Cloud sprawl is the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud services and providers. Cloud sprawl is an inevitable problem that is created by the growing use of cloud services and apps in organizations. Cloud sprawl occurs because an organization lacks visibility and control over its cloud resources. This occurs because individuals and departments in a company will unknowingly use additional cloud services, apps and solutions without permission from the IT department. Cloud sprawl is similar to other organizational issues like server and virtual machine sprawl.

The Root Causes

There are three common scenarios that cause cloud sprawl. First, when different departments unknowingly pay for software-as-a-service that has similar functionality. Second, when department managers forget to close cloud service accounts when certain users transfer or leave the company. Third, when software developers create a lot of cloud resources for a specific project and then forget about them when the project concludes. The biggest danger of unchecked cloud services is financial waste and strain on IT employees.

The Consequences

When cloud resources and user accounts are left active the business must still pay the bill. Cloud sprawl will strain the performance of the IT team because they must continually and minimize vulnerabilities, monitor resource use and troubleshoot proliferating cloud applications. Many organizations have simultaneous small contracts with public cloud providers, such as Google and Amazon, which can actually be consolidated. This means the company may be able to negotiate a better deal with a single cloud provider. An easy and simple solution is an Excel spreadsheet that tracks all cloud accounts.

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Without proper IT controls on cloud deployment, there will be an increased likelihood of data breaches. For example, hackers prefer to use Denial of Service (DOS) attacks on neglected cloud resources because they are more vulnerable. The most common scenario is when many employees open small accounts for one-time or temporary needs, then forgot about them. Employees can access cloud apps via their personal mobile devices, which may be unprotected and poorly secured. Hackers are more likely to target vulnerable mobile devices than highly protected commercial accounts. This is especially true when employees access the company network, which holds confidential client data, using personal mobile devices.

Planning Strategies

IT management should conduct ongoing capacity planning sessions to ensure that apps and systems that migrate to the cloud don’t suffer from connectivity or performance problems. The best way to prevent cloud sprawl is through maintaining a living enterprise cloud strategy. This will require the creation of business workflows, cloud policies and automation procedures. When done correctly, a cloud strategy will transform business objectives into actionable steps and tasks. IT management should review and track service level agreements (SLAs). This will help them verify that they have the right infrastructure for current business needs. An easy way to accomplish this is to review all enterprise-wide cloud usage during management meetings.

Monitoring Solutions

In order to keep a cloud computing usage under control, IT management can easily analyze workloads, provider usage, environments and service performance through various self-monitoring tools and external cloud management services. Conducting regular cloud audits will identify internal control gaps and redundant cloud solutions. For instance, a monthly internal audit by a team of IT employees and management will raise valid questions, identify opportunities for improvement and save money in the long run. Because most employees are not tech-savvy, management should constantly remind them of proper cloud solution usage.

Cloud sprawl is inevitable, but highly manageable through planning and communication. Those who want to know how to carefully select the right cloud provider can visit here.