Sungard Availability Services has sponsored research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis arm of the Economist magazine, into cloud resilience. Recognising that today it is not enough to just react to disaster or disruption but rather to attain a state of organisational resilience, the study explores what CIOs need to do to exploit the cloud’s potential to achieve this goal.

‘Flexing along with the cloud: the path to resilience’ asks how companies can achieve continuity and agility in the cloud and looks at what challenges must be overcome to succeed.

Organisational resilience is about proactively anticipating and preparing for future events, both sudden and gradual, to bounce back more quickly. It’s about setting sights higher than mere business survival to achieving business prosperity by increasing agility, speed and innovation. It is only possible to achieve this by expanding responsibility to involve the whole company in the process.

This is because the more complex goal of attaining resilience is intricately linked to an organisation’s overall business strategy and requires broader mobilisation of corporate capabilities across an organisation—from human resources managers to department heads to those who oversee supply chains. They will need to organise everything ranging from business processes to internal controls to capture value and mitigate the risk inherent in cloud opportunities.

With cloud use now almost universal among organisations and only expected to grow, researchers interviewed senior executives at 304 companies with annual revenues of more than $50m across a variety of industries in the UK, France and US. They found organisational resilience is a top priority for the survey respondents. And 72% say the importance of organisational resilience will only increase over the next three years.

Organisational resilience is defined by the BSI in its BS 65000 Standard as the ability to both quickly bounce back from a major disruption and to “anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to events—both sudden shocks and gradual change” to survive and prosper.

In fact, according to Lyndon Bird, technical director at BSI, the field of Business Continuity Management (BCM) is shifting its focus from BCM to organisational resilience. Business continuity strives to prepare an organisation for effective responses to sudden, major disruptions with minimal business impact. Organisational resilience, in contrast, alters the management posture from a reactive one to proactively anticipating and preparing for future disruption—and not just sudden cataclysmic ones, but also gradual strategic shifts.

When planning how to achieve their agility goals, 43% of companies say they plan to adopt new technologies. Of these, the cloud emerges as the leading enabler of resilience. As Tanuja Randery, President, UK & Ireland at French electronics conglomerate Schneider Electric, notes, “Companies are no longer considering whether to migrate to the cloud but rather what…and how best to migrate.”

However, security has always been seen as the chief challenge in cloud adoption and the survey confirmed that perceptions have not changed. More than half (53%) of respondents are concerned about security breaches and leaks of confidential data while 52% were worried about disruption from cyberattacks.

But while security fears are undoubtedly a barrier to cloud adoption, a third (33%) actually cite enhanced security in the cloud as a benefit. Furthermore, none of the experts interviewed by the EIU could recall a recent major incident relating to data security or service availability within their cloud systems.

One interviewee gave a possible explanation as to why the cloud triumphs over security concerns. Noting the heavy investments cloud providers have made to address the security challenges, he said, “It is much easier today to provide 100% uptime so the cloud is actually a better place for security…On-premise is more risky.”

The business continuity agenda has traditionally been part of the risk and compliance function which has struggled to gain broader buy-in from other parts of the business — primarily because it has been considered by other functions as “not our problem”. Consequently, the increased emphasis on attaining resilience is achieving what BCM only rarely could - gaining prominence at the highest levels of an organisation.

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