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Cloud computing has become ubiquitous in corporate America, and the advancement of big data and analytics over the past decade has only accelerated the revolution.

For leaders in the financial services industry, the question is not whether to adopt cloud-based file-sharing technologies, it’s how to adopt them in a way that benefits business operations while keeping data secure. The cost of successful cyberattacks increased to $20.8 million per financial services company in 2014 – more advanced threats loom in 2015, so leaders must carefully consider their options.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. For example, you might not mind if all of your company’s marketing materials (or green data, as we refer to it) are stored only in the cloud. However, you might want confidential documents such as customer activity reports and cash flow statements (or red data) stored on-site behind a firewall. This is a common situation, and it’s important to look for solutions that offer you this flexibility without trade-offs.

When implementing a cloud-based file-sharing solution, the user experience will play a major role in its adoption and overall success. It will be important for you to gather input from your employees and customers and regularly collect feedback to identify ways to better meet their needs.

Here are some questions to ask before implementing a cloud-based file-sharing solution:

1. What business goals are you trying to achieve?

The cost of cloud integration should be offset by an increase in productivity. Third-party vendors and clients should have access to data they need via the cloud, and internal employees should have secure access to data via on-site storage (with systems designed to keep everything integrated smoothly).

Your employees want access to file-sharing applications that have proven utility in the financial services industry, and these apps must be available as part of an IT-sanctioned cloud package. Without seamless integration into the preexisting enterprise infrastructure, employees and other users will take matters into their own hands and might go against company policies by using unsanctioned file-sharing methods.

2. Are you aware of compliance and security concerns?

The way you share your data matters. In some countries, governments are intrusive, and you might find yourself violating a law you didn’t know existed. In the U.S., regulators have announced guidelines for cybersecurity exams for financial institutions as cyber threats increase. Compliance considerations must be at the forefront of your thought process.

And if your cloud deployments aren’t controlled and managed well, your organization might face “cloud sprawl” – a condition in which departments use a variety of cloud tools and file-sharing methods in an uncoordinated manner. This situation can lead to shadow IT and increase your risk of data breaches and a loss of customer trust.

This is already happening at many financial services companies. A recent study revealed that 72 percent of IT professionals said they did not know the scope of shadow IT at their companies.

3. What are your IT pain points?

Every enterprise has a division between IT and everyone else. That division is even deeper in the financial services industry, where multiple proprietary systems are expected to interact efficiently. Government regulation that’s emerged since 2005 has made working in IT in the financial services industry one of the most difficult tech-related jobs.

Your cloud project manager should be someone who can act as a liaison between IT and users, ensuring that important functionality and capabilities are maintained without interrupting the normal IT prioritization. If all business users can’t access their tools quickly via the cloud, the technology won’t help your enterprise.

4. What key attributes of a technology solution are most important to you?

Every leader in the financial services industry wants lower acquisition and operating costs, less churn, and an efficient workforce that exceeds quality and production demands. A truly enterprise-grade solution for file sharing and analytics should help to meet these needs.

Ultimately, a financial company is built on customer service and trust. If employees don’t have the right tools to respond to customers quickly, and if customers can’t leverage their data easily, then the organization suffers.

The cloud isn’t just a fad; it’s the future of business technology. Every financial services company needs a cloud strategy to remain competitive. And you need to carefully consider how the cloud can meet your company’s needs without compromising security. Include everyone in the conversation from the beginning, and make sure your company builds a robust cloud-based file-sharing foundation to support its success for years to come.

cloud, enterprise file sharing, security

*The original post appeared in Cloud Computing Journal. 

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