Public Cloud Concerns: Myth vs. Reality

CloudDespite the increasing popularity and adoption of cloud services, many misperceptions still abound about their potential disadvantages. Companies considering a cloud service purchase should carefully sort through both the hype and the myths about cloud computing before making a purchasing decision.

Cloud misperceptions vary, but three primary myths have emerged that might cause IT decision makers to stop and reconsider their cloud purchase plans. However, the reality behind these myths should give buyers reassurance when it comes time to make a cloud decision.

The Data Center Death Knell Myth

With data and functionality increasingly moving to cloud services, IT employees may be concerned about being replaced by the very technologies they choose to deploy.

While this isn’t a completely unfounded concern, the reality is that cloud services are largely being adopted by younger and smaller companies that don’t already have in-house IT departments. The ability of the cloud to provide IT services that such companies would otherwise have to build from scratch is one of its primary advantages.

For companies that already have an established IT team, cloud services aren’t likely to steal away jobs anytime soon. Companies may move some of their data and processes, particularly storage, to the cloud, but most companies will continue to house critical data on private networks in a hybrid approach. In-house IT will continue to be needed to support private network operations.

The Security Myth

One of the most common and persistent misperceptions about the cloud is that it opens up companies to a variety of new security risks. The thought of having data leave the safety of the corporate security fortress and travel via potentially unprotected connections to a public cloud creates concern over attacks on a company’s critical data.

In reality, because of their singular focus on providing data services, cloud providers often have some of the best security experts on staff who focus entirely on predicting security vulnerabilities and protecting against attacks on client data.

The Data Black Hole Myth

Some companies worry that once they allow their data to transfer to a cloud service, they will lose control over it or have difficulty moving it or getting it back. This myth likely circulates because in the past, it had some truth to it. Making a cloud transition sometimes meant data was locked in with the chosen provider.

But trends surrounding this cloud concern are changing. Some of the larger cloud providers offer tools that make it easier to control and move data when the company chooses. Amazon’s Snowball appliance allows customers to easily migrate data, and Velostrata introduced an appliance that eases the migration of data to and from the public cloud.

Making an Informed Cloud Purchase

Cloud services provide many benefits to companies that want to improve their operations and increase efficiencies. IT decision makers have a responsibility to choose a cloud service that protects the company’s data assets and provides the right services for its users.

All technologies have pros and cons. Deciphering myth from reality surrounding security, data availability, and future IT employment can help decision makers make the right cloud choice.

Why BaaS Is Becoming Tomorrow’s Standard in Data Storage

shutterstock_119366347Using the cloud for secure Backup as a Service (BaaS) data storage is rapidly becoming a quality that potential clients look for when evaluating business partners. In a high energy business environment with ever increasing dependency on information and data storage, the consequences of data loss can be catastrophic.

How It Works

Online backup systems operate by using agent software to compress designated data files, folders, and drives, then encapsulate the compressed data in encrypted packets and transmit them to an off-site facility where the data is stored.
The initial backup can be time consuming, but in subsequent sessions backup systems save bandwidth and time by using algorithms to scan the selected folders and drives and focus only on data files that have been added or changed since the last update.

In-House Backup Difficulties

Backing up data is nothing new in the business world. Traditionally it has been a function performed as time allowed by IT professionals within the company, and the data was stored on location. There are a number of drawbacks to this method. Three of the more prevalent are:

  • cost of IT personnel,
  • cost of equipment, and
  • potential for total data loss.

Online backup systems provide viable solutions via the cloud to each of these persistent problems with in-house data backup.

Labor Savings

Once the agent software has been installed, the company’s IT professionals need only designate the material to be backed up and schedule a recurring time window for the backup to take place. After that, the process becomes automatic. No further active participation is needed on the part of employees. The result is less manpower and less labor cost.

Infrastructure Savings
The savings in equipment cost is immediately obvious. Eliminating the need to purchase, keep, and continuously update data storage equipment translates to a great deal of savings even after the cost of the online backup is taken into account.

Reduced Risk of Total Loss

One of the more often overlooked advantages of online backup is the reduction of total data loss risk. When data is backed up and kept on location, the original data and the backed up data are both at risk if the building is somehow destroyed. If the backup data is stored off-site, as is the case with an online backup system, the destruction of the business building does not mean that all of the business’s vital data is forever gone.

Looking Forward to BaaS and the Cloud

Any enterprise that does business over many years will learn that suffering data loss is inevitable. The deciding factor between data loss being a mere inconvenience or a serious financial disaster will depend on how well prepared a company is for the problem.

It should be noted that as the business field of play changes, the cloud becomes more essential in daily operations. Businesses that fail to adapt to the ever increasing influence of the cloud will find themselves left behind. Existing and prospective clients are becoming more conscious of whom they do business with. In increasing numbers, potential businesses are looking at survivability when choosing their partners.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of the Cloud

shutterstock_270601862Getting involved with the cloud is a popular proposition when looking at acquiring new technology. A company should consider how cloud technology relates to the business as well as current regulations before moving to the cloud.

Understand the Benefits of the Cloud

Businesses should first consider how a move to the cloud can be beneficial. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, for example, enable employees to view customer interactions so that technicians, sales staff, and customer service agents are aware of how other employees interacted with a customer at certain intervals. Management can also more easily monitor employees from a single dashboard. These actions are difficult to replicate outside of a cloud service.

Understand Any Potential Negatives

Preparations should be made to understand what migration to the cloud will entail as well as what could potentially go wrong. For example, pieces of confidential customer data may be collected and stored in the cloud and will require protection. Confidential company data such as product costs and internal reports will exist in this tool as well, so internal security is also a consideration.

