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Taking on the Innovators in a Cloudy Future

In the last decade, we have seen an unprecedented level of disruption in the financial services market. New start-ups have challenged the traditional silos in the financial industry – and even threatened the way that money is generated and exchanged. Financial institutions have made and been confronted by bold moves including developments like contactless, Apple Pay, and Square, as well as the launch of the first high-street bank in over 150 years – MetroBank.

Coupled with this, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of hacks and leaks prompting many organisations to reconsider how they do business and how they secure their IT systems. The Experian breach in October 2015 resulted in the theft of 15 million T-Mobile US customer details and a 4% share price drop. Experian is far from being alone, as Sony, Staples, Target and Carphone Warehouse can attest.

How can organisations rise to the challenge of the new age of agility, whilst also remaining secure?

2016: Year of the Cloud

ZDNet recently suggested that although 2016 is the Chinese year of the sheep, it should be the ‘year of cloud’[1] as the technology has finally become mainstream and accepted amongst executives.

There’s no doubt that cloud computing provides much-needed flexibility, such as the ability to pay for only what they use rather than investing in an entire physical server. Cloud is also clearly a faster way of working, with new instances able to be spun up in mere hours and minutes rather than days and weeks. It has been a revolution which allows companies to build up and scale down their IT infrastructure purely as needed, experimenting with new services without large up-front investments and lengthy lag times.

Cloud may have reached mainstream acceptance culturally, but is it secure enough in the age of hacktivism and dedicated criminal hacking? The short answer is yes, and in many cases companies are finding a greater level of security features and compliance than they can achieve with more traditional on-premises models. In November 2015, the FCA gave what many have perceived as a green light to financial services organisations wanting to use cloud computing[2] – and although there remains some key risks that need mitigation to be in place, the overall response to the FCA has been very positive. The FCA in their role as an enabler of innovation and effective competition have been keen to remove blockers and hence have applauded the efficiency that cloud could bring. Although care still needs to be taken in selecting a supplier, it is reassuring that cloud has been given the green light by this body.

However, as with most technologies, it is unlikely that a ‘cloud only’ strategy will be appropriate – or feasible – for all parts of the business. Indeed, most business decision-makers will already be spending a significant amount of time working out what can or should be outsourced to a public cloud and what needs to stay on-premise / colo or in a secure, private / isolated single-tenant cloud.

Preparing for a Hybrid IT Future

This hybrid IT approach– keeping some systems in flexible multi-tenant clouds, whilst maintaining a private isolated cloud estate elsewhere – is inevitable for all organisations wanting to maintain competitive advantage. Consequently, CIOs should make sure that mapping out the hybrid cloud transformation is at the top of their ‘to do’ list in 2016.

A large number of companies have already carried out cloud-based projects or migrations and are looking again at how cloud can add strategic value to the business on a wider scale. It is critical that consideration is given to mapping the right platform to the workload in question. Key to this is selecting providers who have a significant breadth of hybrid offerings and experience working with clients as they move from physical servers to server-less apps.

If you don’t already have a strategic plan for hybrid cloud in 2016, there’s still time. However, don’t delay: organisations neglecting their technology will not only find themselves lagging behind more agile competitors, but also over-spending on IT which under-delivers. In contrast, organisations executing on their vision (how they will use hybrid IT) will gain both financial and technological flexibility, allowing them to move quickly in an age when competitors are ever more nimble.






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