growing IT sectors. According to Gartner, the public cloud services market is forecast to grow 18.5 percent in 2013 to total $131 billion worldwide, up from $111 billion in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), including cloud compute, storage and print services, continued as the fastest-growing segment of the market, growing 42.4 percent in 2012 to $6.1 billion and expected to grow 47.3 percent in 2013 to $9 billion.
Whether or not you realize it, cloud storage has already gained a foothold in your business. How and where your corporate data is stored and accessed has a dramatic impact on productivity, security and cost. More and more employees are using cloud-file sharing services like Drop box, Icloud, Google Drive, Sky drive and others for work. The largest driver behind this incredible growth is the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablets. The value is undeniable. The need to have your data accessible from any device anywhere has become a necessity. In order to deal with this paradigm shift, IT, vendors and marketers are responding in kind with new tools, such as IDaaS, SaaS and EUC platforms. If you've never heard of those terms or you don't know the difference between SoMoClo and SoLoMo, you're not alone.
Here is a high level explanation of what these terms are.
Identity as a Service is a kind of single sign-on for the cloud. It's an authentication infrastructure that a third-party service provider builds, hosts and manages. Usually, companies buy IDaaS as a subscription service. For an additional fee, cloud file-sharing service providers sometimes also host apps and give subscribers role-based access to certain apps or virtual desktops through a secure portal. For corporate IT, a secure solution is a must. Unless secure and approved, commercial services must be avoided and locked down like the plague.
As an example, you have probably seen websites that allow you to login using your Facebook, Twitter, Google and other accounts. This gives the user the ease of having to remember one password. Be very careful with this. When you select one of these options, Google or Facebook will ask your permission to give access to the service you are signing up for. When they ask, they typically tell you what the new services is requesting access to and what they can use it for. To mine data, many companies request access to all of your information, your contacts, your posts, your emails, your friends and basically all of your personal data. The next time you use one of these commercial identity as a service's IDaaS, think of what is shared. Once you give another service access to your personal, corporate and social data, it is hard to put the Genie back in the bottle. From a corporate IT perspective, policies should be set and measures should be taken to prevent the use of unsecure IDaaS services.
EUC platform
Vendors use the term "end user computing" platform to explain to customers how and why businesses should bring desktop and application services together. EUC platforms deliver services in a way that leaves users unaware of whether the service is managed locally or in the cloud.
Software that runs on a remote Web server -- as opposed to on a mobile device, PC or an on-premises server -- is known as "cloudware." Using this delivery model lets users subscribe to an app instead of buying it, so employees will always have the most recent version of that application. A few simple examples are Google Docs and Office 365. These applications can be access from the web.
Cloud storage
Cloud storage is a service model where data is managed, backed up remotely and delivered to users over the Internet. There are three main types of cloud storage models: public, private and hybrid. Public storage providers include, Dropbox, Google drive, Icloud, Sky drive and others. Private storage providers include, VMware, Oracle, Nirvanix, Savvis and others. Hybrid storage providers include, Ctera,, Tegile, Nirvanix and others.
Community cloud
when several organizations with common computing interests -- such as regulatory compliance and performance requirements -- share a multi-tenant infrastructure, it's known as a "community cloud." Such clouds let organizations reap the benefits of the public cloud, but with the added privacy and security of a private cloud. Participating businesses can administer the community cloud, or choose to leave that up to a third-party managed service provider.
"Bring your own app" is the name given to employees' use of cloud services and third-party applications in the enterprise. Employees bring their own devices to work, so it's only natural that they also would bring their own applications. Allowing BYOA can increase employee productivity and satisfaction, but when consumer technology accesses the corporate network and stores company data outside the data center, it raises security concerns. If an employee loses his device or it's stolen, administrators can wipe it. But if that user has stored data in the cloud, the options are very limited for protecting that data from theft or breach of the cloud environment. Examples of this are Drop Box, Box, Icloud, Google Drive, Sky drive and SharePoint. If you have a smart phone, changes are you are already using one of these solutions. These services represent the largest threat to keeping your corporate data secure.
The amalgam of 'social," "mobile" and "cloud" technologies, SoMoClo allows users to access their data and applications anytime and from anywhere. For IT, SoMoClo is an employee-driven movement that means data and apps can live almost anywhere, can be accessed from limitless endpoints and can be shared easily. Companies like Facebook have really been a big driver in this area. Linking your social data with other apps and other files is convenient, but has its risks.
Not to be confused with SoMoClo, SoLoMo is the convergence of "social collaboration," "location" and "mobile" technologies, and is something that marketers commonly use. SoLoMo let advertisers -- such as Foursquare, AroundMe and Yelp -- push notifications to customers who are physically nearby, using gamification to keep potential customers engaged. SoLoMo is also emerging in search engines as a way to give users location-based results.
How can this transform your business?  Imagine a scenario where a company creates a database of their competitor's employees from LinkedIn profiles and who their connected to. GPS data on competitor's employees can be bought from any number of online apps or social sites that they give phone location access to.  From this data, a company could determine which of their competitor's customers haven't been visited for 6 months or more and "go knocking".  A company could predict possible mergers by determining if the competitor's Sr. executives, lawyers or accountants are spending a lot of time at another competitor's offices.  Depending on whether you're the data "miner" or "minee", this can have dramatic impact on your business. Used properly, this type of data mining could dramatically increase sales.  If your company is not taking measures however to protect your data, this could be very damaging to your business.  Cell phones are one of the lynch pins to this risk. If you do not have the right mobile policies and security in place, you could be exposing your company to more risk than you could imagine. Your competitors don't have to hack anything. They just need to buy the right data and query the right questions. The scary thing is that you won't know about it until you see your customers disappearing.  
As a C level executive, or corporate IT manager, new strategies need to be implemented to take advantage of this data and minimize your company's exposure.
Software as a Service is a software distribution model where vendors or service providers host applications and make them available to customers over the Web. There are two general kinds of SaaS. In the hosted application-management model, a provider hosts commercially available software and delivers it over the Internet. In the software on-demand model, the provider offers customers Internet access to one copy of an app that was created for SaaS distribution. SaaS simplifies administration, patching and application version management for IT pros.
Hybrid cloud
A hybrid cloud is composed of at least one public cloud and at least one private cloud. A hybrid cloud is a cloud environment through which an organization offers and manages some resources internally and contracts others from external providers. For example, a company might use a public cloud service to archive data, but still use an on-premises storage system for customer data. This is quickly becoming the trend for Companies looking to keep the benefits of cloud storage and protecting sensitive data.
The cloud is here to stay. Understanding the different flavors, the benefits and the risks are the first step toward creating the right strategy. If done right, cloud storage and social data mining can give your company a competitive edge. If not, cloud storage could be catastrophic to your business.