In a local survey of 500 CTOs, Directors, C-suite respondents and business owners, Fortinet reveals that 89% of South African business leaders view cloud security as a major concern.

The insights also show how businesses are focusing on overcoming significant barriers to cloud adoption, including concerns around cybersecurity (37%) and a lack of technical skills (39%) – factors that potentially limit their ability to harness the full value of cloud computing.

Despite this, South Africa organisations have the right priorities in mind to advance their cloud journeys safely, from defending against malware (65%) to cloud security training (62%) and preventing cloud misconfigurations (56%).

These findings echo the results of Fortinet’s 2023 Global Cloud Security report, which explored how organisations can best overcome security challenges and maximise the benefits of cloud computing.

Cloud security is still a major concern

Global and local businesses share a common concern when it comes to cloud security. 95% of global businesses and 89% of local businesses are concerned about the security of public clouds.

“The same things that are happening in security from a global perspective are happening in South Africa” says Gary Peel, Cloud BDM, Africa at Fortinet. “Security is not geographically isolated. So, whether you’re in SA or the US, you’ve still got the same people trying to attack your systems.”

In the local survey, respondents agreed on the same core concerns regarding protecting both cloud workloads and securing multi-cloud environments. A lack of technical skills tops both as the biggest risk to cloud data security. “With the global market becoming more competitive, SA is losing a lot of its security engineers to global opportunities, creating a deficit in local talent,” Peel affirms.

Interestingly, in the global survey, the misconfiguration of cloud platforms is cited as the number one threat in the public cloud at 59%, while in SA, the same issue ranks 4th at 39.8%. This suggests that in SA there’s a greater focus on basic security risks, such as preventing common cyberattacks, while the more mature market has moved beyond that risk level.

The current state of cloud adoption in South Africa

In South Africa, the cloud computing market is maturing at a healthy pace. Since the introduction of big cloud infrastructure players to the local market, such as AWS in 2018 and Microsoft Azure in 2019, many local businesses are following in the steps of their global counterparts adopting and reaping the benefits of cloud solutions.

“South Africa may be a late adopter, but most of our customers are already using some kind of cloud technology. Industries like FSI are leading the way. They understand the value of the cloud and how it supports rapid innovation in a cost-effective manner – even though their industry is the most stringent regarding compliance,” says Peel.

Examining how businesses are utilising the cloud, the results show that 35.8% of SA businesses have over 50% of their workload in the cloud, where the global equivalent stands at 39%. This discrepancy suggests that global businesses have made further progress with their digital transformation, with SA following not far behind.

“Getting the right people in the organisation to manage and secure the cloud platform is often an issue,” adds Peel. “Collaboration between the cloud and security teams means overcoming a clash of cultures. The security team is viewed as the legacy team, and the cloud team wants to keep pace with business demands. But they need to work together to keep the company’s data secure rather than be reactive after a data breach.”

The barriers and opportunities with cloud computing

While cloud infrastructure has many benefits for business, there are certain barriers which can hinder cloud migration. The core barrier, and one that ranks at number one for global and local businesses at 37% and 39% respectively, is a lack of technical skills.

Fortinet actively focuses on improving the dearth of cybersecurity skills with its comprehensive training platform. “We take training seriously. Our platform offers three levels of security training through our NSE Certification Program, and it’s free and open to the public. We also make sure our partners always keep their certifications up to date.”

Besides the myriad of benefits offered by upskilling, the main value that cloud infrastructure is unlocking for SA is improved performance (59.4%), followed by additional flexibility and scalability (55.6%), and in third place, improved availability and business continuity (48%).

Maximising the value of business data, safely

As organisations look towards the future, their focus lies on maximising the value of their business data. However, they also recognise the imperative for enhanced security measures in cloud computing.

Notably, both global and South African organisations express their intent to allocate more resources towards cloud security, with 60% and 59.8%, respectively, planning to increase their cloud security budget in the coming year. The top focus in South Africa is defending against malware (65,2%), followed by cloud security training (62%), and preventing cloud misconfigurations (56,4%).

Examining the key drivers for considering cloud-based security – better scalability is number one at 56% globally, while the same driver ranks fourth among South African business leaders. Cost savings tops the list for local companies, suggesting a further correlation to cloud security maturity levels.

Peel strongly believes that planning is integral to the success of cloud migration. “Having the right frameworks in place is key for creating secure cloud platforms and ensuring network governance. These frameworks can also include things like identity and access management policies. The Fortinet Security Fabric, for example, offers solutions that help customers to build secure landing zones. This allows security teams to work with a familiar platform and avoid additional burdens,” he explains.

“Without that in place, you’re working with a messy and complex data environment. It’s important to create a culture of cost and security ownership to successfully migrate to the cloud.”

Finally, both global and local findings align on the optimal solution for effectively implementing data protection policies throughout their cloud infrastructure – a single cloud security platform with a unified dashboard.

Peel concludes: “Since cloud technology is evolving rapidly, companies should work with an experienced partner. We work with cloud partners that are Fortinet-certified and can take you along this journey in a secure manner that will actually speed up your cloud migration.”