It’s undeniable that access to the cloud has made life, and running a business, exceptionally convenient. Want to collaborate on a document with your team members across the globe? Done. Eager to offer your customers an always up-to-date budgeting app? Done. A seemingly infinite number of television shows and films at your fingertips? Done and done.
However, if you’re a business that operates on the cloud, that convenience is only part of the equation. You also need to manage risks, like any vulnerability to hackers, and have plans in place in the event that technical issues wreak temporary havoc on your systems. And that’s where cloud governance comes in.
What is cloud governance?
In a nutshell, cloud governance is a carefully designed set of rules and protocols put in place by businesses that operate in a cloud environment to enhance data security, manage risks, and keep things running smoothly. The convenience of the cloud is a beautiful thing for businesses and consumers alike. But it also means that employees can develop their own systems and deploy assets to the cloud with the click of a mouse (or the swipe of a finger). Sometimes systems don’t always play nicely with each other, even in the same organization.
The result? Increased costs and reduced efficiency.
The convenience of the cloud also brings with it a new breed of security concerns. Even if the cloud service itself is secure, assets deployed with poor access controls or with heightened configuration vulnerabilities can put the entire system at risk from hacking. Remember, as opposed to on-premise IT infrastructures, there are no firewalls in the cloud.
Cloud governance ensures that everything from asset deployment to systems interactions to data security is properly considered, examined, and managed. The shift from on-premise IT infrastructures to a cloud environment adds layers of complexity to your system architecture. It also means that more people across your organization have the potential to impact that architecture. This is why it’s critical to develop and maintain a comprehensive cloud governance model.
Key benefits of a cloud governance framework
Designing and implementing a best-in-class cloud governance framework takes time and effort. It’s not something that can be pulled together in an afternoon, and you’ll need to collaborate across teams to ensure that the final product is complete and actionable. But it’s worth it. When developed properly, your cloud governance framework will return immediate and long-term benefits.
By designating who owns each area of asset and software management, your cloud governance plan will build necessary limits on who can access and impact your cloud ecosystem. As mentioned earlier, this is especially important considering how easy it is to implement new assets to the cloud. The last thing you want is rogue IT applications and initiatives tampering with your sensitive architecture. Controlling access to critical assets is vital and will enhance the reliability of your cloud processes.
Reduced security risks
Once an organization has committed to moving their data to the cloud, it’s imperative that they develop the security measures to protect that data. While housing data on the cloud is certainly more convenient than hosting that data on-premise, it also brings increased risk for data breaches and unauthorized attempts to access data. Your cloud governance plan will help you identify vulnerabilities in your system, enact plans to mitigate risk, and establish metrics to gauge the impact of security measures.
Enhanced compliance readiness
No matter your specific industry, it’s likely that you need to pass regular audits and compliance assessments. Whether you’re working with HIPAA, PCI, or SOC 2 requirements, your cloud governance program will streamline your compliance preparation and make it easier to demonstrate that compliance.
The benefits are two-fold. First, developing a cloud governance program with your particular compliance requirements in mind allows you to build compliance review and standards into your processes and architecture. Second, when it comes time to document your compliance, you’ll have a thorough archive of your system’s history, its current status, and your plans to enhance compliance.
Cloud governance shifts workflows from analog to automated. Instead of relying on time-consuming manual processes (like crafting complicated spreadsheets to track various accounts and system activity), cloud governance programs allow you to build in guardrails that automate the management of everything from budgets to policies. These guardrails can also trigger automated responses to cloud activity, which reduces the manpower needed to enforce your cloud governance. And reduced manpower means reduced costs.
How to implement cloud governance
Establishing a cloud governance program usually follows three basic phases:
- Awareness: Organizations in this stage have zero cloud structure and still depend on manual deployments of assets. They might know that they want to completely transition to the cloud, but they have minimal integrations and are just beginning to scope out cloud governance plans.
- Early Adoption: At this phase, organizations have developed policies matched to their particular processes. They likely have a cloud team in place and have scoped out costs and other architecture details. They are experiencing rapid cloud deployment.
- Mature Adoption: In this final phase, organizations reap the rewards of the effort they applied in the previous phases. Their cloud management is now fully automated. It is responsive and agile, and the cloud governance framework enhances security and compliance.
Cloud governance is the key to progressing along these three phases. In the Awareness stage, companies need to carefully audit their existing systems and develop a clear vision of their ideal cloud environment. This is the time to research, collaborate across teams, and make plans. Part of this exploration will include drafting a cloud governance plan.
Once that initial plan is developed, it’s time to move into the Early Adoption phase. Cloud governance is dynamic. Teams should be prepared to come back to their framework again and again to assess compliance, scan for potential vulnerabilities, and make improvements. Things move fast during Early Adoption, so it’s critical that teams refer to, and build on, their cloud governance plan to ensure controlled deployments and constant attention to data security.
Finally, organizations that have transitioned into the Mature Adoption phase depend on their cloud governance to keep things running smoothly. This unifying framework keeps everyone on the same page and transforms the rush of Early Adoption into a reliable cloud experience for all stakeholders.
Taking the next steps
Whether you are still exploring the idea of taking your business to the cloud or whether you’ve decided to make the leap, cloud governance is an essential ingredient to your success. It can’t be overlooked or rushed. So start connecting with people across your organization. Build your cloud dream team and discuss the key issues at hand.
Here’s a list of questions to get the ball rolling:
- Do we feel like we have enough expertise to develop our cloud governance plan, or do we want to bring in an outside cloud consultant?
- What assets and systems do we currently have deployed to the cloud? Which ones are we hoping to deploy in the near future?
- What security policies impact our cloud governance?
- How will we monitor and control employee access to cloud assets?
- What compliance audits do we need to plan for? How can we work those into our cloud governance framework?
- Who will create and maintain our cloud architecture? How can we make sure this information is available to those who need it?
- How regularly does this core cloud team need to meet to ensure that our cloud governance remains agile and responsive?
Exploring these questions will help your team develop the best cloud governance for your particular organization and spark new ideas for other details that you need to consider. Doing business on the cloud makes it easier than ever to innovate, optimize, and scale. Cloud governance is the key to tapping into all of that potential.