Senior information technologist Kevin L. Jackson believes that cloud computing is not just technology — it’s an enabler of new business models that can lead to global revenue streams and significant cost savings. Mediaplanet sat down with Jackson to learn how the cloud is changing and what businesses need to know in 2018.

With cyber security threats growing, is the cloud really safe for businesses? How is this concern being addressed as cloud technology continues to advance?

Cloud service provider operations are very secure, due to an operational model focused on serving the broadest marketplace segment with the most cost-effective solutions. When paired with the economic incentive to operate as a viable business concern, this approach usually results in more secure IT platforms. The inappropriate use of cloud computing platforms causes cloud transition security failures. Whether you choose to build and manage your data center or leverage a cloud service provider, data protection depends on rigorously enforcing consistent IT governance and maximizing the use of automation.

Governance enforcement delineates organizational requirements and specifies appropriate remedies for lack of adherence. Enforcement is most important for things like data classification, security control selection and secure software development. Use of automation enables consistent enforcement by maximizing the use of standards and minimizing the spread of variability. That makes cyber security strategies independent of any specific IT deployment strategy. It depends on establishment and enforcement of proper IT governance.

It is also important to note that the full enforcement of rigid standards can be just as bad as the proliferation of multiple one-of-a-kind implementations. That means a healthy operational balance is necessary.

Can you talk a bit about the advantages of the cloud over traditional IT infrastructures? For example, for human resource management, what benefits can companies find by implementing cloud solutions?

Successful businesses match every dollar expended to more than a dollar of customer revenue. Small businesses in particular can use cloud services to minimize those expenditures.”

Cloud computing has three widely recognized service models: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). These service models differ in the implementation skills required and the level of governance a cloud service consumer can exert onto the cloud service provider (CSP). Since IaaS is foundational to all other information technology services, its adoption requires system administration and application development skills. With PaaS, the CSP manages the infrastructure, so only application development skills are necessary. With SaaS, the entire IT service stack is provided by the CSP, so it requires the lowest levels of IT-related skills. That is why the higher you go “up-the-stack” in adopting cloud services, the lower the long-term operational investment. This benefit, however, is tempered by the IT operational governance ceded by the user to the CSP. Relinquishing direct control of operational governance is often seen as a more risky option. In the specific case of using a human resource management (HRM) SaaS solution, the consumer must weigh the benefits of lower IT operational cost against the loss of direct, operational IT governance.

Are small businesses truly taking advantage of cloud solutions? What are common apprehensions that may be preventing adoption of cloud solutions?

When considering cloud computing solutions, an SMB owner’s biggest fear is losing their customer’s trust through a data breach or similar calamity. Taking this reasonable concern into account, these owners should recognize that almost 100 percent of data security breaches have occurred in traditional enterprise data centers, not “in the cloud.” Studies also show that human errors cause 80 percent of all security breaches. Logically that means that SMBs should reduce human input to the absolute minimum. That makes cloud computing inherently more secure than most do-it-yourself options because of the high degree of automation and the subsequent reductions in human error.

A second prevalent fear is that transitioning to a cloud service could be difficult. While any change brings new challenges, history has shown that cloud transitions have been overwhelmingly beneficial to SMBs. Benefits are especially prevalent when replacing manual, non-core business processes with the adoption of SaaS solutions.

What are the major financial benefits of moving to the cloud?

Successful businesses match every dollar expended to more than a dollar of customer revenue. Small businesses in particular can use cloud services to minimize those expenditures. The tendency, however, is to be apprehensive of change and paralyzed by the fear of choosing the wrong service provider. First, the cloud computing service model eliminates long-term commitments by featuring pay-as-you-go pricing. Many services are also available at no cost. Second, the breadth and depth of services available from the cloud computing market have grown dramatically. Today’s marketplace offers a wide choice and, when compared to the market of just a year ago, a significant reduction in adoption risk. These facts make not considering cloud solutions the riskier financial decision.