How do you know when cloud is fake-cloud?

Published | Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Cloud software is a hot commodity these days—and for good reason. It can be lean, agile, secure, cost-effective, and offers continuous upgrades, while supporting mobile devices with real-time data. Here at ACL, we’ve noticed that many software vendors are seeing a growing demand for cloud solutions and they’re eager to get in on the action.

We understand. There’s a lot to love about the cloud. But instead of building a true cloud solution, many of these companies, such as TeamMate, are simply hosting their existing technology on a web server and calling it cloud. Sure, hosting the solution off-site eliminates some IT hassles, but it simply fails to deliver the benefits you can only get from real cloud. We don’t think these “fake-cloud” hosted solutions are good enough for your business. Here’s why:

1. Security suffers

Real cloud solutions are designed for multi-tenancy with security top of mind. Fake cloud is designed for single tenancy and built with the (often faulty) assumption that a firewall and network stands between hackers and your data.

Read cloud vendors undergo rigorous third-party compliance audits against their entire information security environment, including software development. Fake cloud may point to the compliance reports of their infrastructure vendors, but often do not get their own information security environment compliance-tested.

ACL’s cloud-based GRC platform, for example, is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) hosted on Amazon infrastructure. It’s certified with a Service Organization Control 1 (SOC 1) report, which provides written controls documentation. Whatever software you’re considering, be sure your provider is certified as security compliant, not just their host. The TeamCloud® TeamMate Hosting solution is only host compliant. The actual TeamCloud software does not have a security certificate.

2. Performance can be sub-standard

Whether it’s a mission-critical enterprise system or a productivity application, your software needs to work. Downtime is unacceptable. When a “cloud” solution isn’t actually architected for the cloud, you’re risking performance and team productivity. Unless you enjoy a sluggish, glitchy experience, you need true cloud, not fake-cloud.

Speaking of performance, fake-cloud solutions aren’t engineered to be multi-tenanted, which means that several business units can’t run the same software instance without unwanted data or access exposure. Let’s take this idea for a test drive. There are large, complex commercial entities, public accounting firms, and federal government agencies that oversee hundreds or thousands of lines of business, or additional business units under their governance. If a massive organization used hosted or single-tenanted software, they would need 1,000 systems to meet all of those business needs. Consider the implications for a moment. We’re talking 1,000 different systems to research, approve, purchase, implement, customize and maintain—not to mention the associated security requirements and potential system conflicts. It’s an exhausting proposition.

Each fake-cloud software vendor could manage some of these tasks, but there are no synergies between the systems. Rather, if these organizations implemented the ACL GRC solution, for example, they would get a true cloud product with multi-tenanted architecture. That means they could implement our software and have 1,000 instances for each line of business.

Multi-tenant also enables different lines of business to share templates and report on information upwards, but also provide granular security downwards to ensure robust, role- and business-based security.

3. Upgrades are anything but easy

With a true, multi-tenanted cloud solution, all customers receive upgrades in real-time. Bugs are quickly addressed and everyone benefits from improvements that they might not even know they want or need. These upgrades can happen daily, weekly, monthly and sometimes even several times a day.

Fake-cloud solutions are at the mercy of a manual upgrade process. Nothing is automatic. That’s bad enough, but pseudo-cloud solutions are also notoriously susceptible to upgrade conflicts. Think about it: if you’ve customized an application for your organization, there’s a high probability that a product enhancement or upgrade will conflict with the instance you now know and love. Even if you can re-implement those customizations to work with the new-and-improved version, it will be a time-consuming, headache-inducing process.

4. Fake-cloud kills native mobile applications

Fake-cloud doesn’t enable you to use a native mobile application—and all of the benefits that those apps provide. What’s all the fuss about? Native mobile apps are built specifically for the cloud and can hook into your mobile device’s hardware features, including the camera, audio recorder, scanner, GPS, and more. This means you can capture and store multi-media evidence while you’re on the road, with a client or in the office.

Mobile web apps, on the other hand, are inferior to native mobile apps. Companies like TeamMate release these products to quickly get into the app game, but they’re simply web applications running on a mobile device. It’s easy to verify a native app: just search for it in the iTunes store for iOS or the Google Play store for Android. Even Facebook quickly committed to building a native app when the mobile web application failed to satisfy users. The functionality just wasn’t there. Native apps provide a snappier user experience with a look and feel that matches your device. They enable push notifications and don’t require constant connectivity. A mobile web interface just isn’t as responsive, and it doesn’t allow people working on different devices to save and synch their data at the same time. That’s a big deal—not only for productivity, but also for data security and reliability.

Make sure it’s REAL cloud

Whether they’re hosted or virtualized, fake-cloud solutions can’t deliver the security, performance, features and functionality your organization requires. Business moves fast. You need software that can work and grow with you—solutions that won’t slow you and your teams down. Our advice? Go true cloud. Go native mobile. You’ll never look back.

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