What is Cloud Sprawl and Why should I Worry About It?

cloud sprawlCloud sprawl is a growing concern in businesses worldwide. With cloud services are easier to access, cloud sprawl will become even more prominent in the future.

What is cloud sprawl?

According to CBR, cloud sprawl is a situation created by the ever-growing use of public cloud services and apps by individuals within a company, often without any permissions from the IT department.

It’s probably safe to say that cloud sprawl is a side effect of the increasingly accessible public cloud solutions today.

An example scenario of cloud sprawl:

Staffs are eager to get a hand on that shiny, brand new cloud storage solution that can also store music (maybe an Amazon Cloud Drive or Apple iCloud account) while the company they work for is sticking to Box.net. Besides, the IT department is so slow in adopting the cloud, they think. One might think that for a $10/month subscription, I can get more things done and wouldn’t need to work overtime to get that particular project done – I don’t mind to pay that $10 a month out of my pocket.

Cloud workers – what if your manager needs a project update you actually done with the help of a cloud solution not supported by your company? You would need to take the data off your chosen cloud solution, store it locally and then upload it to your company’s cloud solution. Instead of collaborating using the same cloud solution, you need to do all of those counter-productive activities to get things done.

Some questions to ponder from the business point of view: What if the employee “forgets” to delete the data in his own choice of cloud service? What if the employee quit – will you be able to get your company’s data from his or her cloud service account? What if your employee is dissatisfied and leaked your data to open public?

So – what would happen if each and every staff has his or her own preferences toward a cloud solution? That’s right – cloud lock-ins, cloud security issues, overheads, counter-productive cloud working and many other cloud catastrophes.

Cloud sprawl is a headache for IT managers

IT and/or cloud managers have their worries justified – with all the cloud sprawl issues, their work will become more complicated; not only they need to administer the cloud so things can run smoothly, the also need to keep their eyes on the cloud apps employees use to keep everything runs efficiently and effectively in the cloud.

How bad is the cloud sprawl today? Well, according to a research conducted by Kelton Research between March and April 2011 with 573 leaders, execs and IT decision makers from 18 countries, cloud sprawl is a worldwide concern.

35 percent of Japan-based respondents, for example, say that managing cloud sprawl is an impossible task; 80 percent of Japan-based respondents say that cloud sprawl is a major concern. 73 percent Australian and 60 percent Singaporean also voice similar concerns.

More cloud sprawl fact: 27 percent of Singapore-based respondents personally purchased a cloud service without informing the IT department. In Europe, the figure is even more prominent – over 50 percent bypassing the IT departments in cloud adoption, according to a research by Avanade.

What should be done with cloud sprawl?

The bottom line of the cloud sprawl trend: It’s inevitable – what IT managers can do is manage cloud sprawl by communicate, communicate and communicate – and more.

Here are what Avanade recommend you to do in managing cloud sprawl:

  • Develop and communicate user-oriented cloud strategy – not all employees are tech-savvy, despite their use of cloud solutions; cloud strategy needs to be user-oriented.
  • Discuss and define the cloud strategy among the stakeholders – involves investors, employees and managers in formulating cloud strategies.
  • Do cloud audit on regular basis – weeding out “bad” cloud solutions can curb cloud sprawl.
  • Create cloud migration roadmap – let everybody knows about what’s going on in the cloud; this will reduce the guessing game.

Persuasion and education will (still) work wonders in managing cloud sprawl. If you or your team doesn’t have great people skills, be sure to hire a techie who has them.

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  • Michael Gentle

    I wrote a related article on my blog called “Will app and data sprawl be cloud’s Achilles’ heel?”.

  • Matt

    Everyone knows of this problem but nobody seems to know of a software solution(s). There must be something out there? A strategy better than just communicate. That isn’t going to help pass an audit.