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Up In The Cloud: Managing Cloud Sprawl
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Up In The Cloud: Managing Cloud Sprawl - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Managing Cloud Sprawl

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Managing Cloud Sprawl

Cloud sprawl is the unmanaged use of cloud services resulting in the wasteful expenditure of resources, and the dangerous vulnerability of data.  It’s kind of a loose definition, but that’s partially because cloud sprawl takes different forms, and it occurs for different reasons.  We covered some of these variations in an earlier article, but here’s a quick recap before we go into some strategies for keeping sprawl to a manageable minimum.

At its most basic level, cloud sprawl happens when different units, departments, or people working for the same company use cloud storage or cloud computing different from the company-wide cloud plan, or different from the cloud plans other units, departments, or people are using.  Reasons range from specific plans matching up better for specific uses, personal preference, or user familiarity.  In an ideal situation, cloud sprawl probably won’t make that much of a difference to your expenses.

However, each time someone in your company puts your data in a different cloud, there’s one more access point for a security concern, which is the strongest argument for limiting cloud sprawl as much as possible.  The other is the possible redundancy of storage and bandwidth usage.  Since many cloud computing services charge for usage, if identical, abandoned, or unneeded processes are running, you’re paying for a slow leak of computing power you’re not actually benefiting from.

For security reasons alone, managing cloud sprawl should begin with a complete inventory of cloud services used by your teams.  Get a list of cloud services from every person and unit; find out who has access to the services and find out what they’re using it for.  Have everyone who might be running (or might have run) processes or applications in the cloud check to make sure they aren’t using computing power unnecessarily.

It’s probably worth reminding everyone in the company of your policy for storing company data in personal clouds, including personal OneDrive, Google, Dropbox, or other cloud services.  Many of us do it: move a few documents to personal cloud drives so we can work over the weekend, or have quick access on our personal smartphones in case we’re on the road.  Each of these personal clouds becomes a vulnerability.  In many places such usage is not only against company policy, but possibly illegal.  Please review the risks and acceptable behaviors with your teams so everyone can work safely.

Once you know what your cloud sprawl big picture looks like and put in measures to get it under control, talk to each of your teams about new procedures for adopting any new cloud services.  Your IT managers have a difficult task: balancing the needs of the entire company with the specific needs of individual units.  It isn’t a task they’re unfamiliar with: they deal with it all the time with Mac people vs. PC people, Google people vs. Office people, and any number of specific preferences for software, hardware, or workflow.  Explain it in these terms to everyone, so your IT managers aren’t the villains, and give the IT people the authority to make good decisions.  If your company’s cloud presence is significant, make it a regular topic for conversation in meetings.

A couple of years ago, we evaluated a cloud-to-cloud web-based app called Multcloud, which lets personal cloud users transfer data from one cloud service to another without first downloading it all to a PC and then uploading it to another cloud.  By itself this is a security risk, but managing every cloud service from one app also means implementing your own security strategies across the board through one portal, a very useful way to keep an eye on everything.  There are similar services for the commercial sector, called cloud hubs.  These hubs let your security team and all your users get into company-sanctioned cloud services through one door, and one door is easier to keep an eye on than ten.  Consider a cloud hub in order to simplify management.

Nobody’s saying you need to keep an iron fist around the throat of all data moving around between the headquarters and the cloud.  If you have good people, trust them to work in the company’s best interest.  But do not let cloud sprawl run rampant, putting everyone at risk!



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Up In The Cloud: Managing Cloud Sprawl - Executive Leadership Articles

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