The cloud as a concept was always going to have a challenging run. Whilst the ease of access appeals to pretty much any IT professional and business, the lack of a centralised location for data is an odd concept for those interested in the preservation of data. Indeed the cloud has built it’s reputation on the fact that all data is stored on “the internet” – potentially meaning no centralised location but shared across a bank of locations – fluid data storage. So should businesses really feel uneasy when it comes to the cloud or should the positives outweigh these concerns? What exactly are the security risks?
There have been several high-profile failures of cloud computing recently. For example, a data centre owned by the online retailer Amazon, malfunctioned and disrupted several popular sites and services that relied on cloud computing. Several other large corporations have suffered similar disruptions, these include Salesforce customers being unable to access sales details and customers of Microsoft’s azure cloud platform.
There are several methods of combating cloud service outages. Distributing resources over multiple cloud data centres and making them easy to move from one data centre to another can help to minimise the impact of such disruptions. The fact that so many large, popular websites were affected so severely by recent events suggests that too much trust is being put on these services, without assessing the associated risks.
The very nature of cloud computing raises some issues for security. By distributing data around a remote network of servers hosted on the Internet the whole system naturally becomes far less secure than in-house data storage. Some other key security concerns include: cloud hosting companies’ access to a client’s data and the legal issues around data being stored in different countries.
The solution to these problems largely depends on the websites and the services they provide. Small businesses will benefit from cloud storage and hosting because, despite the risks, they wouldn’t be able to maintain their own data centres with appropriate security measures without bankrupting themselves. Whereas institutions that store lots of confidential information must have their own data centres and should have the financial resources to maintain them.
Generally speaking, cloud services actually have better security than many IT companies, but the nature of their business makes them a larger target for hackers. Despite outsourcing IT hosting systems to the cloud it is imperative that all employees handle their company’s data responsibly to mitigate potential security risks. Cloud service providers can also do a lot to help increase the security of their system, such as handing full server management to the customer. This means that they have full control of their data and switches the focus to merely renting maintained hardware from the cloud provider rather than relying on them to manage software. This is a good solution for many companies, especially if they have someone capable of managing the server interface correctly.
The future of cloud computing generally looks bright. The possibility of small companies renting out online server space is very positive: it enables them to compete with companies who have much greater in-house resources. However, security is clearly an issue and there are a number of steps that need to be taken to ensure that companies have a safe and reliable environment to conduct business in.
About the Author: This article was written on behalf of ElasticHosts – providers of cloud VPS and hosting solutions.
Image by John Ross