Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Advantages of Cloud Computing– Part XIII – Data Value and Security


A little over a year ago, there was an article in the newspapers about a woman who was surprised upon finding a venomous reptile on her kitchen floor. A few weeks later, on February 1, 2010, while leaving her work as a researcher for a local university, my wife was shot twice in the head by three teenage muggers for no other reason than to gain acceptance into a local gang, prompting a media frenzy that literally encircled the globe. I received the news ten minutes after the incident from a young man who happened to hear the shots and ventured out of his dorm room to investigate. From that moment on, many things I had assumed about reality changed. Thanks to the heroic efforts of a stranger she survived with flying colors, but it was touch and go for the first few days.

These two incidents, occurring close together, prompted me to write an article entitled “Snake in the House” concerning how we calmly go about our daily lives, oblivious to the dangers that surround us, until some event takes place to breach our paper-thin wall of security and causes a dramatic shift in the way we adjust our reality in response to actual events.

In August of 2006, a client’s bulk plant burned to the ground. Because it was an oil fire, ironically, the only thing left of their computer was the faceplate. Unfortunately, their data disappeared with it and the only backup had been made three months prior to the fire. For six years, I had tried repeatedly to put them on our cloud but they refused, thinking their data was more secure if safely stored on their premises. For twenty-two years they had dodged the bullet, but one simple mistake cost them months of reconstruction. They have been on the cloud for five years now and never for an instant has their data been in jeopardy.

I often ask upper-level management how they safeguard their valuable secrets and I seldom receive a plausible explanation. The truth is, in most convenience store operations the issue of securing the company’s data is rarely discussed. Management simply assumes if something goes amiss ‘someone’ will somehow manage to put it all back together. It’s another one of those things you rarely think about until it presents itself, usually at a time when you’re least prepared to deal with it.

How valuable is a company’s data? I guess it depends largely on how you go about using it. How we value the historical information we gather about our businesses says a lot about who we are and what we will become in the future.

The majority of our most protected data is held in preparation for offensive acts by government regulators and auditors and has no direct effect on our ability to perform well in the marketplace. Businesses spend an inordinate amount of time on activities that hamper rather than aid a company’s profitability and valuable data that could be used in an offensive thrust against competitors is lost. Consequently, we spend too much of our time circling the wagons and warding off attacks. In most cases, the value of a company’s information is ambiguous. 

Prior to 300 AD, Arab nomads carried their gold sewn into their clothing and relied upon tribal warriors to protect it from robberies. The story goes that banks were created in the Persian Sassanid Empire when letters of credit (Sakks) were issued to the very rich and represented commodities stored in a particular location. We stopped sewing our valuables in our clothes and in holes dug in our backyards centuries ago. Many of us have yet to learn the true value of our company’s information.
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