The cloud promised to change the technology landscape when it went mainstream in the early 2000s, offering the potential to reduce the burdens of data storage, hardware investments, and scaling web services. As it gained momentum in the business world, the financial services sector wasn’t quick to follow suit. For almost a decade, uncertainty around security and concern about implementation kept credit unions from full embrace of cloud solutions.
As a former global director for Amazon Web Services – one of the first providers to make cloud computing available to the larger business world – I’ve witnessed its transformative power first-hand. But still in 2022, some credit unions are waiting for the cloud’s perceived “bugs” to be resolved. The reality is, many of these misgivings were addressed long ago. Lingering myths are making credit unions too slow to adopt cloud technology, and it’s time to put these common ones to rest.
MYTH: Cloud Technologies Are Easily Hacked
Cloud security has advanced tremendously during last two decades, but it is still a commonly held belief that the cloud is an easily hacked virtual space. The reality, however, is that most security lapses aren’t happening on the virtual end, but on the human end.
Out of necessity, data security in the cloud has advanced rapidly and aggressively to meet the demand for digital services. Cloud service providers have spent the last decade focused on increasing the security of their servers, closing backdoors, and locking down vulnerabilities. These days, humans are much easier targets.
Creating a stronger security shield involves humans and technology working in sync. Credit union staff must follow established cybersecurity processes that, at a minimum, include things such as frequently updating passwords, locking computers when stepping away from the desk, never sharing personal login information with others, and annual trainings on email and text-based phishing scams. Ensuring all employees are trained and given reminders on these protocols regularly will help to holistically minimize vulnerabilities.
MYTH: With the Cloud, You Give Up Governance and Control
There is a belief that if you move to the cloud, you will lose all opportunity to control your own data. This fear of “loss of control” can be a powerful one, particularly if your credit union has always had direct control over the data infrastructure. It’s important to remember that though the cloud provider owns the hardware and software infrastructure, you still have ultimate ownership and accountability for your data.
There will be areas of shared responsibility. For example, cloud providers have made substantial investments in security, but sound data security processes must still be followed by the credit union. A service provider can give you an understanding of the governance on their side so you can develop a data strategy that keeps you secure, compliant, and in-line with your credit union’s policies.
You may also need to discuss some of the finer details of control with your cloud service provider: what data fields are mandatory, what can be customized, how many people are able to access your data and whether they need isolated and unique credentials, or if you can have a single portal for the entire credit union.
Often, the fear of losing control stems from the idea that if something is under our control and we can touch it and see it, we can prevent things from going wrong. These days, the advantages of cloud computing – its flexibility and its security –shows that this fear is misplaced, and that the automation provided by the cloud eliminates room for human error. Though the cloud environment is very different than on-prem, it possible to maintain very strong oversight, security and control in the cloud with a well-articulated plan.
MYTH: The Cloud is Too Expensive
There are very valid reasons why it’s difficult to sort myth from fact when it comes to cloud expenditures. The reality is – it’s complicated. There are many factors that influence the cost of both cloud and on-premises solutions, so there is no definitive way to say which is less or more expensive. That said, if you are still considering an on-prem purchase, now is a great time to pause and consider why technology trends are leading more businesses to the cloud.
The potential cost savings of moving to the cloud are numerous. There is no up-front investment in hardware, which makes this sum available to redistribute to other needs. On-prem hardware also needs to be maintained and regularly upgraded to increase performance capacity, and new servers are expensive. As time goes on, the need to upgrade may become more frequent as data storage needs continue to grow exponentially. Additionally, it’s easy to forget the costs associated with having physical equipment, like powering and cooling it around the clock.
The flexibility the cloud offers can bring value that extends beyond dollars. Not having to buy a new server every time there is a need to accommodate increased traffic or storage capacity not only saves money, but precious time and mental energy. For these reasons, many credit unions will find the efficiency of cloud solutions to be almost priceless.
Moving to the cloud is an important decision, and it’s wise to ask questions and understand what it entails. But don’t let outdated ideas about the cloud become a barrier. Most of credit unions’ past trepidations have been alleviated, and the primary question many will find themselves asking is not if they should move to the cloud, but when.