Saturday, March 19, 2011

Advantages of Cloud Computing– Part XVI – Increased Data Storage and Security


Actually, there are many advantages to cloud computing, but one stands out above all others. It amazes me the experts at CloudComputing.sys-con.com don’t mention ‘security’ as one advantage, because security may be the most profound advantage of them all; nevertheless, security certainly belongs near the “Increased Storage” topic, because if you have no storage there is little to secure.

Yet, when the issue of the Internet is brought up, data processing personnel make certain the issue of security is placed high up on their list. Erroneous claims about lack of security have created absurd reasons for avoiding The Cloud.

I am always amused when users of Windows, Unix, and Linux-based technology talk about security, because they see it only from their point of view, which is always the PC point-of-view. If there is a cyber-attack against the United States, it will be PC-based… there is little doubt. Probably the greatest security risks America faces today would be avoided if PCs were eliminated entirely. While Windows 7 and Server 2008 make it much more difficult, if a hacker gets in, the results could be catastrophic. However, PCs have become so deeply entrenched in our society, we will have to deal with security breaches for some time.

Look at it this way. If you lived in a neighborhood with one-million burglars, your house would more likely be robbed than if you lived in a neighborhood with only ten of the same. The bulk of the world’s hackers work on PCs just like yours. Statistics from 2003 reported 63,000 viruses had rolled through the Internet and caused $65 billion in damage. In 2009, the ‘Downadup Worm’ (aka Conficker) infected 3.5 million computers worldwide.

We often hear the phrase, “It ain’t rocket science”, but in the case of computer security, it IS rocket science and requires a level of expertise that is above and beyond the capabilities of 99% of the PC users in the world. Antivirus programs and firewalls surely help, but they fall short of solving the problems.  

Notwithstanding viruses, which might damage or destroy all the data in your system or worse, the greatest causes of loss or damage to data come from yourself and your staff. If you Google ‘disable windows security’ you’ll get about 572,000 hits, and most Windows users disable most or a least a portion of the security on their own systems. It boils down to this: You can guard your business using a slingshot and a willow switch, or you can have a professional army of experts with a full complement of the latest technological weapons to ward off attacks. Guarding their clients’ precious data is what expert cloud networks do the best.

When we moved to the cloud in 2000, we had to change the way we operated. Occasionally, I have to get permission to make changes to my own set of programs and my customers’ data. To the strict gatekeepers of the system we use, I am a threat to the hundreds of other individuals who have access to data that could be adversely affected by my own foolish mistakes. And that’s not the end of it. I also pose a threat to my own customers.

Did I hate the loss of control which challenged my wild-west, cowboy like attitude toward data processing? You bet I did. But I could see the hand-writing on the wall. A few of our clients’ employees rebelled in kind, but you know what? They got used to it just as I did and the previous problems that tormented our clients, quickly disappeared.

The security team that stands between us and catastrophe do this sort of thing for a living. To put it mildly, few companies can afford the kind of security they would have to put in place to give them the kind of protection offered by a well-funded Cloud.

It’s simply a matter of the odds. If you want to avoid the crosshairs of cyber-attacks, you need to get your data off platforms that support cyber-attacks best; else the protection you have is questionable.

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