Mobile warriors must prepare as the cloud goes on the move

24 Mar 2011

Cloud computing is set to make a huge shift in how companies manage their IT in the future.

Ulf Avrin, senior partner at Tellus International, predicts there will be a 67pc global cloud adoption over the next two years.

“It is very exciting: 67pc (take-up) would be quicker than any technological curve in recent years, including mobile phones,” says Avrin.

He also says there never has been a better time for SMEs to migrate to the cloud. Not only that, but research by Goodbody Economic Consultants also points to how 30pc of Irish firms already sell products and services through the cloud.

If such growth is occurring in the cloud computing industry, then it’s inevitable that the ability to work from mobile phones will be impacted, too.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is an umbrella term referring to the technology which allows IT services such as computation, software or storage to be housed elsewhere, allowing these resources to be accessed on devices no matter where they are. As well as allowing companies to save time and money on infrastructure, it also opens up new doors for mobile business.

Smartphones, which do not have the heavy processing power of a desktop, can be used by employees to access data and applications while they are on the move.

Dave Northey, technology evangelist, Microsoft, says connecting mobile devices to the cloud should be a relatively simple process.

“It needs to be simple enough for a user or employee to do it all by themselves,” he says, noting it could put too much of a strain on IT departments to have to individually connect each device to the cloud.

“Or it must be manageable enough for IT to configure it with one setting.”

Of course, with the ability to access work materials no matter where you are, there is the danger it could impact the all important work-life balance.

“There are pros and cons. For businesses, your employees are more productive and for the individual, you’re constantly connected back to work, so you have to be careful with that,” says Northey.

Security and cloud computing

One of the biggest concerns about cloud computing has been the issue of security. If data or applications are stored on a public cloud service, it’s stored alongside other companies’ data, too, though businesses can only access their own data on a self-service basis.

While many of these service providers have numerous security measures in place, some businesses are wary of relinquishing the control of what is protecting their sensitive data.

A solution to this is to host IT solutions on a private cloud, where the company itself runs its own cloud computing services, retaining security measures for its data and applications.

Organisations could also avail of both public and private cloud offerings, utilising the public cloud for less riskier data and the private for more sensitive information.

However, the cloud is not the only security concern at hand. The fact personal, pocket-sized gadgets will have access to important company information could pose a risk for companies.

Northey points out the scenario of someone losing their mobile phone, which is connected to the cloud. He cites this example to emphasise the importance for IT companies to implement strong policies in regards to security when employees are working from phones.

Northey also says companies should rank data as to how much of an impact it would have if it were leaked outside the company in cases where a phone was stolen.

“We define Microsoft’s data by low business-impact data, medium business-impact data and high business-impact data,” he says.

Northey emphasises that data should be encrypted on mobile devices, too.

Ultimately, the rise of cloud computing will impact how work is carried out in the future, particularly through mobile phones. IT departments need to be prepared to handle whatever issues arise, be they in regards to management or security.