A frenemy is someone who is both a friend and an enemy, and we all know one of those. They do good work and contribute to the success of the company, but you wouldn’t take a vacation with them.

Cloud services are kind of like that to IT departments. Cloud services possess the ability to speed development and deployment while saving thousands of dollars. What a great friend! But the downsides make it hard to spend much time with them, especially if you work for IT.

A recent article in Network World got my attention because it elevated the concern IT has over the unauthorized use of cloud technologies in the workspace. Rightfully so, they worry over the cost in terms of data loss, time loss, and simple aggravation. You see, it’s up to IT to worry over all of these concerns, not to mention the compliance traps and hidden costs. Perhaps a little tongue in cheek, the article called these clouds Rogue, as if to imply the definition truly fits the practice.

Who wears the black hat?

A rogue is someone who is dishonest, a scoundrel. The contradiction turns out to be stark. Rogue clouds are the lifeblood of many vendors, not to mention the potential salvation of the line-of-business owner. He’s the person tasked with managing the product or sales team on a daily basis. But if these clouds are so dangerous why does he choose a cloud product?

  • Cost
  • Speed of delivery
  • Convenience
  • Redundancy
  • Freedom
  • Compliance

Cost and speed of delivery are easy enough to understand. Cloud technologies, when deployed in a multi-tenant environment, definitely offer cost savings to a company. The industry has accepted these pay-as-you-drink services because they offer minimal cost for entry and potential maximum return for cost-conscious businesses. A speedy delivery can give a business a leg up on the competition.

The convenience is evident in the myriad ways one can access these clouds. This article focused primarily on storage issues associated with these rogue clouds, the loss of data, and the confusion over how these services work. Do you use the app on your phone or the secure client inside your corporate network? Is the platform up more times than not?

Redundancy is the bane of most IT and records departments as they struggle to store massive amounts of data. Today’s storage systems have remained expensive while growing in complexity. Even if you have on-site storage and replication capabilities they are most likely managed or augmented by the vendor, a professional service, or by IT. The costs can sometimes be prohibitive, which makes online storage services more attractive than ever.

Compliance issues go hand in hand with redundancy concerns due to the stringent retention rules dictated by a multitude of certifications. Businesses are always faced with the daunting task of not only providing these vast arrays of storage, but also struggling with the compliance concerns. Rogue cloud services often have the advantage of certification which is a selling point for a business lacking in IT resources.

With friends like these…

However none of these benefits are quite as powerful as the freedom a rogue cloud brings. IT is busy running the day-to-day operations of the business. Often the lead times for running a project through IT don’t line up with the speed needed by sales, support, or the reporting needed by the LOB owner. This isn’t to say IT is the bad guy in a black hat making life difficult for the marketing department. IT is still doing its primary job of managing and deploying mission critical platforms needed by the company. This freedom is actually of benefit to IT.

While it’s true IT must grapple with the myriad of self-provisioned services, they are better served by this new class of service than they realize. Rather than seeing cloud services as the enemy, why not keep a close eye on it? Many countries have frenemies, those partner nations who don’t always agree on policy but work together to achieve common goals. Perhaps IT can serve the role of the diplomat here.

IT gains a suite of potentially solid services that augment their more robust premises based servers. Working with the rogue gives insight into the best way to support these services while protecting the integrity of the systems they maintain. Every cloud service deployed over time should result in a reduction of work for IT, not an increase. That leaves time for more important things, like protecting the company from the real danger from real enemies.

How does your organization view rogue clouds, and what are you doing to ensure the cloud remains more of a friend and less of a threat?