Over the past several weeks, the headlines have been dominated by Edward Snowden and the NSA "scandal" (quotes added since I don’t intend to get into the politics of this polarizing issue). In case you missed it, Snowden, a contractor who worked with the NSA, admitted to disclosing classified information regarding NSA security programs that monitored phone calls and e-mail traffic.
Data security has always been a concern for information technology leaders and these concerns are amplified with the move to cloud technology. From a technology sales and marketing perspective, the Snowden debacle raises a question that is worth considering: What impact will the recent news headlines have on the transition to cloud-based services?
As businesses (and individuals) consider the shift to cloud-based services (e.g. software/applications, platforms, infrastructure delivered as a service), the most significant objection has been a concern regarding the security of company and personal data. In a recent interview regarding the Snowden leaks, cloud expert David Linthicum of Cloud Technology Partners stated that the news “will provide more fuel for the already cloud-paranoid.”
The reality: It’s not much harder to spy on non-public/non-cloud infrastructure. If information flows from one location to a central data center, the transmission of data over a wire (or wirelessly) makes the information vulnerable. The data storage facilities are also potential targets of hacking. Governments and non-governmental entities (whether your know it or not or even support it or not) have been intercepting, deciphering and evaluating such data for years, and will likely continue to do so.
When asked what technology channel partners can do to counter their reluctance in engaging cloud service providers, Linthicum responded, “I would remind them that their data is just as vulnerable behind their firewalls as in the public clouds. If the government wants to see it, they will figure out a way to see it, and do so within the confines of the law. Moreover, that it’s the objective of the government to find patterns in data, and not the data itself, typically.”
There will always be legal and illegal surveillance (espionage)—government or non-government sponsored. I think it’s idealistic to think that governments and companies won’t find ways to gain a competitive advantage by hacking into corporate and personal data sources, ethically or otherwise. There are risks to shifting to the cloud and reduced security may be the biggest of them all, along with threats to business continuity and diminished service. That said, companies who ignore potential cloud services benefits based on security concerns that have not been fully vetted are making the same mistake as the Internet naysayers 20 years ago.
So what does this mean for us as technology marketers and sales professionals? Communicating the risks and benefits of the cloud to the customer now becomes the obligation of the vendor/service provider.
This creates an opportunity for service providers to improve their offerings and clearly communicate their value proposition. Value-based selling is a simple concept: Win and grow customers through solution, service and program offerings whose total value relative to price exceeds that of alternatives1. In value-based selling, the solution provider must be able to articulate the benefits of the offering to the customer, while also creating a link between the offering and price that maintains mutual value for both parties.
Will cloud adoption wane in the light of the recent disclosures? Maybe? But only if we fail to do our jobs as technology marketers and sellers to effectively communicate the value of the cloud.
1. Winning on the Margin: The B2B Value Imperative. By Mike Moorman, ZS Associates