Security Still a Little Cloudy in the Cloud

Ralph DeFrangesco

The talk in every data center today is cloud computing. Unfortunately, I don't think enough emphasis has been placed on securing data in the cloud.


Now, I don't want you to think that I am an opponent of cloud computing, because I definitely am not. I think that the cloud will have a very positive impact on IT and our business partners as a whole.


When we use a cloud application, we hope that the supporting infrastructure is secure. When you look at all of the pieces that have to be protected along the way, it's a wonder we trust the cloud at all. But even so, there are some very good reasons to go to a cloud model: speed of deployment, lower costs and the ability to pay only for what you use. Let's make sure that we understand the downside so we can all make educated decisions.


In an environment where companies are going out of business every day, we have to be careful not to choose a vendor that's here today and gone tomorrow. Recently, the demise of cloud database application startup Coghead piqued concerns over stability in the cloud marketplace. I would not want to be the one that has to go back to my boss and tell him that our cloud partner has just gone out of business. Other things to consider are, what will you do if your vendor has the only copy of your data? Even worse, what if it's in their proprietary format?


The next problem we have to deal with is, does your provider comply with the regulations that you have to comply with? Let's say that you have to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. You must make sure that your provider complies as well. For instance, Google and Amazon are not HIPAA certified to store medical record data. Now I know that there are instances where some organizations have used Amazon, but those organizations have stripped out protected health information before sending it to the cloud.


Finally, what happens if your vendor decides not to keep upgrading its application? Times are tough and who knows what development budgets will look like for the next few years. Will vendors spend the money to keep upgrading security or just functional enhancements?


All of these concerns play into security and whether or not you will have a positive experience in the cloud. Increase your chances of being successful by doing your homework. The cloud could either bare a rainbow or rain on your parade.

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