The importance of cloud governance
With more and more businesses and organisations migrating their IT to the cloud, effective cloud governance has never been more important.
Cloud technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace and is something many of us now take for granted.
In a workplace setting, it brings enormous benefits.
It enables organisations and teams to communicate and collaborate seamlessly from wherever they are in the world, enhancing productivity and improving efficiency.
It brings a high degree of flexibility and scalability to businesses which invest in cloud technology – their IT can grow as quickly as they do.
Cloud’s ‘pay per usage’ nature enables innovation, organisations can try new things without committing to them for the long-term. If it doesn’t meet the requirement after testing and pilots, it’s cheap to abandon.
It offers reliable back-up and disaster recovery solutions that are simple, intuitive, user-friendly and ensure business continuity.
And for organisations which are keen to reduce their carbon footprint, cloud solutions are exceptionally environmentally friendly.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of all is the IT operational cost savings that moving to the cloud can bring.
If your business or organisation operates on the cloud, effective governance is essential.
An ill-managed cloud environment will inevitably cost more than any other option, for a variety of reasons… having more licences than you need, more resources or uptime than required and greater resiliency than absolutely necessary can all add to the cost.
To avoid this, a clear understanding of cost, performance, user requirement and security is required, and these all need to drive the governance agenda.
Effective cloud governance is the key to managing this.
Even the smallest business can have a large or complex cloud footprints, which often comprise hundreds of deployments.
The latest cloud governance frameworks cover both cloud deployment and the on-premise deployments. For example, Azure Intune policies can be applied to both cloud and on-premise devices, as can the VMware vRealise cloud suite of products.
What is cloud governance?
Cloud governance is the name for the set of rules, policies and parameters that dictate how your organisation’s cloud solutions are used.
Good cloud governance should incorporate your critical IT responsibilities, including security, and access, asset, API and configuration management.
Some of the key areas your cloud governance framework should focus on include budgeting, application deployment and lifecycle, security and privacy, and cloud resource management and monitoring.
Your cloud governance document should define how each one of these is managed, as well as setting out how each one can be monitored against key performance indicators to give the business, and its key decision-makers, a holistic overview of their effectiveness.
While having a cloud governance framework is one thing, implementing each rule and protocol and ensuring it is followed is another.
Developing automated processes to flag any deviation from each protocol, enforcing defined usage parameters and carrying out ongoing audits and optimisation will help your organisation to achieve continuous improvement.
This will also help identify any other areas of your cloud operations that require governance, or which you can tweak to improve cost-efficiency or performance.
And as your organisation develops and your cloud-based operations expand, you may also need to review and adjust the rules you have created to accommodate these changes.
Cloud computing governance principles
Even the smallest of organisations which use the cloud need an effective cloud governance framework in place to guide their cloud operations.
However, before you create your cloud governance strategy, rules and protocols, it’s important to know which assets are already deployed in the cloud, how they work together, and any risks they may pose.
Once you have established this, here are the main areas your governance framework should focus on.
Controlling costs and spending is a key element of effective cloud governance, especially if you are moving away from a capital expenditure to an operating expenditure model.
Things to consider here include how to stay within budget while still delivering benefits, how to control resources to cope with overuse or underutilisation and how to identify and handle any anomalies within your cloud environment, such as multiple applications performing the same functio n.
Operational governance is aimed at establishing policies which govern your cloud operations, applications and workloads. Its primary purpose is to bring a consistent approach to the deployment and management of cloud resources, to help control costs and mitigate security risks. Things to consider include defining how to avoid unnecessary operational costs or under-provisioned resources, and what your processes for handling service or business interruption look like.
A good acid test when developing a cloud governance strategy is to check it against your organisation’s ITIL framework to ensure all its areas of best practice are covered.
The performance management aspect is all about defining and assessing various metrics and benchmarks for your cloud environment, to determine how well it’s functioning and what improvements could be made. It should focus on issues like how well your assets are optimised for their respective workloads, how to ensure your data is stored in the most cost-effective location and how you can automate processes to ensure consistency and accountability. You should also look to establish application-specific baseline performance, in order to know when performance is poor.
Cybersecurity is a complex topic. The threat to companies is evolving all the time, so this part of your framework should be all about defining the steps you need to take to mitigate the risks. It should consider things like access control, intrusion detection, vulnerability management, encryption, audit trails, resilience and responding to suspicious activity. Defining your biggest concern – such as a data breach or service interruption – before you make a start will help you shape this aspect of your cloud governance framework.
Cloud governance and compliance
There is a delicate balance to strike between risk and compliance when it comes to cloud governance.
On the one hand, if you eliminate every risk to ensure compliance, it may impact the performance of both your cloud environment and your organisation. Going overboard on compliance tends to make applications too difficult for users to use and results in increased shadow IT.
On the other, a more relaxed approach, and you may not fulfil all your compliance obligations.
So, developing a risk management strategy as part of your overall cloud governance framework is vital.
This involves identifying the risks to your cloud environment – by risk assessment or penetration testing – then establishing which risks you’re prepared to accept to balance performance against securing your cloud environment too robustly.
Your risk appetite may be influenced by the nature of your organisation and the consequences of failing to secure your cloud environment. In the event of a data breach, this could include financial loss, legal action, reputational damage and service disruption.
The important thing to remember here is there are minimum requirements for data protection, as set out by GDPR. While eliminating every risk is impractical, your risk management strategy will need to ensure your organisation meets these requirements as a bare minimum.
Beyond that, taking a pragmatic view on how much risk you are willing to accept within your organisation before it starts impacting operational performance will help you to find and achieve the right balance.
How we can help
As your ICT partner, we’ll help you get more from your technology to boost your organisation’s efficiency and your performance. To find out how we can help, give us a call on 01332 322588.