As I discussed in my last article on cloud computing, it is being called the Next Big Thing in web design, and it is steadily gaining ground in the business world. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this new frontier, but naturally there are many concerns among the “experts”.
The main concerns about cloud computing are security and privacy. The thought of handing your important data over to something called a “cloud” can be daunting. Nervous corporate executives might hesitate to take advantage of a cloud computing system because they feel like they’re surrendering control of their company’s information. Data inside the ‘cloud’ is outside a company’s firewall and that brings with it an intrinsic threat of risk, because services that companies outsource evade the physical, logical and personnel controls that I.T. shops wield over data maintained in-house. Other fears include:
• Risk of data breaching
• Appeal to cyber crooks
• Lack of specific standards for security and data privacy
• Questions about jurisdiction. European concern about U.S. privacy laws led to creation of the U.S. Safe Harbor Privacy Principles, which are intended to provide European companies with a degree of insulation from U.S. laws
• Data location. Cloud users probably do not know exactly where their data is hosted—not even the specific country
• Best practice issues:
o Exception monitoring systems
o Vigilance, or lack thereof, over updates and ensuring that staff does not receive unauthorized access privileges
o Third-party companies who may be able to access data
o Password creation and protection
o Availability guarantees and penalties
o Accommodation of personal security policies by the cloud computing company
Other issues with cloud computing are more philosophical. Who owns the data: the company who places their data with the cloud computing service or the cloud computing service itself? Can a cloud computing company ever legally deny a client access to their own data? Companies, law firms, and universities are currently debating these issues and others.
There is also growing concern about how cloud computing could impact the business of computer maintenance and repair. If companies make the leap to centralized computer systems, they will have less need for internal I.T. support. By removing infrastructure ownership from I.T., suddenly I.T. no longer has control over key business resources, which makes it feasible for someone concerned with a cost/benefit approach, like a CFO, to start limiting I.T.’s control. It is doubtful that this will have much of an impact on the cloud computing industry; the same concerns were no doubt raised when inventions like the cotton gin, assembly lines, and, well, computers first appeared.