“Consumer use of the cloud”; in a phrase, is how the cloud will leak into your enterprise, whether you like it or not. Already, IT is struggling with how to manage the consumer use of devices and services in the enterprise. Skype/VoIP and WIFI were the warning shots, but the BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and other consumer devices are the death nail for centralized IT (and IS) control.
Consumer electronics, backed by a wide array of free or low cost cloud services, are a new frontier for your organization. Services like MobileMe, DropBox, various file sharing tools and remote access services like GoToMyPC, et al. have arrived. Likely, they are in use in your environment today. Consumers use and leverage these services as a part of their increasingly de-centralized online life. Even with sites like Twitter and FaceBook growing in capability and attention, consumers grow their use, both personally and professionally of services “in the cloud”. Make no mistake, despite your controls at the corporate firewalls, consumers are using their mobile and pocket devices and a variety of these services. Unless you are searching them at the door and blocking cell phone use in your business, they are there.
This might not be “the cloud” that your server admins are worrying about. It might not represent all of the off-site system, database and other hosting tools they are focused on right now, but make no mistake, this consumer version of the cloud has all, if not more, of the same issues and concerns. Questions about your data is managed, secured and maintained all abound.
Given the “gadget posture” of most organizations and their user communities, this is not likely to be something that technical controls can adequately respond to. The consumer cloud services are too dynamic and widespread for black listing approaches to contain them. Plus, they obviously lack centralized choke points like in the old days of “network perimeter security”. The new solution, however, is familiar. Organizations must embrace policies and processes to cover these technologies and their issues. They also have to embrace education and awareness training around these topics with their user base. Those who think that denial and black listing can solve this problem are gravely mistaken. The backdoor cloud consumer movement into your organization is already present, strong and embedded. Teaching users to be focused on safe use of these services will hopefully reduce your risk, and theirs.