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Auditing the Cloud

Internal auditors should delve into the complexities and unique risks of moving to a cloud platform.

All types of organizations are relying on cloud computing to improve performance and reduce costs. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. uses the cloud’s elasticity to increase its computing and analytics power during peak periods of drug development to levels not feasible in a traditional data center. Professional services firm Towers Watson says it is saving 40 percent on costs by using a combination of cloud and company-managed servers to help its insurance clients set auto policy rates based on individual drivers’ behavior. Using cloud infrastructure to bypass lengthy technology build cycles enabled Dow Jones and Co. to quickly introduce its financial solutions to the Asian market.

Such successes are a big reason why cloud infrastructure growth is outpacing data center infrastructure growth by more than 46 percent. Commissioning a cloud service provider can enable an organization to off-load much of the difficulty that comes with implementing, maintaining, and physically protecting the systems required for company operations. The organization no longer needs to employ a large team of network engineers, database administrators, developers, and other technical staff. Instead, it can use smaller, in-house teams to maintain the cloud solution and keep everything running smoothly. Moving to the cloud also can introduce new capabilities, such as the ability to add and remove servers based on seasonal demand, an option that would be impractical for a traditional data center.

With cloud computing becoming mainstream, internal auditors need to devise new ways of pinpointing the risks these services pose and verifying the security, reliability, and availability of critical data housed by an outside provider. Based on this assessment, internal auditors can advise their organizations about choosing a cloud service provider and preparing for the challenges of overseeing the cloud platform and infrastructure.

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