Other factors that should be investigated when searching for a cloud provider include the potential for customer data to be lost or compromised if the system is hacked as well as the actions a company would need to take if the cloud provider suffered a major outage.

Understand Cloud Provider Services

It is important to investigate what a cloud provider does to protect its clients. Pull data from the cloud provider from time to time so that backups are in place in the event that the relationship with the cloud provider ends or the provider takes much longer than the service agreement allows to resolve technical issues when they occur. If data can’t be exported easily from the beginning, that should be a red flag.

There is a lot of good that can come from the cloud. Capital expenses can be reduced or even eliminated and employees will be able to access their data in a variety of ways, among many other benefits. But it is important that a business makes preparations to transition to the cloud so that the company does not experience any pains while growing into the technology.

Three Cloud Choices for Enterprises

shutterstock_108845345With the growing popularity and use of cloud services, IT administrators continue to face the choice of whether to maintain their network operations in house, or outsource operations to a third party. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Administrators must carefully evaluate a company’s needs and requirements to determine if a cloud solution makes sense. Not all cloud services are created equal. When deciding among Public, Private, and Hybrid cloud solutions, cost, capabilities, and security needs should be considered.

Public Cloud

Public cloud offerings are affordable, flexible and easy to access but offer less stringent security capabilities. Security is top of mind for network administrators, who have likely taken notice of recent high-profile data breaches.

Public cloud solutions create an additional point of risk by allowing employees to access information from the cloud from potentially insecure networks. Such breaches cause IT administrators to be cautious about the security risks associated with entrusting sensitive to data to servers they don’t control.

Private Cloud

Private cloud offerings, on the other hand, allow enterprises to maintain a certain level of control of data resources. This control allows enterprises to ensure critical company data is kept secure. Other benefits include the ability to control costs. A careful evaluation of the company’s security position is also crucial to determine what data, if any, can be transported and used via a public cloud, and which must remain within the private network.

Private Cloud solutions also provide the ability to customize and optimize services to fit the enterprise’s specific needs. However, private networks sometimes have limited data access, due to fewer interfaces with existing systems. In addition, private networks require in-house support and maintenance, which costs money and personnel resources.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud solutions are a relatively new offering that can give enterprises the benefits of both public and private approaches by allowing enterprises to offload some resources to the public cloud while maintaining control over others. In particular, enterprises may be attracted to the limitless capacity of the public cloud and the ability to buy into that capacity as needed.

With a hybrid solution, companies can take advantage of those benefits, while still selecting which mission-critical data it must keep within the private network in order to protect that data from breaches. While adoption rates are still low for hybrid solutions, research shows an increasing level of interest in such services among enterprises, driven in part by a market that values the ability to customize IT solutions.

Choose Wisely and Succeed

Ultimately, each enterprise must carefully consider current and future needs when selecting a cloud solution. Once these evaluations are made, the company will be in the best possible position to determine which cloud solution best meets needs and requirements.

IoT Market Demands Data Security

shutterstock_65198842In just a few short years, industry experts predict that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a tremendous growth explosion. By the year 2020, research suggests 30 billion devices will be connected in a $3 trillion marketplace. Assuring that this avalanche of data is protected by layers of security is paramount to the industry’s success.

Soon there will be homes where the front doors unlock with a smartphone, its temperature is controlled remotely, and even the oven is turned on by punching a code. “Smart homes” are already on the technological horizon, but the security features must keep pace for viability.

Consumers own many devices that are not just unencrypted, but with marginal to non-existent security features enabled. Some end users leave the factory-set passwords in place, making illegally accessing a device’s data mere child’s play for the average hacker.

Making IoT Devices Secure

Certain qualities are required in order to make the security on IoT devices effective. The security must:

  • Possess cloud capabilities
  • Be platform agnostic
  • Have the ability to facilitate IoT technological ecosystems
  • Be lightweight

The ability to manage security via a cloud platform is a vital component to any implemented system. Cloud management enables manufacturers to patch changes to security configurations once a weak spot is detected – even after consumers purchase the device. The hardware itself can be tethered to private key exchanges to simplify authentication, provisioning, and configuration.

The benefits of utilizing agnostic security platforms are clear. Processing capabilities in IoT devices can enable them to be managed and controlled via the cloud. Transmitting large-scale changes in provisioning, authenticating, and configuring can also be handled at cloud level from a centralized location.

Compact IoT devices with security features embedded at the chip is a practical solution for securing data at the core of the device while still utilizing available space. IoT devices can have private keys already embedded to enhance security. This additional layer of security allows compromised components to be identified as “untrusted” and isolated from the other devices on the network. Default passwords would no longer be necessary once key exchanges are implemented within the hardware to authenticate each device. This also allows them to remain lightweight.

Issues to Overcome with IoT Devices

However, the lightweight, compact size of IoT devices limits the space available for security. Another drawback is the multiple levels of vulnerability when connecting devices or at the data host site of the chip. In addition, the limitations of the processing capabilities on devices manufactured by different companies creates security challenges. At present, consumers must use devices made by the same company in order to link them. Cloud-based connections reduce the necessity of standardizing the processing capabilities of IoT devices.

Most IoT devices aren’t currently enabled for cloud management, which is a potential security pitfall. When devices are all tethered to the cloud, it is a simple fix to patch security vulnerabilities – even when they are in the hands of end users. Devices can communicate more readily with one another when cloud capabilities have been implemented.

The bottom line is that the success of the IoT industry is dependent upon the security that is provided by the technology. To ensure that data protection remains a primary focus in an expanding market, networks and devices must be safeguarded. Enabling cloud management capabilities and security features embedded at the chip level can achieve these results.