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Data governance in the cloud versus on-premise: Which to use

Data governance involves developing strategies and practices to ensure high-quality data throughout its lifecycle.

However, besides deciding how to manage data governance, you must choose whether to apply the respective principles in an on-premise setting or the cloud.

Here are four pointers to help:

1. Choose On-Premise When Third-Party Misconduct Is a Prevalent Concern

One of the goals of data governance is to determine the best ways to keep data safe. That's why data safety comes into the picture when people choose cloud-based or on-premise solutions. If your company holds sensitive data like health information and you're worried about a third-party not abiding by your data governance policies, an on-premise solution could be right for you.

Third-party cloud providers must abide by regulations for storing health data, but they still make mistakes. Some companies offer tools that let you determine a cloud company's level of risk and see the safeguards it has in place to prevent data breaches. You may consider using one of those to assess whether third-party misconduct is a valid concern as you strive to maintain data governance best practices.

One thing to keep in mind is that the shortcomings of third-party companies could cause long-term damage for your company's reputation. For example, in a case where a cloud provider has a misconfigured server that allows a data breach to happen, they're to blame. But, the headlines about the incident will likely primarily feature your brand and may only mention the outside company in a passing sentence.

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Light trails from network switches illuminate fiber optic cables, center, and copper Ethernet cables inside a communications room at an office in London, U.K., on Monday, May 21, 2018. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will work with the Home Office to publish a white paper later this year setting out legislation, according to a statement, which will also seek to force tech giants to reveal how they target abusive and illegal online material posted by users. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

If you opt for on-premise data governance, your company alone is in the spotlight if something goes wrong, but it's also possible to exert more control over all facets of data governance to promote consistency. When you need scalability, cloud-based technology typically allows you to ramp up faster, but you shouldn't do that at the expense of a possible third-party blunder.

2. Select Cloud-Based Data Governance If You Lack Data Governance Maturity

Implementing a data governance program is a time-consuming but worthwhile process. A data governance maturity assessment model can be useful for seeing how your company's approach to data governance stacks up to industry-wide best practices. It can also identify gaps to illuminate what has to happen for ongoing progress to occur.

Using a data governance maturity assessment model can also signal to stakeholders that data governance is a priority within your organization. However, if your assessments show the company has a long way to go before it can adhere to best practices, cloud-based data governance could be the right choice.

That's because the leading cloud providers have their own in-house data governance strategies in place. They shouldn't replace the ones used in-house at your company but could help you fill in the known gaps while improving company-wide data governance.

3. Go With On-Premise If You Want Ownership

One of the things that companies often don't like about using a cloud provider for data governance is that they don't have ownership of the software. Instead, they usually enter into a leasing agreement, similarly to leasing an automobile. So, if you want complete control over the software used to manage your data, on-premise is the only possibility which allows that ownership.

One thing to keep in mind about on-premise data governance is that you are responsible for data security. As such, you must have protocols in place to keep your software updated against the latest security threats.

Cloud providers usually update their software more frequently than you might in an on-premise scenario. That means you have to be especially proactive about dealing with known security flaws in outdated software. Indeed, on-premise data governance has the benefit of ownership, but your organization has to be ready to accept all the responsibility that option brings.

4. Know That Specialized Data Governance Tools Are Advantageous in Both Cases

You've already learned a few of the pros and cons of on-premise versus cloud-based solutions to meet your data governance requirements. Don't forget that no matter which of those you choose, specialty software can help you get a handle on data access, storage, usage and more. For example, software exists to help companies manage their data lakes whether they are on the premises or in the cloud.

Those tools can sync with third-party sources of data to allow monitoring of all the data from a single interface. Moreover, they can track metadata changes, allowing users to become more aware of data categorization strategies.

Regardless of whether you ultimately decide it's best to manage data governance through an on-premise solution or in the cloud, take the necessary time to investigate data governance tools. They could give your company insights that are particularly useful during compliance audits or as your company starts using data in new ways.

Evaluate the Tradeoffs

As you figure out if it's better to entrust data governance to a cloud company or handle it on-site, don't forget that each option has pros and cons.

Cloud companies offer convenience, but only if their data governance principles align with your needs. And, if customization is one of your top concerns, on-premise data governance gives you the most flexibility to make tweaks as your company evolves.

Studying the advantages and disadvantages of these options carefully before making a decision should allow you to get maximally informed about how to accommodate for your company's present and future needs.

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