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Learning to Live with Cloud Apps Part 2: The Business Impacts

In my earlier blog, Part 1, I spoke about the dark side of the Cloud - from “Shadow IT” to “Cloud Sprawl” and increasing costs. Today, I’d like to discuss the business impacts and what you can do to help your business gain greater visibility across your Cloud.

Naturally, the use of cloud based applications hosted in hybrid clouds, has impacts on the profitability and viability of any business that relies on them. While there are undoubted cost savings and a high return on investment, it’s also true that cloud apps are holding important data integral to the business. But what would be the cost of losing this data, or a security breach around it? What would be the impact on your brand's reputation and value? While cloud apps proliferate, with little managerial oversight or governance, exposure to trouble increases; costs are not controlled and employees are not taught to discriminate between benevolent and less safe applications.

In any digital business, it’s prudent to have a reliable disaster recovery and business continuity plan. If your business depends on cloud based applications, how do you put your business back together, if the worst happens? If a critical application vendor goes off line for a substantial period of time, what’s plan B? How do you serve your customers when your providers are unable to serve you? Once again, knowing what your app footprint is can be the first step in making disaster recovery and business continuity plans that work.

Enterprise IT often performs a desk-side support role, keeping the wheels of the business turning by remedying any IT issues that arise on applications or devices that employees depend on to get their work done. Usually, IT monitors the infrastructure and applications and have alerts and alarms set up, so that they can pre-empt any support calls from users. If the apps in use are unknown to the IT department, they are unable to monitor or set alerts on them. The first they know of any trouble is when the user calls it in, which by then, is too late. At that point, they have no data to guide them toward a rapid solution. Being the last to know is almost certainly the same as being too late and too slow, in a business context, which often leads to frustrated customers.

Without a clear view of where the data resides, spread throughout a myriad of separate cloud apps, another business affecting issue is the difficulty in identifying the system of record, which holds the definitive data about a customer and their interactions with the business. If there are data synchronisation discrepancies, mistakes arise, which can be costly to the business and harmful to the customer experience. Knowing where the data is can be the first step in understanding which data is the truth.

Bandwidth provision represents a significant cost item for any digitally-transformed business, so it’s important that the provisioning is right-sized. Too much capacity is as bad as too little, because the first impacts margins, while the latter impacts customer satisfaction and revenue. Knowing how much capacity is enough capacity requires that the enterprise knows how the bandwidth provisioned is being used. If the bandwidth is being consumed primarily by unsanctioned apps, what confidence is there that the connectivity is being used wisely and judiciously, for the benefit of the business and its customers?

You need Insights

The network packets never lie. They tell the full and unalloyed story of which applications are in use and where that traffic is flowing. Identifying network traffic, at a logo-level, provides tremendous insight into how the enterprise network is being used, which applications the corporation is dependent on and where the data is flowing.

Characterising the application traffic and tying it to branch office locations is an important step in defining policies and practices which allow the company to reap the benefits of cloud based applications, while minimising the risks and the costs to the business or unmanaged, unsanctioned app usage. Gaining insight is a prerequisite to taking control.

So how do you get this invaluable insight? In the third and final instalment of my series, I will discuss the solution that businesses can employ to stay on top of their IT operations.