Cloud Repatriation: Why Some Firms are Leaving The Cloud

Cloud computing is often seen as a popular and inexpensive cure-all for data storage woes and general computing ills. Though that’s true to an extent, cloud solutions aren’t the problem-free panacea that some experts would have you believe.

There’s a gross misconception that data and processes in the public cloud are totally secure and that cloud computing is generally the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, the truth is a little more complicated.

Why Is The Cloud So Popular?

Before we get into the reasons why people are moving away from the cloud, let’s explore what makes it so popular.

Cost Efficiency – Cloud services can present cost savings; especially when a company doesn’t have the cash to invest in on-site servers or doesn’t have the space to accommodate them.
Collaboration – Because cloud services are delivered totally online, efficient collaboration and synchronicity across global teams, remote workers, and field operatives is made possible.
Flexibility & Scalability – Cloud resources can often easily be scaled up or down to account for workload, with most providers giving the option to add or reduce functionality on the fly as needed.
Range of Functionality – Cloud solutions can provide a wide range of applications where niche, offline software alternatives may be expensive to maintain and scale.
Ease of Use – There’s no need to manage multiple software installs and licences or tinker with access permissions – once you’re in, you’re in!

The Current Cloud Market

Now, let’s take a quick look at the three biggest cloud service providers on the market.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) serves about a third of global cloud market share – making it the largest cloud provider in the world. It provides a wide number of services from storage, to blockchain, to IoT, security, networking, and even quantum and satellite services. Many well-known organisations use AWS, including the likes of Netflix, Philips, Honeywell, McDonald’s, Unilever, and Airbnb.

Next in line is Microsoft Azure, which covers 16.9% of the global market. Microsoft’s cloud solution provides all manner of useful services, including developer tools, high-performance computing, digital marketing, warehouse management, business intelligence, and Oracle databases. Azure boasts glowing case studies from the likes of Adobe, Aviva, BMW, 3M, Bosch, Reuters, and Nuffield Health

Google Cloud Platform is the third largest cloud provider, with 6.9% of the market. Their service offers solutions for a number of verticals including retail, finance, healthcare, energy, industry, education, and small business. Numerous household names like Apple, Spotify, HSBC, Snapchat, Philips, Coca Cola, Domino’s, and Sony Music use Google’s cloud solution.

Cloud Repatriation: Why Are Companies Leaving the Cloud?

Cloud repatriation is a movement away from the cloud towards in-housing servers and computing clout. But why are companies ditching the cloud if it’s such an incredible tool? Let’s find out.

Majority Market Share

As stated above, Amazon’s AWS currently represents around a third of the world’s cloud computing services. If we add the above percentages together, 56.4% of the world’s cloud functions lie in the hands of three companies. That’s not an inherently negative point, but as security experts, we have to consider the worst. Is it really practical that just three organisations have such a large share of the cloud market?

What would happen if some particularly savvy hackers or even state actors decided to hack in to, tamper with, encrypt, or delete whole chunks of cloud storage at any of these top three companies? A massive data incident could affect countless companies and end users in potentially irreparable ways.

Your Livelihood in the Cloud’s Hands

Though we don’t want to dissuade anyone from seeking out solutions that make their working lives easier, companies who use cloud services put themselves completely at the mercy of the companies, software, and hardware responsible for providing those solutions.

Servers down? Tough. Scheduled maintenance at a crucial time? Too bad. Price increase just as you’ve migrated everything over? Hard luck. Keeping everything in-house can provide much more control over outages, maintenance schedules, security, and costs.

But like many things in business, it’s a balancing act – can you make do with the occasional lack of control in exchange for powerful computing solutions that may be too expensive or cumbersome to manage in-house?

Costs Can Run Away With You

Even though cloud computing costs are gradually reducing, the costs associated with cloud systems can still run away with you if you leave them unchecked. As you move more data and functionality into the cloud, costs will likely rise to accommodate. And as your reliance on these systems grows, an element of sunk cost fallacy may even creep in too – keeping you from moving to potentially cheaper non-cloud solutions amidst mounting expense.

