The cloud offers organisations an opportunity to quickly and efficiently deploy tools or applications for everything from new ventures to mission-critical projects. According to a new study by 451 Research, enterprise adoption of either private or public cloud is at 41 percent, with the estimates that it will rise to 60 percent by 2018.

Cloud-based solutions have enabled organisations to be agile in ways that were not possible ten years ago, meaning that overall IT time and spend can be much more strategically focused on meeting a growing set of needs or objectives. Cloud infrastructures are inherently flexible, allowing companies to expand, react and achieve business goals without massive upfront costs typically associated with an investment into new technology. But how does the use of the cloud affect an organisation’s data and overall strategy for managing the exchange of valuable information with customers, vendors, or partners?

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Traditionally, enterprises, in particular, have been wary of storing and managing data in the cloud, pointing to concerns over the protection of sensitive data and the ability to meet compliance mandates. Besides the cloud also makes it easier for individuals or departments to implement new cloud technology and get projects off the ground quickly, without considering the IT team’s vision or policies, which can make controlling data or minimising vulnerabilities a real undertaking.

Consider these three tips when determining how to implement the cloud while ensuring your data is secure:

1. Seek out tools or applications that provide flexibility without compromising security

The essential benefit of the cloud is flexibility: being able to access and distribute information from and to anywhere with an internet connection. It is this flexible, open nature though that is the cloud’s attraction (and ultimate challenge) for a CIO or IT. However, flexibility should not come at the expense of protecting sensitive information and data that has been made more readily available through the cloud.

By looking for tools or applications that can provide transparency around the movement of data, IT administrators can better manage unauthorised sharing or mitigate vulnerabilities quickly. Consider applications like a cloud-based managed file transfer solution, data loss protection tool or working with a cloud access security broker.

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2. Check for regulations on handling data through government associations and industry organisations

Most organisations now face some level of control, with the most highly regulated industries being healthcare, financial services, and retail. There are many regulations that specifically deal with how an entity should manage sensitive data. These are regulations such as Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), EU-US Privacy Shield and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), among others. When it comes to quickly launching cloud-based technologies, it’s important to understand which regulations affect your own organisation’s data and whether you also need to comply with regulations in other industries or countries, based on the type and destination of the data.

In some cases, like with the EU-US Privacy Shield, you may also need to confirm that your cloud provider has clear information on how they manage data sovereignty. For those in the EU or the UK, your provider may need to have a regional cloud centre.

3. Implement solutions that can positively affect business results

Organisations and their employees often turn to cloud solutions to get projects up and running quickly or ensure quick results. Often, we hear more and more from companies we speak with, that there’s a mandate to use the cloud for new projects. This puts more pressure on the cloud deployment or associated applications to return its investment quickly. In the end, cloud tools should ultimately improve business results.

There are a couple of things that CIOs or IT teams should keep top of mind when evaluating cloud tools to ensure that these investments pay off for the business. Make sure you have a good understanding of your cloud application or service provider’s policies, especially related to support or downtime. If there’s an issue with the service, you want to have plans in place to know exactly who to call and set up procedures to have network traffic failover or be highly available to avoid your business also having any outages or lag-time.

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It’s equally important to confirm that your current technology investments or legacy systems integrate with the new cloud services. If there is a challenge or conflict with the integration, you’ll have time to find workarounds or evaluate new services before the cloud tools go online and are operational for the larger organisation.

Embracing cloud is not simply about following the latest trend, or doing what everyone else is, it’s about finding the right solution to support your business. Be it a small IT department for a software startup or a 200-person department for a FTSE 100 enterprise, the power of cloud should not be discounted as a means to enhance your overall business results.

It is important to have a good understanding of how you, as a CIO, CISO, or IT department, can empower individuals within your organisation to adopt the cloud without creating unnecessary headaches or severe security vulnerabilities. At the end of the day, CIOs, CISOs, and the IT team can become vital in the pursuit of business success, while protecting its assets and data simultaneously.

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Peter Merkulov serves as vice president of product strategy and technology alliances at Globalscape. He is responsible for leading and overseeing the product strategy, product management, product marketing, and technology alliances teams. Merkulov has over 14 years of experience in the IT security industry, specifically in product strategy and management. He is a seasoned international leader with over a decade of experience in building and leading international teams as well as developing and executing global and product strategies. Prior to joining Globalscape, Merkulov served as executive vice president at Kaspersky Lab North America, where he oversaw the expansion of the business within North America and was second in command of their North American operations. He also served as Kaspersky Lab's Chief Product Officer where he substantially expanded Kaspersky Lab's B2B product line as they became one of the leaders in the Endpoint Protection market as recognized by Gartner.