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Making the Most of the Cloud: Four Top Tips

Cloud computing is on the rise. International Data Corp. predicts a $195 billion future for public cloud services in just four years. That total is for worldwide spending in 2020 — more than twice the projection for 2016 spending ($96.5 billion).

As a result, companies are flocking to both large-scale and niche providers to empower cloud adoption and increase IT efficacy. The problem? Without proper management and oversight, cloud solutions can end up underperforming, hampering IT growth or limiting ROI. Here are four top tips to help your company make the most of the cloud.

Talking Tech

The disconnect between corporate-approved and "shadow" IT services puts critical company data in peril, according to a recent report on cloud data security commissioned by Gemalto, a digital security firm. This gap exists thanks largely to the cloud: Tech-savvy employees used to the kind of freedom and customization offered by their mobile devices often circumvent IT policies to leverage the tools they believe are "best" for the job.

Solving this problem requires a new tech conversation: IT professionals must be willing to engage with employees to ensure all applications running on corporate networks are both communicating freely and actively securing infrastructure from outside threats. By crafting an app ecosystem that focuses on interoperability and input from end users, it's possible to maximize cloud benefits.

Ubiquitous Updates

How often does your company update essential cloud services and applications? If the answer is "occasionally," you may be putting your cloud ROI at risk. Here's why: As cloud solutions become more sophisticated, so too are malicious actors as they leverage new techniques to compromise existing vulnerabilities or circumvent network defenses. By avoiding updates on the off chance that they may interfere with your existing network setup, you substantially increase your risk of cloud compromise. Best bet? Make sure all cloud-based applications, platforms and infrastructure are regularly updated, and keep your ear to the ground for any word of emergent threats.

Address Automation

For many companies, a reluctance to move to the cloud because of security concerns manifests itself as overuse of manual processes. For example, if you're leveraging a cloud-based analytics solution but still relying on human data entry and verification, you're missing out on significant cloud benefits. This is a widespread issue: Just 16 percent of companies asked said they've automated the majority of their total cloud setup, citing security, cost and lack of expertise as the top holdbacks, according to a recent report by Logicworks and Wakefield Research. Bottom line? One key feature of the cloud is the ability to handle large-scale, complex workloads through automation. Avoiding this in favor of manual "checking" means you're missing out on significant cloud returns.

Solve SLA Issues

Last but not least: Make the most of your cloud deployment by hammering out the ideal service-level agreement (SLA). Right now, there are no hard and fast "standards" when it comes to the language used in SLAs, or the responsibilities of cloud providers. As a result, many SLAs are poorly worded and put vendors in a position to avoid much of the blame if services don't live up to expectations. Avoid this problem by examining any SLA with a critical eye — ask for clarification where necessary and specifics wherever possible, and make sure your provider's responsibility for uptime, data portability and security are clearly spelled out.

Want to make the most of your cloud services? Open the lines of communication, always opt for updates, embrace automation, and don't sign subpar SLAs.

By Jeff Becker, Director of Marketing at ATI

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