Shreenath Nair, Head of Strategy APAC for WherescapeBlog

Pandemic-driven cloud adoption: The benefits and risks

By Shreenath Nair, Head of Strategy APAC for Wherescape

Cloud adoption has surged due to the COVID-19 pandemic as companies were forced to operate remotely. In 2020 alone, total cloud services market expenditure grew by 30% to $142 billion, up from $107 billion in 2019, according to a report by industry analyst firm, Canalys. The exponential growth of cloud comes as no surprise, given that prior to the pandemic, numerous organizations were already in the midst of their cloud transformation journey, particularly in the APAC region.

Why organizations are implementing cloud for their data needs

As we move forward into a new normal brought throughout the pandemic, cloud tools have not only helped organizations adjust to the new normal, but also brought benefits such as reduced IT costs, increased flexibility and efficiency, improved security and performance as well as creating the potential for organizations to innovate and develop new capabilities. Employees have also benefited from cloud, enjoying increased flexibility and convenience as they are now able to work from anywhere, be that from their “old” office, a new location, or from home, or a combination of all of those. Effectiveness is assured.

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Maintenance of the cloud environment is also typically handled by the organization’s cloud vendor, thus, productivity is increased at the organization as employees previously handling data management can now work on tasks more beneficial to the organization’s revenue and business development.

For most organizations, migrating to the cloud is no longer a choice but a necessity. According to Gartner, 85 percent of enterprises will have a cloud-first principle by 2025. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus why organizations must adopt an increasingly digital business model which will not only enable them to respond more readily to changing circumstances, but also, remain relevant and competitive in today’s fast-evolving landscape.

Understanding risks associated with cloud and mitigating risks

Migrating to the cloud is no simple task. Data integration code changes when organizations migrate into the cloud and rewriting old integration code is a colossal task. However, organizations can accelerate the rewrite of integration code through data infrastructure automation tools which will also bring greater agility to any future additions or changes.

While the cloud has brought organizations a myriad of benefits such as celerity, it has also opened the door to more threat actors. Data security breaches are a real threat for organizations and their stakeholders. The issue has only been further compounded by the user-friendly UIs provided by cloud service providers, which disguises the true complexity of cloud infrastructure management.

Cloud misconfigurations, alongside stolen or compromised credentials are the most common causes of a malicious breach for organizations, representing nearly 40 percent of these incidents. Such cyber incidents, which include data breaches, rank amongst the most serious business risk globally, and have proven to be especially costly for businesses in Southeast Asia (SEA), costing US$2.71 million per organization across SEA, according to IBM Security’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report. Thus, to prevent and mitigate these risks, organizations must reinforce the security of their cloud, through measures such as monitoring privileged access and proactively identifying and remediating misconfigurations in storage and network access settings. Aside from the above, organizations should also utilize a threat-led approach when identifying cloud logging and monitoring use cases to mitigate risks that are unique to their cloud infrastructure. In order for organizations to rapidly triage and investigate breaches, they must ensure that there is active communication between their Security and DevOps teams. Last but not least, selecting the best possible partner to support them in their cloud adoption journey is crucial.

The future of cloud in Asia

With organizations having recognized and placing greater value on cloud, technology is increasingly becoming an integral part of their strategy. Overall cloud spending has also been projected to reach US$200 billion in Asia by 2024, with Singapore amongst the top three markets in the APAC region and having the largest overall IT spend across applications, platforms, infrastructure and services.

For organizations, the cloud is not simply an infrastructure but an enabler. One key benefit cloud has brought to organizations is the ability to utilize hundreds of native services developed by companies like Microsoft Azure and accelerate the capabilities that organizations are providing to their customers. As we shift from the Covid-19 pandemic to an endemic stage, business demand recovery will be unpredictable and uneven across customer segments, geographies, products, and categories. For most organizations, completely rebuilt analytical models and new data in the cloud will be essential in steering their operational decisions. In their recovery efforts, organizations should ensure that they selectively modernize their technology capabilities and use enhanced data modelling techniques to manage their digital assets, for example, changing the modelling approach from dimensional to data vault, and thus, forecast demand successfully.

However, despite the exponential growth of cloud in the region, the APAC region is also looking at a future with severe shortages in data, cloud and cybersecurity skill sets, according to a recent report by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Workers within the region would require 6.8 billion digital skills to carry out their jobs by 2025, a drastic increase from the 1 billion digital skills required today. The shortage of talent in data, cloud and cybersecurity has been well-noted, with global tech giants such as AWS, Microsoft and Cisco stepping in through partnerships with regional organizations and institutions to help bridge the digital skills gap. However,aside from these partnerships, governments, organizations and education providers must ensure and increase investment in local talent to meet this unprecedented demand for technology capabilities over the next decade and ensure that there will be sufficient talent to meet the demand for digital skills.

WhereScape is a privately held international data warehouse automation and big data software company.