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Is Cloud Computing as Safe as You’re Led to Believe?

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You’ve likely heard the buzz about Cloud Computing. It seems everyone is talking about “computing in the Cloud.” There’s a lot of talk and a lot of misconceptions about the cloud out there. The biggest concern among critics is safety – particularly, your data safety.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is simple. Rather than buying a bunch or hardware and software and having it sit in your office, waiting for something to go wrong, be outdated, or break down, you work and store your files with an online service that handles all of the technical details.

In 2011, Cloud Computing was a $40.7 billion business. It’s expected to rise to a $241 billion market by 2020, according to analysts at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., based technology market research company. Tech firms such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have already entered the Cloud Computing market with products that include storage and software and varying capabilities with smartphones.

What’s the Concern?

Recently, concern about cloud-based services has been getting a bad rap in the media. There have been news reports of Sony’s PlayStation network getting hacked and offline for six weeks. Amazon’s EC2 cloud-based platform failed, which brought services such as Reddit, FourSquare, and Quora offline.

Most of what we’ve seen are security breaches that have resulted in downtime. Personal information, such as customer and employee Social Security numbers and birthdates were not lost. Protecting this type of information is a concern, of course, since a cloud provider may have sensitive information for thousands of individuals. Of the breaches reported thus far, we haven’t seen this kind of personal information lost.

These cloud breaches have provided the press with lots of information to cast a doubt over the usefulness and effectiveness of cloud computing. Most media reports talk about how unsafe and unreliable cloud computing is, especially when it comes to protecting our precious data. Yes, cloud computing systems are fallible, but no more so than any computing system regardless of where it’s based.

What’s the Reality?

The reality is that cloud computing is just as safe as housing your own data on a dedicated server, only much less expensive. The truth is that a complete cloud computing solution can position your company to compete better for many years to come. Cloud computing can stabilize your technology, reduce IT expenses, and improve performance. Your employees will be more productive and your business will be on the cutting edge of technology.

The way to make the cloud more secure depends on a company’s ability to build trust. Cloud essentially means your data is on someone else’s hard drive. Do you trust that other entity with your data? This trust is no different than the levels of trust companies have built over the years with vendors and IT professionals. We tend to build trust blindly. We trust vendors, we trust licensing, we trust litigation. All of these critical applications are a part of a human system, a human system that has the potential to betray us. Cloud computing can help us move back toward trust.

How Can I Build Trust?

The question isn’t asking how you can build trust with your cloud computing provider. The more important question is can you trust yourself? Building trust for yourself means:

  • Using secure, unique passwords on all accounts and devices.
  • Enabling locks and passwords on computers and phones.
  • Using two-factor authentication, when available.
  • Running the latest version of an operating system.

Before signing up for new cloud services, be sure to research the company. You’ll want to read privacy policies for any company you agree to give your data to. Important questions you can ask a cloud service include:

  • Is encryption built in?
  • Does the company give your data to governments when requested?
  • Who control the servers?
  • Does the company own their own servers? Or do they rent out servers from other companies.

These steps aren’t a 100% guarantee that your data will be safe, but they go a long way in minimizing how attackers can access your accounts.

If you’ve been thinking about moving your organization to cloud computing, the time may be right for the move. The cloud isn’t a myth, it isn’t going anywhere, and it’s much safer than you probably think. If you have an outdated IT infrastructure with old software and a large capital expenditure looming, it’s definitely time to take a closer look at cloud computing.

Happy business team

7 Security Myths About Cloud Computing

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As cloud computing becomes more popular in the business world, questions about cloud computing and security around cloud computing are arising. There are still many IT professionals and corporate decision makers that are leery of cloud security because of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the technology. We’re ready to debunk 7 of the most common myths about cloud computing security.

Myth #1: The Cloud is insecure.

Perhaps the biggest myth relating to cloud computing is that your data is not safe in the cloud. This simply isn’t true. The natural perception is to believe that things outside of your control (or outside of your hosted server’s control) are less secure. However, dozens of experts are recognizing that cloud providers have greater expertise and more technical staff to handle all of your security concerns. Cloud companies are beginning to spend at a scale that cannot be matched by a single organization. That means more cloud security for the end user.

Myth #2: The cloud is easily breached.

The cloud is accessed publicly, but that doesn’t mean your infrastructure is available to everyone on the public Internet. There may not be as many trained professionals with skills to secure cloud applications, but when you trust professionals who are specifically trained in cloud computing, you can rest assured that your data is safe and secure. The same breaches that happen in the cloud can also happen in a private data center.

Myth #3: The end user is powerless when it comes to cloud security.

As an end user, you have some control over security. It’s up to you to exert that control. You can control your cloud data and you can also control your relationship with your cloud provider. Simon Bain, SearchYourCloud CEO, notes that on a corporate level, this means not allowing the cloud provider to hold encryption keys. On a personal level, be careful what information is stored in the cloud, especially when it comes to your social networks, shopping online, and online banking activity.

Myth #4: The Cloud is all about the money.

While using the cloud is sometimes a cost-effective measure, not all cloud services are inexpensive. For example, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is seeing a price drop, but Software as a Service (SaaS) remains at a consistent price. Assuming that cloud computing always saves money will limit the opportunities using the cloud can provide. Saving money may end up being one of the best benefits for switching to the cloud, but there’s much more to consider.

Myth #5: You can’t control your data in the cloud.

If you run a global company, your data is going to be traveling all over the world. Unless you want to build multiple data centers, you’ll need cloud service providers to operate locally. You’ll need these providers, but you’re still in control of where your data travels. You’re responsible for following local data protection regulations and for knowing how your data is protected. Instead of arranging for local providers to keep track of all your information, a global cloud service provider can operate data centers in multiple countries, while keeping you up-to-date on local regulations. When workloads being moved to the cloud require it, a private cloud is a simple way to address data governance.

Myth #6: Security strategies can wait.

Setting and defining a cloud security strategy should be top priority for both the company and the IT department from the get-go with any cloud deployment. Not thinking about strategy is a big risk your business shouldn’t take. Even after proper security measures are in place, on-going monitoring and reporting should always remain at the top of the to-do list.

Myth #7: Cloud security is too difficult to maintain.

Believing this myth leads companies to either compromise security in the name of business requirements or leads companies to refrain from using the cloud for critical applications. Security issues for the cloud and on-premise data centers are similar. Firewall configurations, testing, and VPNs are all just as important when using a cloud provider as they are when working with traditional security methods.

It’s easy to understand why so many people are confused about the vulnerability of cloud computing. Fortunately, after separating the fact from the fiction, the benefits of cloud computing, along with their security measures, shouldn’t be hard to grasp.