Surprise! You’ve Spent Decades in the Cloud & Didn’t Know it
Companies seem to be at one of several stages when it comes to the cloud. There are thought leaders that have embraced it and are in the process of transforming their business. The largest group by far are those just ramping up their cloud strategies and starting to dip their toes in. The last group are traditional companies that flat out refuse to use the cloud for anything.
When we question the reason behind the “no cloud” stance, it always comes out that upper management has handed down an edict stating so. The reason will vary, but typically it involves the sensitivity of data. No matter the cost savings or innovation or competitive advantage the cloud may bear, no cloud will be used at said company.
The interesting thing is that I can almost guarantee these “no cloud” companies are using cloud-based services without a second thought and no, I am not talking about shadow IT. I would go further to say these companies have been doing it for years. In fact, regardless of where you are on your cloud journey, if your company believes employees are your greatest asset, you’ve likely been hosting your most sensitive data in the cloud for years.
While the modern cloud was born out of IT, or at least developers needing scalability quickly, hosting sensitive data offsite was born from the needs of Human Resources. Let’s flash back 20+ years.
When I was in high school, I worked at a power plant during the summer. I had to fill in a timesheet on paper. From there, the accountant would enter my time into a payroll server that resided in a closet somewhere. Back then, the compiled timesheet information would be printed and mailed off to a payroll company for processing. Soon after, a modem was hanging off of the server to dial in and transmit the data. As the web became more prevalent, the on-premises software would connect over a secure SSL connection. Today, that software runs offsite and I can just login to it to see my paycheck – completely paperless. That is the cloud, only no one calls it that.
Payroll services isn’t the only example of how Human Resources innovated the cloud without people realizing it. Remember pensions – those stalwart retirement plans, which still exist out there? Companies would host pension data locally until a qualified actuarial service came along with a mainframe. When 401(k)s came out, it was over. Companies could no longer keep up with the math of complex markets and the whole retirement system became outsourced. Retirement systems today are completely sold as a cloud commodity service and have been for years.
Lastly, consider employee benefits. This is a service that has virtually never been hosted on-premises. Your company has likely been outsourcing its employee benefits to an insurance provider for decades with your personal information going completely off-site. Today, we readily give those companies access to our most personal data without hesitating. Even the massive hack of Anthem Insurance didn’t have us questioning this service. It simply doesn’t work any other way.
When I go out and talk to customers about the cloud, the audience is usually IT-based. As it turns out, Human Resources has been the true cloud innovators. Outsourcing these services and those cumbersome processes gave birth to the cloud-based services nearly every company now relies on. The innovation was so incremental that we don’t even consider the risks of having our payroll, banking, and employee information hosted as a service. If you haven’t considered these Human Resource services as cloud-based, you should.
Today, more than ever, IT has a responsibility to keep their company’s sensitive data safe. Through solutions like Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security solution, you can help secure the authentication level to these platforms easily and reign in control. For example, who disables administrator access when a Human Resource employee leaves your company?
Once you start securing the cloud-based services that you almost certainly have, it might be time to start developing a cloud strategy. After all, if you aren’t figuring out the cloud, your competitors almost certainly are.
For more information on what Microsoft is doing to help protect customers’ data in the cloud, check out our high level overview and contact us to learn more!