This isn’t to say that cloud computing is inherently expensive by any means. But you need to regularly weigh up your cloud expenses against viable offline options and compare that to the convenience and productivity that your cloud tools provide. It’s also worth taking a measured approach towards any cross-sells or up-sells that the cloud provider suggests – as Larry Dignan of ZDNet states about cloud solutions: “[Once] you’re in the door, the great up-sell begins”.

Data Privacy vs. Global Computing

GDPR has put many businesses on high alert in terms of data privacy and security. Companies now need to aim for total data transparency, knowing where and why an individual’s data is being stored and how it’s used.

The easiest way to completely and transparently control a database of potentially sensitive information is to keep your data operations in house. You may not know where or how a client’s data is stored on the cloud, but if you manage your own systems then you know exactly where the data’s stored, what happens with it, and who has access – it doesn’t get much more transparent than that.

Risks of Cybercrime

Every worthwhile cloud service provider will take security very seriously, but that doesn’t mean that cloud users are immune to cybercrime. Even those using reliable cloud services can find themselves on the business end of hacking attempts, phishing attacks, and malware infections, as well as data theft, tampering, leaks or destruction. In fact, targeted spear phishing attacks commonly impersonate cloud services like Office 365, hoodwinking unassuming users into granting access to sensitive computing functions and storage with criminals.

Cybercriminals could even target the cloud providers themselves. AWS is the largest cloud service on the market, so if a particularly savvy hacker found a way to get around Amazon’s security systems and delete or encrypt vast swathes of data en masse, the results would be devastating to countless organisations across the globe.

What Might Cyber-Warfare Be Like?

This may seem like a doom and gloom topic, but we cybersecurity types prefer to call it “being prepared for anything”. For the time being, we just don’t know what cyberwarfare is going to look like. We can hazard a guess of course: state actors may try to disrupt core IT processes within government, defence, or infrastructure. Though these targets may not rely heavily on cloud services at the moment, they may well do in the near future.

In the process of affecting these sensitive cloud processes, there’s a chance that the agents in question could affect or destroy other data – a sort of digital collateral damage. Cyber-attackers may even target large cloud providers like Amazon or Microsoft simply to cause additional chaos and confusion.

A Balanced Approach

We’d hate to see anyone ruling out cloud solutions if there’s a chance that they will increase productivity or solve a pressing issue for their businesses. But we do encourage a balanced, level-headed approach to cloud adoption. Remember that when you deal with everything in-house, you retain total control of your processes, data, and security. You’re not relying on any third party to provide a service that could completely change overnight.

If you’re thinking about using a cloud solution, then keep these factors in mind as you make a balanced, informed choice. Don’t be dazzled by the cloud’s status as a trendy tech buzzword. Always take a measured approach and ask a lot of questions, but remember that excellent levels of security can be achieved through third-party cloud security tools (like the ones below).

If you’re already using cloud services, equip yourselves with a backup plan in case something goes wrong and regularly assess current costs, especially if costs have risen since you’ve started using cloud tools. Carefully consider any data protection and cybersecurity implications of using such tools and familiarise yourself with third-party security solutions like ours…

Security for Cloud Solutions

Just as you can purchase antimalware and firewall tools for your offline networks, you can also enjoy similar protection in your corner of the cloud.

SonicWall Cloud Security provides robust data security and threat protection for all manner of SaaS and cloud applications, including the likes of G Suite and Microsoft Office 365. This tool defends users against targeted phishing attacks and impersonation attempts whilst also continuously monitoring shadow IT and potential security gaps. It also provides virtual firewall protection for public and private cloud solutions.

A stolen password can cause untold disruption to a network or cloud setup, so if access control and password security is a concern, WatchGuard AuthPoint is a resilient multi-factor authorisation tool designed to verify access to networked and cloud systems. AuthPoint helps you authorise user access through an easy to deploy cloud-based service and mobile app – there’s no pesky hardware or tokens to deploy, and offline access options are available.

To learn more about these solutions, get in touch with the team for a free, no-obligation chat today!