Cloudy with a chance of risk


You may have picked up from my last few blog posts that I have paid quite a bit of attention to the theme of data governance. With a passion for the theme, I recently picked up on some research specifically around governance of the cloud data warehouse. This caught my interest and reminded me that the cloud can turn ‘grey’ and rainy sometimes. Cloud computing is a technology revolution that has simply not stopped innovating and growing in relevance. In fact, Gartner recently noted that the cloud tech services market is projected to grow 17.3% in 2019, and that by 2022, 90% of organisations will be using cloud services. I have quite enjoyed watching the cloud trend unfold and am the first to admit the opportunity it has presented to business – especially from a data centre perspective. For many organisations, a data centre based in the cloud is a key enabler of their digital transformation strategies, providing an effective option for the business to gain the benefits of digital without the massive capital outlay. What a win! Bringing with it a list of benefits that deserves a full blog article on its own, the cloud certainly deserves the attention it has garnered over the last few years – but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without it risks. And in the all hype and excitement around how the cloud is enabling digital transformation almost instantly, I wonder if the risk element is sometimes overlooked. Cloud-based data warehouses deserve attention. On the onset, a cloud data warehouse takes very little time, funds and effort to set up, quickly allowing for effective Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics of the data to take place. With the elimination of a physical data centre, there is also no infrastructure stress – that means no acquisition, installation and maintenance. This ‘rented’ service becomes an Opex as opposed to a Capex cost and this, together with the above, can show a business a very clear return on investment as they start to use the information and insights produced to manage and improve business strategy. Sounds dreamy right? But, what about considerations around data governance, security and privacy? Just because the data warehouse is no longer a physical “on-site” entity does not mean these aspects are automatically taken care of – and I believe that this is sometimes overlooked. There is often more pressure for the business to understand the complexities around data governance and protection of data stored in the cloud. It generally results in more complex integration, more complex cataloguing and more complex data governance and privacy protection, which unfortunately is the area where the cost to company becomes real again. Although there are benefits of a cloud data warehouse in terms of cost, speed and management, an organisation investing in this route must consider and be prepared for the slightly more complex (and costly) factors that are a reality linked to data integration, management and governance. These are all on going factors where in reality costs can begin to add up over the long term. The initial capital outlay saving needs to be weighed up against the ongoing management of the data from a governance and security perspective. Such elements cannot be ignored. Therefore, thorough investigation and consideration must be undertaken by an organisation looking to host their data warehouse in a cloud-based data centre. It is certainly not to say that this route is wrong. Rather, I would question the intentions behind the route selection. If it is purely for cost saving, it is likely wise to re-think the strategy and approach, given that all the little ongoing costs will add up, meaning that hosting the data warehouse in a physical data centre may be more beneficial. If the strategy is based purely on gaining from the many advantages the cloud offers over and above cost effectiveness and speed to market, then of course the digital route is the innovative and strategic path to take. The choice may seem easy but with proper foresight and planning, a business may just be surprised by the better option to invest in.

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