Security fears persist as UK moves to cloud

Written by Peter Walker
28/11/19

New research from McAfee has revealed that 40 per cent of large UK businesses expect to be cloud-only by 2021, with only five per cent of organisations having already reached cloud-only status in the UK.

The cyber security firm commissioned Censuswide in October to survey 1,310 senior IT staff and 755 employees in large businesses with over 250 employees across the UK, France and Germany – with 300 senior IT staff and 252 employees in the UK.

In the UK, the majority (86 per cent) of senior IT staff believe their business is cloud-first today – a similar proportion to France (90 per cent) and Germany (92 per cent). Yet large organisations are looking to further increase their reliance on cloud: 93 per cent across the three countries plan to move still more sensitive data to the cloud in the coming years.

In fact, 70 per cent UK businesses expect to be cloud-only in future – compared to 75 per cent in France and 86 per cent in Germany. Many expect to reach this milestone in the next two or three years.

However, 14 per cent of large UK companies cannot yet describe themselves as cloud-first today. Of the senior IT staff in the UK who did not think their business is cloud-first now, 12 per cent did not believe this will happen for at least another five years, while a further 12 per cent did not think their business will ever become cloud-first due to a lack of business appetite.

“Non-cloud computing is a thing of the past,” said Nigel Hawthorn, director for EMEA cloud security business at McAfee. “Whether businesses are close to cloud-only status or still shifting towards a cloud-first approach, the age of cloud is already here.

“While this heralds major leaps in enterprise innovation, agility and productivity, it could also lead to serious security lapses if not handled correctly,” he added.

On average, UK respondents claim 45 per cent of business-critical or sensitive data is currently in the cloud – compared to 43 per cent in France and 57 per cent in Germany.

While there is clearly appetite to reap the rewards of cloud adoption, security concerns are holding businesses back, according to the survey. Across the three countries, almost a quarter (22 per cent) of senior IT staff do not think their business will ever be cloud-only, selecting security fears (55 per cent), data access concerns (40 per cent) and compliance concerns (31 per cent) as three key factors.

In addition to these security concerns, the poll uncovered widespread uncertainty around who is ultimately responsible for ensuring data in the cloud is secure. In the UK, some believe the responsibility lies with c-suite roles: chief executive (14 per cent), chief information officer (19 per cent) or the chief information security officer (five per cent). On the other hand, over one-third (34 per cent) felt the IT manager is ultimately responsible for this data.

Raj Samani, chief scientist and McAfee fellow, stated: “Data and applications have shifted to the cloud – and where they go, cybercriminals will try to follow – we’re now in a new era of cloud-native data breaches.

“As we shift towards a cloud-only or cloud-first business environment, organisations must adapt their security technology and processes to close the gap between cloud adoption and secure enablement in the enterprise.”

Despite organisations’ increasing reliance on cloud, shadow IT continues to be a threat. Almost one-fifth (19 per cent) of the surveyed employees who use cloud-based apps admit they use apps which have not been approved by IT – with a further five per cent uncertain on which apps had or had not been sanctioned by the IT department.

Conversely, one-fifth (21 per cent) of senior IT staff believe less than five per cent of their end users are using cloud services which have not been approved by IT.

The report also found that the overwhelming majority (88 per cent) of senior IT staff in the UK thought that moving to the cloud as a business has increased productivity amongst end users in their organisation, while 84 per cent stated it had improved their company’s data security. Other benefits highlighted by the research include: increased innovation in the business (84 per cent), enabling the company to offer employees more varied services (85 per cent) and enabling staff to be more efficient in their day-to-day job role (84 per cent).

Within businesses operating with a cloud-first strategy today, almost two-thirds of senior IT staff believe it has already increased innovation (61 per cent) and strengthened security (61 per cent).