Flexibility vs. Simplicity: Choosing the Right Cloud Services for Your Firm
By George Ralph, Managing Director, RFA
As the alternative investment industry becomes more competitive, consistent returns are no longer creating a sufficient competitive edge. Investors are demanding that performance is coupled with a solid business model, which delivers greater flexibility, lower risk, transparency and improved efficiencies.
Many firms have already chosen to host part, or all of their IT infrastructure and services, in the cloud, in a bid to create this competitive advantage and while cloud services offer many often cited benefits, like reduced capital expenditure, scalability and enhanced security features, it is important to choose the right services for your firm’s needs.
Moving applications and data to the cloud is the right business model in many ways, bringing business agility and flexibility, allowing firms to evolve as they need to. The most common approach, a hybrid cloud strategy uses some public services and a multi-tenanted cloud infrastructure and can enable firms to operate using the highest performance computing power and provide additional capacity at peak times, at a cost that is attainable because it is shared with others. For many firms, this “burstable” nature of the cloud is ideal for absorbing those irregular or infrequent but inevitable power hungry tasks or applications. But can it provide the transparency that is required to meet stringent new data protection laws, like the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or the simplicity that firms with limited IT resource need?
IDG’s 2015 Cloud Computing Study found that the biggest concern that CIOs have when it comes to cloud services, is that concerning cloud security. 67% of those surveyed cited this as their main cloud concern. This comes as no surprise to me, as every conversation I have with firms in the alternative investment sector concerns cybersecurity and the safety of data. However, concerns about the ability of cloud services to meet enterprise and/or industry standards featured heavily for 35% of respondents. The complexity of cloud services and the lack of transparency surely featured highly when thinking about compliance with standards.
If you are evaluating cloud services, but are worried about the lack of transparency, look for service providers who will share metadata and offer comprehensive reporting functionality. This cloud metadata could include configuration, performance and billing data that is exclusive to each workload. These in depth reports would provide the necessary insight that firms in the alternative investment sector must have in order to reduce risks and ensure compliance with industry regulations. If you can access the infrastructure yourself, run your own reports and ensure your own knowledge levels, then great, but a reputable service provider can also offer this.
Your cloud services should not be so complex that you can’t understand them, or tie you into contracts that are hard to break. Ask for a clearly defined schedule of services and flexible contract terms which allow you to mitigate your supplier related risks. Service providers that are experts in the financial sector are also worth seeking out, as they will understand the unique issues you face.