From cost savings to enhanced flexibility and mobility, today’s businesses are capitalizing on the many competitive advantages cloud computing offers. As organizations move on-premises workloads to the cloud, the rules of the game become more complex.

In the past with on-premises infrastructure, IT costs were mostly fixed, data was protected by a firewall, and IT managers could easily control the software and hardware used by an organization. With the cloud, that level of control is difficult to achieve. Costs can quickly escalate when:

  • Users self-provision resources and data.
  • Employees can download apps without IT oversight.
  • There’s no firewall to protect data.

As organizations embrace multiple cloud vendors, all of these added challenges can quickly lead to cloud chaos.

By implementing a cloud governance framework, organizations can take control of their cloud environment and its data by obtaining complete visibility into all of their cloud activity. This, in turn, helps them to optimize performance, lower operational costs, and minimize security risks—especially as cloud usage grows.

Benefits of Cloud Governance

Without a cloud governance framework in place, managing cloud activities becomes increasingly difficult as enterprises increase their cloud investments to protect their data. Indeed, 79% of organizations say cloud governance poses a challenge, according to one survey. Moreover, 83% of organizations find it difficult to maintain security, while 82% have trouble managing cloud spending.

An effective cloud governance framework addresses these issues. The benefits include:

Enhanced visibility and control: With the right cloud governance plan in place, IT administrators have full visibility across all of their organization’s cloud assets. This enables them to better manage cloud spending, secure their cloud infrastructure, and control unauthorized access to critical assets.

Improved productivity: Better visibility reduces management complexity. And with the ability to automatically monitor inappropriate, unauthorized, and unused access, IT administrators can dramatically improve operational efficiency.

Reduced security risks: The absence of a firewall increases the risk of data breaches and hacker infiltration into user accounts. With a cloud governance framework, organizations can identify security vulnerabilities and implement plans to mitigate security risks.

Better compliance: A solid cloud governance strategy makes it easier to comply with government regulations such as SOX, HIPAA, GDPR, and many others. And when combined with the right tools, IT administrators can automatically generate the reports they need for auditing and compliance.

Decreased costs: The best cloud governance solutions use AI and machine learning to automatically learn, monitor, and secure access to critical assets and data. By automating these time-consuming manual processes, IT departments can reduce labor and operational costs.

Increased innovation and profits: With a cloud governance framework, organizations can identify unused workloads, better allocate cloud resources and data, and obtain the analytics they need to optimize cloud performance—ultimately accelerating innovation and boosting profits.

Challenges with Cloud Governance

While technology and its role in business isn’t going anywhere, it’s important to acknowledge some of the modern challenges of cloud computing. Companies looking to shift their infrastructure from physical to digital need cloud governance to hold themselves accountable—and understanding its areas of potential concern is part of that process. Without the right visibility and control, you’ll be at risk of sensitive data being compromised.

Here are some important cloud computing security risks to consider:

Rushed Deployment: A common mistake made by companies rolling out a comprehensive cloud governance framework is not prioritizing what you need. For companies doing business in heavily regulated industries, prioritizing compliance to protect sensitive data is the best way to start. That way you don’t find yourself overspending on cloud security that’s inessential.

Program Oversight: When an organization shifts to automation, especially as it pertains to cloud governance and IAM solutions, there’s an instinct to let the machine do all the work. Negligence can lead to ineffective cloud computing, as the machine is only making decisions based on rules that you defined in your cloud governance framework. As companies grow or change, so does the need for their framework to be updated in order to keep your data and resources protected.

Ineffective Training: Understanding the power of technology is seemingly commonplace in the current professional landscape, but taking that knowledge for granted is a mistake made by several companies. Giving your employees the “keys” to your digital infrastructure can be dangerous if they’re not trained on how to access it properly. This can lead to cybercriminals targeting individuals and using their digital identities to hack into your system. Multi factor authentication can help mitigate these security threats.

Implementing an Effective Cloud Governance Strategy

Implementing an effective cloud governance program can be overwhelming, especially if your organization operates in multiple cloud environments. Cloud computing security is only as effective as the architectures who design it, which makes your role crucial. Here are four steps you can take, adapted from the recommended list developed by Gartner:

1. Form your governance team: Implementing a cloud governance strategy involves bringing together multiple IT responsibilities including cybersecurity, identity and access management, and API management. Appoint a team to manage this effort and make sure it includes all the relevant roles. You may also want to hire an external cloud consultant to assist with this effort.

2. Define your strategy and policy positions: Your cloud governance program should be tailored to the business objectives of your organization. Identify the key policies you need to create based on your specific productivity needs, operational budget, security risks, and compliance requirements—keeping in mind that some industries need tighter cloud governance than others.

3. Implement programmatic controls: Put the right tools into place to monitor and control cloud usage. An automated cloud governance solution can help you efficiently monitor, control, and enforce who has access to each cloud asset. What’s more, the best automation solutions provide real-time visibility into every cloud workload, automatically create and certify user accounts and access, and alert IT administrators when a policy violation occurs.

4. Develop business unit policies: To assure your success, it’s critical to bring those affected by cloud governance into the planning process. Obtain buy-in and eliminate shadow IT operations by working with each business unit to develop the right cloud access policies. Gain the insights you need to understand what’s working and what needs improvement, and implement support channels to quickly address employee needs. 

Maintaining Your Success Over Time

To sustain your success, it’s important to regularly review your cloud governance program to ensure its continued effectiveness. The OMG Cloud Working Group recommends a once-a-year assessment timed with events such as contract reviews, audits, accreditations, and annual reports.

In addition to this annual assessment, you should collect and review data on a quarterly basis. Some examples of the key performance indicators (KPIs) you may want to track include:

  • The frequency of exceptions to policies.
  • Average time to onboard.
  • The percentage of business unit budgets allocated to cloud services.
  • Cost reductions.
  • Used versus idle cloud services.

Finally, it’s important to regularly solicit and respond to user feedback. Maintain a list of suggested improvements as well as the adjustments needed as your organization’s cloud usage continues to evolve.

Enhancing Innovation While Minimizing the Risk

With a solid cloud governance framework, you can minimize cloud risks—while taking full advantage of the enhanced agility and innovation that the cloud fosters. Cloud service providers are your easiest path to solving your security issues and ensuring your data is protected.

SailPoint Cloud Governance helps you achieve effective cloud governance by providing a comprehensive view into user access of all resources across your entire multi-cloud infrastructure. You can define consistent access policies based on roles and activities. Also leverage AI and machine learning to make faster, more informed access decisions, detect potential risks, and easily enforce access policies around your data—all from a single, intuitive dashboard.

To learn more, please see our Cloud Governance webpage.

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