With the increasing focus on driving value from data as businesses try to boost efficiency, collaborate with partners and innovate with new business models, it’s important to note that more than half of UK businesses are concerned about the safety of their data. Much of their concern rest on the growth of cloud computing and the potential risks that shared systems and storage across geographies bring.

Yet these fears are not preventing adoption, with 23 per cent of CIOs already using the cloud and a further 53 percent planning to do so within the next 12 months. That, at least, is encouraging because good business is founded on the principles of innovation – so long as those ideals are balanced with an examination of the impact that business change can bring.

Certainly, given the characteristics of cloud technology, such as agility, on demand computing and pay per use, progressive businesses are beginning to catch on to the benefits that operating in ‘the cloud’ can bring. It’s no surprise though that some concerns exist but, with a measured approach, innovative organisations will be in a strong position to benefit from cloud services without exposing themselves to un-necessary risks.

And as the UK prepares to mark Safer Internet Day on 7 February, there has never been a better time to draw attention to how organisations can make best use of the ‘online environment’. Quite simply, those that take the time to analyse how the cloud can improve business efficiency and support innovation, rather than backing away through concerns or misunderstanding are the ones most likely to succeed. A do nothing approach is not an option moving forwards.

That’s why, as a starting point, businesses should consider three key areas of action and exploration. To begin with they should deal with their data management internally. Businesses need a defined and implemented data management policy. This should classify data in terms of privacy, looking at that which may be sensitive, business and customer confidential and less restricted.

That will enable the business to make informed decisions on what data should reside internally, perhaps on a traditional platform or Private Cloud environment and that which can be outsourced to a third party Public Cloud service.

Questions also need to be answered around the criticality of the business services which rely on that data. With Public Cloud often offering reduced service levels over existing environments, some services core to the business may not be suitable for Public Cloud, as it is today. The business needs to define requirements for service and data availability, indeed performance, and test the Cloud market for suitability.

Moving back to data management, there are also legal and regulatory considerations. Management and monitoring of data is a critical issue and businesses need to keep on top of where it is located, geographically as well as internally or with a third party, for their own confidentiality requirements, external data protection issues and the need for industry compliance.

Whilst it is said that every cloud has a silver lining, the challenge for CEOs and their IT teams is to harness the technology in a way that fosters growth, yet retains security. What matters now is that businesses are in a position to innovate without comprising their employee or customer data.