Today, many multinational organizations are going through some kind of finance, tax, or IT transformation project to drive efficiency and reduce costs. Often, these transformations include the use of technology to automate processes or centralizing common functions through the use of shared centers. No matter what delivery model that your organization finds best to support statutory reporting or other compliance tasks, there are four elements that must work together in harmony to enable success: people, process, data, and technology.
For this multi-part blog series, we’ve interviewed industry experts and customers just like you to get their take on these crucial four elements and what they mean for centralizing and standardizing compliance operations. In our first installment, we heard from Ed Heffernan, co-founder of Barden Financial Recruitment Agency, as he talked through trends he’s seen in recruitment for shared service centers and tips for companies looking to set up a shared service center (SSC) or expand their current operation. In our second installment, Shane Nolan, Senior Vice President at IDA Ireland, discussed trends he’s seen in the market for shared service centers (SSCs) and why Ireland can be a strategic location for companies looking to centralize their operations. In our third installment, Kamalesh Karnad, Marketing & Alliances Leader at IBM Finance Services, discussed the trends he’s seen in Business Process Outsourcing industry. In this fourth installment, John Kain, Business Development leader – Capital Markets at Amazon Web Service (AWS), talks through trends he’s seen in cloud computing and items of consideration for organisations moving to the cloud.
What trends have you seen in the market regarding local hosting vs. third-party cloud providers?
Even in financial services, which has typically lagged other enterprises in cloud adoption, cloud has become the new normal as firms of every size are now building new applications on the cloud by default, and are looking to migrate as many of their existing applications as quickly as possible. The companies that AWS work with aren’t asking “should we move” anymore, it’s now “how fast can we move?” and “what are we going to move first?” We’re at what we consider the beginning stages of substantial enterprise and public-sector adoption.
In the last few years, it’s interesting to look at some of the long-standing businesses that have been completely disrupted by born-in-the-cloud companies in a very short amount of time. In financial services, firms like Robinhood and Betterment have transformed the retail investment experience and reduced the costs of managing financial assets, but this transformation is occurring broadly across industries. Take what Pinterest has done in visual search, Stripe in payments, Airbnb in hotels, and Lyft in the transportation industry. These are all businesses that are built on top of the cloud in AWS and are radically changing industries that have been around for a long period of time, or didn’t recently exist. It means, as an enterprise, you no longer have the option of moving slowly. To remain competitive long-term, you must move fast, be agile, and innovate to be competitive.
Why are people moving to the cloud and what are the benefits of cloud computing?
There are five reasons companies are moving so quickly to the AWS Cloud. First, there’s agility. AWS lets customers quickly spin up resources as they need them, deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes. This means they can very quickly develop and roll out new applications, and it means teams can experiment and innovate faster and more frequently. If an experiment fails, they can always de-provision those servers without risk.
The second reason is cost savings. Almost always the conversation starter about moving to the cloud ends up being cost. AWS allows customers to trade capital expense for variable expense, paying for IT as they consume it. And, the variable expense is much lower than what customers can achieve for themselves because of AWS’s economies of scale. For example, Dow Jones has estimated that migrating its data centers to AWS will contribute to a global savings of $100 million in infrastructure costs.
The third reason is elasticity. Customers previously over-provisioned to ensure they had enough capacity to handle their business operations at the peak level of activity. Now, they can provision the amount of resources that they actually need, knowing they can instantly scale up or down with the needs of their business. This reduces cost and improves the customer’s ability to meet their users’ demands.
The fourth reason is that the cloud allows customers to innovate faster. They can focus their highly valuable IT resources on developing applications that differentiate their business and transform customer experiences instead of the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing infrastructure and data centers.
The fifth reason is that AWS has a global infrastructure that enables customers to deploy across that environment in minutes.
How many locations do AWS have data centers? How do you work with clients on their location strategy?
We describe the core AWS global infrastructure in terms of Regions and Availability Zones. Each Region is a separate geographic area, which consists of multiple, isolated locations known as Availability Zones (AZ). AZs represent one or more data centers. We currently have 66 AZs within 21 geographic Regions around the world, with announced plans for 12 more AZs and four more Regions in Bahrain, Cape Town, Jakarta, and Milan. We’re constantly getting feedback from customers on where they would like the next AWS Region, and we have a long list of target locations. In the fullness of time, you can expect AWS Regions in multiple major countries around the world.
We also maintain AWS Edge locations consisting of 187 Points of Presence (176 Edge Locations and 11 Regional Edge Caches) in 69 cities across 30 countries. Additionally, we have announced AWS Outposts, which brings native AWS services, infrastructure, and operating models to virtually any data center, co-location space, or on-premises facility. You can use the same APIs, the same tools, the same hardware, and the same functionality across on-premises and the cloud to deliver a truly consistent hybrid experience. Outposts can be used to support workloads that need to remain on-premises due to low latency or local data processing needs.
How does AWS mitigate risks? Is AWS secure?
