The idea that the cloud is not secure has been an operative principal among IT decision-makers for a very long time. This idea has taken on mythical qualities— that is, it has influenced IT executives subliminally as well as consciously, and when this happens, decisions are occasionally made without a full awareness of the facts. When this happens, it's easy to lose your bearings.

Today, the fears about cloud data security are proving obsolete. Executives are only now resetting their bearings when it comes to the security of cloud-based applications. As noted in a recent InfoWorld article, “The truth is that the public cloud is more secure than the typical data center, and IT would get better security if it got past its prejudice against the cloud.”

The stigma of security risk still exists as a residue from a mythical view of the cloud, but as facts come to light that stigma is dissipating.

Cloud Data Security is a Benefit for Supply Chain

As the supply chain industry has increasingly turned to cloud-based applications like a warehouse management system (WMS), the principal benefits cited include:

  • Elimination of managed services and expenses
  • Cutting IT costs, particularly through SaaS pricing models
  • Better Integration
  • Increased mobility
  • High scalability
  • Flexibility to respond to change
  • Rapid and clear return-on-investment
  • Easier to approve operating expense versus capital expenditure

Data security should now be added to that list.

Long viewed as a vulnerability of cloud applications, data security is now one of its greatest strengths as developers continue to innovate and focus on security as a key issue. The bottom line: security is now a strong asset of cloud applications, one that users are leveraging for competitive advantage. As noted in a recent column in DC Velocity, “Running logistics applications in a remote cloud instead of on in-house computer hardware can help an organization cut its IT management costs and even improve overall network security.”

Perception versus Reality

The fact is that the perceived risk of the cloud exceeds its actual risk; studies repeatedly show that while putting data into the cloud is seen as risky, actual risk is far lower than the perception of risk. According to the most recent Vormetric Insider Threat Report, the perception of cloud-based risk is more than 10% greater than actual risk, while the actual risk of on-premise being comprised is actually 24% greater than the perceived risk!

Among the indicators that executive bearings are being adjusted:

  • 60% of U.S. IT decision-makers now trust the cloud with sensitive data.
  • 54% of global IT decision-makers report keeping sensitive data in the cloud.

A key factor influencing the use of the cloud for sensitive data is how well informed the executives are about cloud data security. That much work remains to be done in this area was shown by a recent Dell survey.

In November of last year, Dell commissioned a survey to obtain a comprehensive look at how decision-makers in the mid-market— as well as the C-Suite— view data security trends, and the impact these are having on their businesses. According to the survey, nearly three in four decision-makers agree that data security is a priority for their organization’s C-suite, but there are concerns that senior executives don’t pay enough attention and aren’t well informed about data security issues and tools. The findings also show that three in four decision-makers say their C-suite plans to increase current security measures, and more than half expect to spend more money on data security in the coming years.

On-Premise a Greater Security Risk?

While cloud-based data security improves, on-premise systems are increasingly vulnerable to security threats due to aging technology and the high mix of technologies used in on-premise applications. Infoworld underscored this in a recent article:

"The on-premises systems that IT manages are typically a mix of technologies from different eras. The aging infrastructure is often less secure — and less securable — than the modern technology used by cloud providers, simply because the old, on-premises technology was designed for an earlier era of less-sophisticated threats. The mixture of different technologies in the typical on-premises data center also opens up more gaps for hackers to exploit.”

In the current threat environment, and in the wake of highly publicized data leaks and major hacks (e.g., Target, Ashley Madison), it is not surprising that most cloud users believe that the cloud is better protecting data than on-premises systems. A recent study by Clutch supports this, finding that 64% of enterprises consider cloud infrastructure a more secure alternative to legacy systems.

Three principal reasons were cited as to why the cloud is more secure than on-premise systems:

  • The cloud infrastructure is monitored at all times.
  • Cloud security measures are multi-faceted.
  • Central management of cloud infrastructure ensures that security systems remain up-to-date on an ongoing basis.

Standards and Expectations

As customer demand for data security grows, data security standards will become stricter in the supply chain. This will emerge as one of the most powerful trends in the industry, particularly as more and larger data security breaches occur. Further, as supply chain customers and partners become more educated about data security, increasingly stringent regulations and increasing customer demands and requirements are highly probable.

It's likely that organizations will become more demanding of top-of-the-line data security and will soon begin creating more strategic plans about destroying data and monitoring what they are capturing. The more they capture, the more liable they are. It will become very important to be able to offer the highest level of data security and encryption possible. People will want to know what contingency plans are in place for data security and how they are administered. Those storing data within a multi-tenancy community want assurances that their data is never mixed with another client’s data.

There are many reasons to move to a cloud warehouse management system (e.g., real-time visibility, near-perfect accuracy, scalability for growth, agility for technology and business change), but when we look back in ten years, the one that may prove to be the most beneficial is data security. Because of the continuing adoption of higher standards and advancements in technology, the cloud will prove to increase data security, protecting clients from incidents that could have a devastating impact on business.

As the myth of cloud data security risk dissipates, we think that those who adjust their bearings accordingly are most likely to travel a safe and profitable course.