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What Are the Hidden Costs of Cloud Computing?

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The basic promise of cloud computing is that it offers more agility and better cost optimization for IT resources. It’s a promise that isn’t always true.

Symantec today released its Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud 2013 survey, which reveals that cloud penetration is now at all time high. According to the study, 94 percent of all enterprises are now discussing cloud services, up from 75 percent in the 2012 survey.

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Among the largest issues with cloud deployment that Symantec’s report reveals is that of rogue cloud deployments, which were reported by 77 percent of the survey’s respondents. The rogue deployment are ones that are not officially sanctioned by corporate IT.

The rogue deployments are likely to not adhere to existing corporate policies for security and privacy and that’s where the risks can be found. Symantec indicated that 40 percent of those rogue cloud deployment led to some kind of unintended confidential information exposure.

Cloud Storage

Another large area of cloud cost is storage. Cloud-based storage services – including Amazon S3 and Dropbox among others – have become increasingly popular in recent years. Symantec’s study found that 61 percent of organizations are actually using three or more different cloud storage services to back up their data.

“That’s obviously very inefficient and it leads to the probability of inconsistent policies,” Dave Elliott, senior manager, Global Cloud Marketing at Symantec told Datamation.

Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that 43 percent of respondents admitted that they have lost data in the cloud. In Elliot’s view, there are a number of reasons for the cloud data loss. For one, the cloud data provider could have lost the data in a failure of some sort. What is more likely, though, is that some form of user human error led to the data loss.

“The user could have accidentally misplaced the data and literally just could not find it,” Elliott said.

When it comes to actually recovering data from the cloud, Symantec also found some hidden costs. Of those that tried to recover data from a cloud backup, only 32 percent said that cloud recovery was fast. Additionally, 22 percent of respondents estimated that cloud data would take three or more days to recover.

Cloud storage utilization is also a pain point of inefficiency, according to Symantec. The study found that cloud storage utilization is only 17 percent.

“There is a lot of storage that is being provisioned that isn’t being used,” Elliot said. “Maybe people are over-provisioning for storage bursting or maybe it’s just a case that because it’s easy to provision, people think – why not?”

While there is the notion that cloud-based storage is based on a price per bit model, that’s not entirely accurate either.

“When you run out of storage on Dropbox, you just buy a bigger bucket of storage, it’s not truly pay as you grow,” Elliott said.

Adding to the inefficiency of cloud-based storage is the lack of de-duplication. Supporting this notion, 49 percent of respondents noted that they had no data duplication in place for cloud storage.

Elliott noted that organizations are rushing to the cloud without thinking about things like backup and storage utilization. Symantec recommends that in the rush to the cloud, organizations should focus policies on information and people, not technologies or platforms.

“Don’t just make a policy around cloud, make sure that policy is consistent across all of your platforms,” Elliott said. “Once you set those policies, make sure that those policies are communicated to employees, so they don’t have to go rogue.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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