Security will always be our top priority, and one of the great things about cloud is that AWS customers inherit all the best practices of AWS policies, architecture, and operational processes built to satisfy the requirements of our most security sensitive customers.
If you examine the AWS Cloud, you’ll see that the same security isolations are employed as those in traditional data centers. These include physical data center security, separation of the network, isolation of the server hardware, and isolation of storage. AWS’s extensive security technologies, 24×7 monitoring and alerting, and rigorous attention to all aspects of securing AWS’s infrastructure services help prevent unauthorized access to data.
Note that security is a shared responsibility with our customers: AWS manages and controls the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to the physical security of the facilities in which the services operate, and AWS customers are responsible for building secure applications. We provide a wide variety of best practices documents, encryption tools, and other guidance our customers can leverage in delivering application-level security measures. In addition, our global community of partners, the AWS Partner Network, offers hundreds of tools and features to help customers meet their security objectives, ranging from network security, configuration management, access control, and data encryption.
Do you have tips on dealing with data privacy from a legal perspective? What steps should you go through in an organization when looking at moving an application to AWS?
First, AWS is vigilant about our customers’ privacy and have implemented sophisticated technical and physical measures to prevent unauthorized access. AWS customers have complete control over who can access their data. AWS customers have always retained ownership and control of their content along with the ability to encrypt it, protect it, move it, and delete it in alignment with their organization’s security policies. AWS provides a robust set of tools to ensure that customer data cannot be accessed by anyone without the appropriate permission.
We have a number of services like AWS CloudTrail to audit access and other operations on AWS resources like data in Amazon S3 buckets. Amazon Macie is a security service that uses machine learning to recognize sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) or intellectual property, and provides dashboards and alerts that give additional visibility into how data is being accessed or moved. These help customers audit and evaluate their configurations, and we will continue to add capabilities that give customers additional ways to triple-check their customizations.
AWS continually monitors the evolving privacy regulatory and legislative landscape to identify changes and determine which tools our customers might need to meet their compliance needs depending upon their applications. We are members of numerous associations focused on protecting privacy and security, and AWS has achieved a number of internationally recognized certifications and accreditations demonstrating compliance with third-party assurance frameworks. The AWS Compliance Center is a central location to research cloud-related regulatory requirements and how they impact different industries, and AWS Artifact provides several compliance reports issued by third-party auditors who have tested and verified our compliance with a variety of global, regional, and industry-specific security standards and regulations. The AWS Compliance page provides details on our programs for HIPPA, HITRUST, GDPR, and EU-US Privacy Shield.
Because AWS customers retain ownership and control over their content within the AWS environment, they also retain responsibilities relating to the security of that content as part of the AWS “shared responsibility” model. Customers should consider the specific requirements that apply to them, including any industry-specific requirements. The relevant privacy and data protection laws and regulations applicable to individual customers will depend on several factors, including where a customer conducts business, the industry in which they operate, the type of content they wish to store, where or from whom the content originates, and where the content will be stored. Customers concerned about their privacy regulatory obligations should first ensure they identify and understand the requirements applying to them, and seek appropriate advice.
Can you explain disaster recovery and how this works?
Disaster recovery is only one component of building highly available and resilient applications. We encourage customers to review the AWS Well Architected Framework, which provides architectural best practices for designing and operating reliable, secure, efficient, and cost-effective systems in the cloud. AWS infrastructure is designed to enable our customers to achieve high availability applications. As mentioned earlier, AWS builds its data centers in multiple geographic Regions, and each of our Regions is architected with multiple AZs to protect data durability and service availability. This offers the maximum resiliency against system disruption.
AWS also designs data centers with significant excess bandwidth connections so that if a major disruption occurs, there is sufficient capacity to enable traffic to be load-balanced to the remaining sites, which minimizes the impact on customers. They’re even architected to withstand the loss of physical infrastructure. This has allowed our regional services like Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon S3 to achieve high availability, providing availability SLAs of 99.99% and 99.95%, respectively. Customers needing even higher levels of availability can use multiple Regions to architect for increasingly higher availability.
Anything else that would be good to share?
Customers ask what’s next in cloud computing, and not surprisingly it is driven by them. Everything AWS does starts with our customers, and we work backwards from there. Roughly 90 to 95% of our roadmap is driven by what our customers tell us matters. If you look at the 100+ services that we’ve built over the last ten years, AWS offers a very broad, robust technology for a range of applications, including compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), security, media processing and application development, deployment, and management, that help our customers address their business needs. This ever-expanding selection of services and deep functionality makes it easier, faster, and more cost-effective to develop new applications and get to market more quickly.
About Amazon Web Services (AWS) – We are the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 165 fully featured services from data centers globally. Millions of customers —including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. For more information, visit https://aws.amazon.com/new/
For more information about technology solutions that can help you automate, centralize, and standardize compliance tasks in a Shared Service Center, visit our Statutory Reporting and Indirect Tax Compliance pages.