Hybrid cloud could be the way to go for risk-averse ME firms

Brid-Aine Parnell

Tuesday 27 October 2015

A public/private cloud mash-up helps companies keep sensitive information close at hand and avoid the potential legal pitfalls.

For some time now, industry analysts and market observers have been predicting explosive growth for the cloud in the Middle East. But despite their sunny outlook, cloud uptake has actually been slow in the region.

Like many developing economies, Middle East countries are more risk-averse about the cloud, particularly the public cloud. While they build up their mobile and fixed line networks, connectivity and downtime are especially concerning and a lack of legal frameworks means that data governance and compliance are more difficult.

That’s part of the reason why hybrid cloud structures are proving so popular in the region. According to EMC’s global survey of over 10,000 IT professionals released earlier this year, including over 1,600 from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two-thirds of respondents believe they need a hybrid cloud solution because of its agility and security.

Hybrid cloud adoption grew nine per cent overall from 2013 to 2014, with the highest growth of 28 per cent being in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. CIOs are still unwilling to put applications like financial planning, human capital management and enterprise resource planning into the cloud; they want to keep these technologies in-house. But, at the same time, they also want to take advantage of the cost-efficiencies and agility of cloud solutions. Around 75 per cent of CIOs in the UAE and Saudi think that combining public and private cloud solutions can improve both security and agility.

A separate EMC study of the UAE alone this year showed that nearly half of enterprises have implemented a private cloud model, with just 35 per cent using public cloud services. But nearly a quarter of the UAE businesses surveyed are planning to implement a hybrid cloud model.

Blending the security and connectivity benefits of private cloud to the agility of public cloud applications also helps businesses to combat legal risks. The UAE does not currently have a comprehensive set of cloud computing regulations and standards and there is no specific data protection legislation in Saudi Arabia. So organisations have to carefully consider how existing general laws apply to issues such as where data is held; who owns it; how long it is held for; and what would happen to it if the relationship with an external cloud provider were to end.

Keeping sensitive financial and HR information in-house in a private cloud and using external providers for things like email and document-sharing is precisely the sort of hybrid structure that can help to sidestep potential legal grey areas for Middle Eastern firms.