Drivers and barriers of cloud computing adoption in international organizations

Cloud computing offers international organizations a variety of choices and access to novel solutions, while at the same time, the very nature of its dynamic and open architecture poses risks, so that some of its most appealing attributes may also constitute barriers to its adoption. The following sections summarize the drivers and barriers of cloud computing for international organizations, drawing from the two studies mentioned above.

Drivers of cloud computing adoption for international organizations

Flexibility and ease of deployment

Flexibility and ease in deploying computing resources and application systems are cited as drivers for the adoption of cloud computing.’ The notion of “flexibility” refers to several characteristics, either specific or vague, but generally is a concept linked to both the ease of setting up and using cloud technologies. Due to the virtual nature and online delivery of services, cloud computing requires neither physical set-up by the client, nor physical replacement of hardware and network infrastructures.51 It is therefore seen to be a more user-friendly technology than traditional computing models.52 Public cloud-based SaaS services such as Google Drive and Dropbox are often already used on an ad hoc, informal basis within organizations, as well as by individuals in their private lives.53 The qualities of ease and flexibility may be especially attractive for organizations that struggle with internal IT services, due to inadequate IT capacity and resources, or a perception of poor IT services and lack of IT knowledge among staff’4 However, the JIU cautions that the ease of using standardized, out-of-the-box cloud products could mean a corresponding lack of flexibility when it comes to customization.55

Enhanced availability and access

Enhanced availability refers to increased access to computing services at any time of day and from any location. Cloud computing offers “broad network access" largely through the “public Internet”” as well as through private networks; it is designed to be available globally, through any type of computing device, such as “mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations.”’ Cloud computing appeals to international organizations that are composed of field offices scattered across various continents, whose work often relies on collaboration with multiple stakeholders and third parties. It is cited as a technology that offers global access and helps to reduce complexity and facilitate collaboration,58 providing ready access to records that can be shared outside the organization, in a manner that is “expedient" and convenient.’ ’ In addition, some international organizations have decentralized reporting structures and systems of governance; field offices may operate relatively independently and make their own informed decisions on the selection of cloud services.60 Cloud computing has the potential to provide the “backbone for ICT infrastructure of field offices” and to support the virtualization of office applications.61

Cloud computing may also be perceived as an especially viable technology for access to open data, historical archives, and “non-sensitive” records, in other words, for sharing and storing public and/or unclassified data and records.62 Since publicrecords represent a lower risk to data privacy and security, some organizations have started to use cloud computing by first deploying documents that have already been disclosed to the public.63

Service continuity

Related to enhanced availability is the capacity for cloud computing to assure service continuity in times of need. The operation of multiple data centres throughout the world for processing data “allow[s] for redundant facilities, multiple backup locations and worldwide support and systems 24 hours a day and seven days a week, facilitating business continuity ... that cannot be matched,” even by the pooled resources of UN organizations. ’ Business and digital continuity are critical in times of calamity or urgency, such as “natural catastrophes,”6’ “power failures or other crisis,”66 or when staff have to travel across different field offices on “short notice," and must access shared IT infrastructures and information services to conduct business.67

For example, UN Women shared that within a four-year time frame, they experienced a downtime of less than four hours in terms of the service delivery of their cloud-based email system.68 In order to mitigate the risk of downtime in service interruption, UN Women has developed disaster recovery and business continuity plans. However, the effective implementation of these plans depends upon the reliability of cloud providers to fulfil their obligations as specified in the 69


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