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The growth of cloud computing has continued unabated in 2016 across technologies, industries and use cases, says by Monica Brink, EMEA Marketing Director, iland

Given the level of growth, you would be forgiven for thinking that it has already established a winning position in the technology industry. In reality, cloud spending is some distance away from reaching its peak compared to investment in traditional approaches to IT. For IT leaders however, cloud will continue to dominate strategic technology decision making in 2017 but some clear priorities are coming into play for the UK cloud market.

Here are five key cloud priorities that I predict will come to the fore in 2017:

  1. Security and Compliance
As we head into the New Year, we will no doubt see a continued focus on ensuring workloads that reside in the cloud are secure. With threats including ransomware and other cybersecurity attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated, the importance of ensuring that cloud security levels are on par with or better than on premise IT security will be paramount. As companies race to combat security threats and address evolving compliance requirements however, they often struggle to implement and demonstrate the consistent security management that is required to pass audits and achieve certification requirements such as ISO 27001.

At iland, we are well aware that due to the dynamic nature of cloud, security and compliance controls can be daunting. However, with the right people, processes and technology in place as well as visibility into the cloud and security reporting and alerting, IT leaders will be able to leverage cloud service providers to help achieve compliance – even more easily than they could achieve it with on premise infrastructure.

  1. Getting Ready for GDPR
Proving IT security practices, which ISO 27001 requires, will also be key to satisfying the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation before it goes into effect in 2018. With Brexit complicating this situation, there are currently more questions than answers in this area for UK businesses. Nevertheless, IT leaders will need to prioritise ensuring that their cloud services and contracts are compliant in advance of the introduction of the EU GDPR in May 2018 - or the corresponding UK requirements.

During this period of transition and uncertainty, it will be more important than ever for UK companies to have a true partnership with a cloud service provider and open dialogue to ensure that changing EU/UK compliance requirements can be met. For iland, we’ve expanded our cloud compliance service offering to directly help customers address these challenges and will continue to ensure data sovereignty across UK data centres.

  1. Big Data
Big data in the cloud enables businesses to garner actionable intelligence from the ever-increasing volumes of data being generated. The cloud is a particularly useful platform for doing this – it enables organisations to perform high volume data analysis that might not otherwise be possible and avoids the cost and lead time of building out new infrastructure.

As we head into 2017, those companies who win in a particular market are going to be the ones that become most adept at using big data to their advantage; gaining fast access to key pieces of data, minimising errors by correlating intelligence, and removing the guesswork from critical decision making.

  1. Vendor Diversity
IT is not new to deploying dual vendor strategies. Avoiding vendor lock-in has been something that most IT organisations have been striving to do for years in order to ensure reliability, access new innovations and improve negotiating power. As cloud strategies mature, many organisations are recognising the advantages of opting for a dual provider cloud strategy – particularly having a separate provider for production cloud and another for cloud-based disaster recovery.
  1. The Economics of Cloud
The age-old question ‘will this all fit into my budget?’ will no doubt still be a concern in 2017. So, is cloud computing really more cost-effective than traditional on premise computing? According to Public Finance some organisations claim to have saved 30% or more from its adoption. But of course this won’t always be the case as it will be heavily dependent on the workload.

One thing is for certain, IT needs more visibility into cloud costs. Cloud bills can be difficult to understand and IT managers often waste a lot of time every month checking through them. They need the data that enables them to make intelligent, proactive decisions to minimise cloud costs by moving workloads around and re-assigning cloud resources for more cost-efficient cloud computing.

In 2017, IT teams will prioritise the need for transparent, straight forward cloud pricing and billing that is easy to predict. At iland we view the cloud as a piece of cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, allowing cloud resources – CPU, memory and storage to be sliced, portioned and reallocated between virtual machines and workloads, however IT departments see fit.

For most organisations, the debate has already moved beyond whether they will use the cloud to how they can use it more effectively in even more areas of their business. In 2017, businesses will seek out greater expertise in order to use cloud computing more strategically. As a consequence, the role of cloud and managed service providers will grow as IT teams shift their emphasis from the traditional role of ‘keeping the IT lights on’ to focusing on how tech can deliver bottom-line benefits and support the strategic direction of the business.