Cloud Cover

CloudCover_IMAGEAs somebody who is creative by nature I have often been accused of having my head in the clouds. Was I ahead of my time? As you can’t avoid the term ‘cloud computing’ no matter how hard you try. Companies now offer ‘cloud services’ and you can do ‘cloud backup’ or ‘cloud collaboration’. Apple has iCloud, Google has a suite of cloud based products, from GMail to Google Docs. Evernote, Dropbox and more are all living in the cloud. No matter where you are, no matter what device you are using, you can get access to your data as long as it all lives in the cloud. Does this mean you need to worry less about cyber security? Sadly not.

Now I hate to break it to you, but cloud services in all their forms do not float around the world buffeted by a light breeze high up in a beautiful blue sky. The cloud is actually very firmly ground based and it will reside in one, or more data centres across the globe. These data centres, who may be powered by technology from IBM, Oracle, HP and other IT enterprise big hitters, allow many smaller companies – to locate equipment in them and start providing cloud services, from data sharing and collaboration tools, to hosted email services.

The shift to cloud has many business benefits, firstly you can start to rely less on your in house servers and the team that supports them. You can gain greater uptime, throughput and expansion capabilities for much less expense. Many IT headaches that companies deal with actually evaporate; cyber security isn’t one of them.

If a company is considering a ‘move to the cloud’ one of their key questions should be around cyber security and to determine if there is a greater or lesser risk by moving critical business data offsite to servers that could well be located outside of the UKs borders. Would a hacker be more interested in attacking your server, located in a little server room in your office, or trying to take down the underpinnings of Amazons Web Services (AWS)? If you move data to a cloud provider and it gets compromised in any way, what laws and regulations cover you? – or don’t cover you! You may have got cyber liability insurance in place, but will that assist in the event of your cloud service provider suffering an attack? The list can go on and on.

You may decide to do hybrid cloud approach, where you keep business critical, or business sensitive data in house and less critical data on cloud services. You may consider only going with ‘named’ providers such as Microsoft or Google as opposed to ‘Freds Cloud Computing Company’, located in a flat above the local chippy. Choose wisely and with the same level of due diligence you would use when selecting any other IT provider.

Many cloud providers will supply details on their security measures, in fact Google have an entire web page devoted to the levels of security they have put in place, from physical security and access restrictions to the continued monitoring for malicious code. Amazon have done something very similar too. The bottom line for these big cloud providers is that none of them would ever want to be the ‘TalkTalk’ of cloud, by that I mean the one that suffers from a highly public and embarrassing breach, leading to severe reputation damage. Therefore, cyber security is one of their highest priority issues.

Also consider that smaller companies that offer a cloud service, may in fact house their offerings within the infrastructure of a major cloud service provider. If you take a look at Adobe they host their Managed Services Program, including their Adobe Connect web conferencing software on Amazon Web Services, therefore benefiting greatly from the security measures that are already in place. So if you were to ‘buy in’ to cloud services offered by Adobe, some research will tell you that it is hosted by Amazon, who have a comprehensive breakdown of all the security measures they have in place, enabling you to determine if the risk is greater, or lesser then trying to do it yourself.

Alongside Adobe Amazon also provide cloud services to Netflix and the highly data sensitive NASA. Now I’m not saying this as a thinly veiled advertisement for Amazon, but more that if the security measures in place satisfy such companies as those, then they will more than likely satisfy you.

Like all technology trends and investments, you can be swiftly attracted to the functionality of a product or service as opposed to its security, but moving to the cloud requires a longer term more considered approach with cyber security as a top priority. The companies do provide very comprehensive information on their security measures which can make for very interesting reading, but to do that we all need to get our heads of out the clouds!

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