Strategic Cloud Computing in the new era

Muhammed, Amir, Malik, CEO, CIS, comsats, internet, services

Muhammed Amir Malik, CEO, CIS

The approach of businesses towards consumption and delivery of IT services has been totally transformed by cloud computing. It can be explained as a type of standardized IT-based capability like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This type of service is offered by a service provider such as ‘public’ cloud and aimed at providing end-user access through internet from any computer. Theoretically, it is always available and can dynamically scale to adjust to demand in case of programmatic-based or web-based interfaces to enable complete customer self-service. Cloud computing is the result of development and implementation of existing technologies and paradigms. The aim of cloud computing is to allow users to take advantage from all of these technologies. Cloud computing promises numerous attractive benefits for businesses and end users. It intends to cut costs, aid the users focus on their core business instead of IT hindrances and is now one of the emerging trends in technology and business. Cloud computing services can be private, public or hybrid.

Over the years, cloud computing has become an innovating solution for companies to use to keep pace with managing business needs and the corresponding IT requirements. It is considered the latest buzzword in computing today. Cloud computing can yield significant benefits, from increasing speed to market, achieving better economies of scale to improving organizational flexibility and trimming spending on technology infrastructure and software. It has greatly influenced many aspects within the growing technology sector. With the help of cloud computing, data and applications can be made accessible to user’s database, thus providing flexibility of connecting to business anywhere, anytime. Therefore, organizations won’t have to maintain hard or soft copies required for delivering those services. Moreover, it is available at much cheaper rates and hence can help reduce IT costs.

Cloud computing increases collaboration by letting all employees, wherever they are, to harmonize and work on documents simultaneously. Cloud computing helps improve cash flows and operational risk reduction can also take place. Moreover, Organizations embracing cloud computing models can gain flexibility in choosing multiple vendors that provide scalable and trustworthy business services, development environment and infrastructure that can be controlled out of the box. Processes can be streamlined so more work can be done in less time. Cloud computing gives the benefit of quick deployment and it improves flexibility and increases efficiency; services are rapidly deployed and ready for use in a matter of minutes. Capital costs can be reduced as there will not be any need to spend big money on software, hardware or licensing fee. The cloud provides almost unlimited disaster-recovery options, it may also help to reduce operational costs, and operational efficiencies remove much of the hassle of managing systems. It can provide an almost immediate access to hardware resources, with no upfront capital investments for users, leading to a faster time to market in many businesses. It provides diversity of needs of computing resource for users and organizations.

Cloud computing adoption does pose risks. It leaves organization victim to the vulnerabilities and threats that exist in cloud computing; therefore, before moving a business into cloud, it is important to understand the risks involved. Risk assessment procedures need to be carried out. As an initial step, an organization should work with internal audit to produce a Cloud Risk Framework Tool, helping the organization get to the heart of risks by providing a view on the developing, pervasive and interrelated nature of risks associated with cloud computing. The Internal Auditor can play strategic advisory role and support the business to recognize and handle risks associated with cloud computing. The steps an internal audit can take include:  Defining a cloud strategy; Evaluating vendors; Implementing a cloud computing model; and Monitoring vendors.

An internal auditor can provide business insight and should proactively engage regulatory experts, technology and security to help evaluate the impact of cloud adoption. A cloud strategy vetted and supported by internal audit will help companies managing new risks. After weighing potential benefits and risks, next stage is vendor evaluation and appropriate selection. The cloud computing vendor pool and product capabilities are constantly evolving. Enterprises are facing bewildering number of choices today so more choices require more focused examinations. Choosing the best cloud provider for an application is a multidimensional problem. After due diligence activities completion and selection of cloud service provider, evaluation and implementation of cloud computing takes place. Internal auditor scan provide independent feedback about migration process, evaluating implementing activities, determining whether planning level was adequate to reduce project risk, accessing efficiency and effectiveness of migration strategies and controls prior to cloud computing model implementation. Lastly, comes monitoring the vendors. Once data and planned systems are integrated into the cloud environment by the company, the internal audit may assess whether defined owner is sufficiently controlling and scheming vendor relationship. By this point in time, the organization should formally monitor and report on agreed upon level of services, investigate and resolve variances, and routinely review any credentials provided by vendors. In addition, internal auditor should regularly evaluate regulatory requirements.

At its utmost level of impact, cloud computing is ushering in an era in which enterprises themselves will become virtual. More and more big players are getting attracted towards cloud computing, proposing more perfected solutions and services. Cloud computing has moved into the mainstream of business and IT. Processes needs to be established to reevaluate and monitor risks on routine basis once the business has started working “in the cloud”. Internal Auditors should consider potential risks &controls, and ensure that management has taken appropriate steps to evaluate and address those risks proactively. Furthermore, the Chief Audit Executive needs to understand security risks facing the organization and to work as a conduct to ensure that audit committee understands risk, provides reassurance that management’s reports are reliable, offers advice on improving risk mitigation, and implements value-added risk-management activities. Ultimately, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of an Internal Auditor may significantly reduce risks involved in adopting this extremely useful technology and pave the way to a smooth transition to the world of cloud computing.