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than buying a bunch or hardware and software and having it sit in your office, waiting for something to go wrong, be outdated, or break down, you work and store your files with an online service that handles all of the technical details.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

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