How secure is your organisation’s data really?
17 February 2012 - Stephanie McSwiney - Business Development Manager
When discussing Cloud computing with SME businesses, I hear several arguments as to why the Cloud may have great promise for some – but also why it is not for them as their organisation’s main concern is not cost-savings but risks, mainly around data security and compliance. “How secure is your data and information at the moment and how much time and money are you actually prepared to invest into your future security strategy” is usually my first response. .
When discussing Cloud computing with SME businesses, I hear several arguments as to why the Cloud may have great promise for some – but also why it is not for them as their organisation’s main concern is not cost-savings but risks, mainly around data security and compliance.
“How secure is your data and information at the moment and how much time and money are you actually prepared to invest into your future security strategy” is usually my first response.
Companies face a proliferation of confidential data — for example, employee information, customer transactions, partnership contracts, intellectual property. At the same time, with employees, partners and clients accessing that data from mobile devices and through sophisticated collaboration tools, companies must find ways to protect it, whether it is in storage or being transmitted across networks. In reality, there are existing security holes in every organisation. The biggest threat to corporate security is the employees themselves not the gaps in the firewall or the level of security on the network. Employees “utilising” and losing information on USB sticks is a prime example. Most enterprises are losing valuable information everyday that cannot be tracked and cannot be controlled. One of the benefits of Cloud computing is to allow companies to track and monitor file access in manageable ways that was never before possible. Simply because the information is stored internally doesn’t make it safe.
In some exceptional cases organisations have established sophisticated security controls, however, the nature of technology is such that what is secure today will not be considered secure tomorrow. The fact is that for SME organisations this can become very costly and generally doesn’t offer the feature robustness or continuing improvement offered by Cloud computing. SME organisations can’t afford the security Cloud providers offer and they shouldn’t have to, as IT is not normally their core line of business!
The problem with the term 'Cloud' is that it creates a sense of something fuzzy, hard to navigate and difficult to control. In actuality, today's Cloud environments are anything but that. From a security perspective, Clouds are often more secure than the current on-premise infrastructure not only from the level of investment but also because security can be built into the virtual environment from the ground up – starting from scratch. This means not having to bolt extra bits onto an already complicated structure. Therefore, Cloud can be easier to manage, much more scalable and flexible, and secure.
Another concern, often mistaken for security, is actually trust. With trust, I don’t mean the technology itself but whether you can trust a provider with your sensitive data and information. With Cloud computing coming into its own around 2007, people realised that something fundamentally changed. It basically went from, ‘this data is inside my organisation and I’m willing to trust my IT department’ -- to -- ‘this data is outside my organisation and I can no longer trust and control the people that are now hosting my data.’
In a fast-changing world, there are no guarantees. Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop you from taking action to transform your business. Look for a Cloud partner with a long history of success, a reputation for innovation, a proven commitment to quality and continuous improvement, a global scale, and the experience and expertise to provide a trusted environment for your information and data. These are the same basic qualities that most businesses already look for in any outsourcing relationship. Moreover, they certainly apply to services delivered through the Cloud - regardless of whether the Cloud is public, private or a hybrid.
Still there are always sceptics amongst us who don’t want to acknowledge the facts. Last week I met with the CEO of a local SME in a coffee shop. We were discussing his business growth strategy and how technology could act as a business enabler. I suggested a hybrid Cloud approach as possible option but his concerns about security and the fear of everything to do with “Cloud” were very severe. Ironically, near the end of the meeting he pulled out his iPhone, connected to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi and started doing his personal banking. 'You do know that Hotmail, online banking, social networking, and online shopping and payment are all in the Cloud – don’t you? So I'm guessing you feel 'Cloud' is a very safe place after all!'
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