There’s no doubting the world of opportunity the cloud presents. For start-up ventures and established businesses alike, using cloud based services does away with heavy upfront expenditure in IT systems and personnel. The elastic nature of the cloud means it scales easily too. But, and rightfully so, the biggest issue stopping mass adoption of the cloud is security. In a recent report by hosting.com 75 percent of responders cited cloud security as one of their top three concerns for cloud adoption.
The oil industry has long been the target of well organised, malicious attacks intent on stealing sensitive information. Since early last year, attacks such as Night Dragon have put oil companies on high alert. Likewise in more recent times the Stuxnet and Flame cyber weapons, whilst not aimed specifically at the oil industry, have revealed the potential to take over control of critical infrastructure and systems including manufacturing facilities, perhaps even rigs or pipelines.
Keeping ahead of these threats is hard – something quickly amplified when the equipment where the data resides is not owned and secured by you or the location of the equipment is unknown. Add to this security issues experienced by major cloud players like Cloudflare – the popular security and content delivery network service – whose systems were infiltrated by hacktivists resulting in the leak of sensitive customer data and one could be forgiven for questioning why you should be looking at cloud services at all, or feel paralysed by the fear of the unknown that they inspire.
So how can oil companies leverage the best of the cloud whilst maintaining peace of mind surrounding security? Firstly, it’s important to realise that mainstream cloud service providers (CSPs) are not security specialists and for that reason careful consideration surrounding supplier choice is imperative. Whilst CSPs are all looking at augmenting their security position to help on-board customers faster, this is not their core area of expertise so caution is advisable when trying to satisfy industry specific needs with conventional players.
Fundamentally, whatever you’re looking to put into the cloud needs to be considered from a sensitivity point of view – if you were subject to a failure or attack, how valuable is the data that would be exposed? Equally, the type of cloud service you’re looking at must be evaluated. In our opinion public clouds do not offer anywhere near the levels of security E& P companies (of whatever size) require, therefore ‘private cloud’ or virtual private cloud solutions may be a more sensible option as the security ‘wrap’ around your services can be built for purpose, although again we believe knowledge of the unique requirements of the E & P sector is critical to making sure the ‘wrap’ is right.
Ultimately, what you put in the cloud is dictated by the applications. At this moment, whilst we would be cautious in advocating full scale cloud-sourcing or cloud for business critical or latency sensitive applications, there are resource intensive applications or even mission important applications which can comfortably be delivered in a cloud-based arrangement. Email, backup and recovery, productivity and collaboration tools are all good candidates for movement to the cloud. Indeed, that’s what we did in a recent project for Desire Petroleum, whom we built a private cloud service for delivered from our datacentre, encompassing important collaboration tools like email, as well as integrated storage and disaster recovery.
In our mind, security should not be an inhibitor to cloud adoption. Done properly and selectively the fears surrounding cloud can be significantly mitigated to at least be on a par with maintaining your own systems. It also means E & P companies can become accustomed to working with services of this kind – something essential to the future because as connectivity and performance issues are relegated to the past new applications for the cloud will be commonplace in the oil and gas industry and critical to on-going innovation.
If you want to explore how cloud services might benefit your company but have been put off by security fears, talk to us now and we’ll share our knowledge and experience to show you the opportunities and what you can achieve.