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BLOG: The cloud - soft and fluffy or a serious contender?

Andy Cordial | April 7, 2011
With questions still remaining over its security, how can organisations best utilise cloud computing?

When you board an aeroplane, you're asked to buckle your seat belt and listen to an important safety announcement. The same is true before you propel your data down the runway and jet it into the cloud.

So, here's what's in our safety demonstration:

Pack carefully

If you've flown before, you'll know that there is limited space in the cabin with the majority of your luggage having to travel in the hold. Therefore, when you pack, you make sure your most valuable items are squeezed into your in-flight bag. For data, it's not very different.

Before packing all your data off into the cloud you need to sort it and, for most organisations, not all of it will be suitable to store in the 'hold'. If the data contains sensitive information that, if compromised, could damage your organisation, then you need to be asking yourself if it really should be jetted off into the cloud?

Prepare for passport control

So, sticking with our aviation theme, before you get anywhere near an aeroplane, and your luggage in its hold, you have to pass through stringent security checks and have your passport examined. Legitimate travellers will have the correct documentation and allowed access but, in an ideal world, those that don't will be identified and prevented access before they can cause any damage.

Assuming you've decided to store your data in the cloud, you need to make sure your passport controls are as effective. If they're too stringent or time consuming, legitimate users may not be allowed access. However, if they're too lax, anyone can get in and violate the data.

Providing flexible access may mean your users will want to use personal devices from outside the corporate environment. This can open a whole can of worms as the device may be infected with key loggers, or other malware, that could jeopardise the data or application's security.

If data is password protected in the real world, then virtually it needs even stronger defences. The question has to be asked whether cloud security offers this and, if you can't be guaranteed, then serious doubts must remain over its suitability for your organisation.

Fasten your seatbelt and stow your table in the upright position

Personally, I always wonder just how effective an aeroplane seatbelt is but, luckily, I've never been on a plane when it has experienced violent turbulence or even crashed so I haven't found out. Could the same be true for cloud seatbelts?

New encryption software is creeping into the market designed to protect data stored in the cloud. With AES 256-bit encryption accepted as the most secure option in the real world, I wouldn't recommend anything less should even be considered for virtual storage.


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