Privacy Issues Surrounding Cloud Computing

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source
Cloud computing is one of the latest trends in Information Technology. It is the process of using a network of remote servers to store, process and manage data and programs for use within the company. Previously all hosting of this information was done on local terminals or on local servers and accessed via a Local Area Network (LAN).

The advantages of the new data storage system are bountiful. This system allows one software license to cover many employees that otherwise would have needed many licenses. Cloud computer is also beneficial for companies that employ a hot-desk policy as the employee can access all their saved work from any terminal.

Of course with every new technology there are issues.

The Disadvantages

One disadvantage companies should be aware of possible of outages. If the server hosting the data goes down, your entire workforce is left with no access to their work. In contrast; if local terminals store the data, one computer failing only results in one staff member having no access.

The big concern with cloud computing, which worries a lot of IT professionals, is the risk to data security. According to a survey of US Business Executives last year, 26% had experienced some data or trade secrets stolen and 40% of those who were surveyed thought that it was becoming easier for data theft to occur.

Data Protection Laws in the UK state that companies must keep data secure and be used only in specific business related activities. However storing data with a third party, who owns and maintains the server, raises the question of who is responsible for the management of the data security.

In addition these large banks of data are increasingly becoming a prime target for malicious computer based attacks. By taking down the server, dozens of companies can be rendered inert. And unlike with an internal storage system, in-house IT departments can do little to get the company back to work.

However companies should be more concerned for the security of the data. There are many organisations that would be eager to obtain valuable data from a company. It has not been unheard of companies stealing business leads to propose their own services or products.

One of the greatest fears is consumer information, including financial details, being stolen for internet scams and rogue purchases.

Combating Data Theft

Combating data theft has become one of the major focuses for internet security companies. The very basic precaution that companies can use is data encryption. Of course security experts would be keen to point out that simple encryption requires a lot of trust between you and your server provider.

To circumnavigate this you could obtain a split key encryption protocol where an IT security provider holds part of the encryption key and your company holds the other part. The encrypted data is held with the server host. This provides some security to the data; but other options should be explored depending on your business and its needs.

The Bottom Line

Despite there being a risk to data – cloud storage has a number of benefits which outweigh the risks to organisations. For instance information can be taken anywhere using cloud storage and accessed through most modern mobile devices. So holding meetings or delivering print proofs to your print supplier is easier and more secure as no physical copies are held.

Companies must remember that data stored on paper is just as vulnerable to the eagerest criminal or competitor. And its more frequent that it is lapses in concentration or human error that has caused some of the biggest data leaks.

About the Author: David Malone created this piece for document options, a brighton scan and print company. David enjoys blogging about science and business and enjoys experiementing with silk screen and print techniques; visit him here at Document Options or on facebook.

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