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How to remain compliant while still using the cloud

Just about all companies today know about the benefits of cloud computing, and want to be using the technology in some capacity. But, a few concerns remain for some firms, preventing them from fully leveraging enterprise cloud computing. Namely, regulations and data residency laws can prevent full cloud adoption, for fear that storing data off-premises could lead to major fines. However, by leveraging a hybrid cloud infrastructure, organizations can use the cloud to the fullest while also remaining on the right side of the law.

According to a recent survey conducted by of the 257 IT managers polled said the cloud has a central role to play in their organizations’ long-term strategy and success. Many of those polled said the cloud helps them reduce costs, increase flexibility and worry less about day-to-day IT infrastructure maintenance. As of April 2016, only about 9 percent of those surveyed noted that they are using zero cloud infrastructure at the moment. This helps show just how popular cloud computing has become, as now just about every single business is using the cloud and its myriad benefits in some capacity.

“9% of businesses use no clouds today.”

Nevertheless, while cloud adoption continues to rise to new heights, few if any firms are entirely within the cloud. The SolarWinds survey found that over the next three to five years, only approximately 43 percent of those polled think their organization would be exclusively using cloud infrastructure. Furthermore, a full 60 percent of those surveyed believed that their employers may never be all-in with the cloud at any point in the future.

Compliance’s role in cloud adoption rates

If just about every business today understands the benefits of cloud computing, then why are companies still hesitant to completely rely on this technology? According to the SolarWinds report, security and compliance are the main reason for this reluctance to totally trust the cloud and use it for all of their infrastructure needs.

Many laws both within and outside the United States require data to be stored on-premises. For example, some countries, including Canada, Russia and Germany, have laws that say that any data related to their citizens should always reside within their national borders, MSPMentor contributor Melissa Ross noted. In addition, while some federal and state laws in the U.S. are more vague about data security requirements, attorney Charles H. Kennedy has noted, many firms have interpreted this ambiguity to mean that the cloud is off-limits.

“When data is stored on-premise, as it is with the traditional data center model, an organization has complete control over where the data sits at rest, how the data is stored and who has access to the data,” Forbes contributor Alan Murphy wrote. “Introducing cloud storage changes that on-premise control model. Cloud storage complicates adherence to regulatory compliancy laws in multiple ways.”

Considering the cost of non-compliance, many companies want to err on the side of caution. For example, if an organization is found to be in violation of the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, it can face a fine ranging from $1,000 to $1.5 million for each violation. With these kinds of figures in mind, it makes sense that organizations would be wary to move to a platform that could theoretically make them non-compliant.

Non-compliance fines are not pennies. Non-compliance fines are not pennies.

Hybrid cloud the best of both worlds

Many organizations are seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they know and understand the benefits of cloud computing. On the other hand, compliance concerns can prevent a full-on move to the cloud. But, there is a way for businesses to have the best of both worlds.

By adopting a hybrid cloud approach, companies can have the control and direct oversight needed within an on-premises or private cloud setup, while also being able to leverage the scale, elasticity and flexibility benefits of a public or enterprise-class cloud. Hybrid cloud allows organizations to have their cake and eat it too, enabling them to have all that is good with the cloud while also remaining sure that they are not running afoul of regulations.

“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-decade shift in the technology landscape,” the SolarWinds report noted, according to Forbes. “This reality has become known as hybrid IT: migrating some infrastructure to the cloud, while continuing to maintain some critical services onsite.”

How to overcome hybrid cloud challenges

This is not to say that the hybrid cloud is a panacea for organizations with compliance concerns, as Forbes contributor Joe McKendrick noted that such an arrangement still presents businesses with a unique set of challenges. In particular, only 27 percent of those polled by SolarWinds thought their organization had enough internal expertise to effectively manage and oversee a hybrid IT environment.

Luckily, this personnel challenge is a relatively easy fix. By turning to a trusted enterprise-class cloud computing provider, companies can be sure they have experts on their side when adopting a hybrid cloud environment. This last step ensures that the organization can leverage hybrid cloud computing without overtaxing internal IT resources. With this kind of help on board, a company gains all of the benefits of cloud computing without fears that it may be in non-compliance. Considering today’s business and regulatory landscape, this is truly a win-win situation.

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