The ability to process computer-based data on third-party systems is not a new invention. For example, the outsourcing of financial data to tax advisers for further processing has been used for decades. Since the introduction of the term “cloud,” the idea that computer-based data is stored and processed by third-party service providers creates an uncomfortable feeling. When talking about Office 365, I often immediately hear numerous arguments against “the cloud” immediately. A closer look at the arguments, however, usually quickly reveals that they are shaped by prejudices and are not from personal experience. The countless opportunities to use cloud services for products manufactured by a company fade into the background. However, the cloud providers are not entirely innocent, as they only focused on marketing arguments on the introduction of cloud technologies and did not hear the questions or concerns of potential customers on this matter.
The term cloud does not describe the location of the stored data with a third-party service provider, but rather the idea of how to work with data. The traditional methods of working individually with emails, the joint creation of documents or the introduction of modern software solutions are not able to stand up to digital transformation. The path to new methods of working requires a change in these established ways of working. Users today have different tools available in their cloud services to be creative and productive in their individual work environment. And this is totally independent of their device or location.
Businesses approach the “Cloud” topic very slowly because the high rate of change within the cloud services is viewed as a negative trait in IT departments. This is even more interesting as it is not a new development. It is difficult to move from a slow environment where new product versions have been introduced with great delay into an environment where a new product version is being released quarterly. The established processes to follow when introducing a new product version often take longer than the time of the product is being used.
The selection of a cloud provider is not only based on the services offered, but also on the trust that a company has to have in the provider. This trust is necessary on several levels. These include, but are not limited to, the physical security features of the data center as well as the technical protection of servers and storage media. You not only have to trust the technology but also the staff of the service providers.
The products deployed in Office 365 have the same code base as the products for the installation in a local IT infrastructure. Here, customers already trust the functions and security of the products used. The difference is that in the cloud, the secure access capabilities cannot be opted out, which is possible in a local IT environment.
In the combination of Office 365 and Microsoft Azure, Microsoft provides a consistent cloud platform where data is automatically encrypted and securely stored. Access to this business data is only possible for authorized employees of the Office 365 customer via encrypted communication channels. Employees of Microsoft as a direct service provider of the cloud services or employees of contractors have no access to the data. Office 365, in conjunction with Azure AD, provides an audit capability for managing the cloud environment and users’ access to data. These audit functions are requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and others.
The use of cloud services requires trust in the cloud provider, the cloud infrastructure and cloud service itself. If your company has already commissioned external service providers for data processing, the necessary trust already exists. The suffix “Cloud” does not change any of this trust. If in doubt about cloud usage, the cloud providers provide all the necessary information to meet objections.
In addition to trust, on the way to a successful and productive use of cloud services, the willingness to change from established working methods to more flexibility.
The Cloud is not a place – The Cloud is a thought.