Cloud hosted storage and applications are increasingly transforming the way people do business, and 2011 has been the best year yet for cloud technology. However, despite the proliferation of cloud technology, there are still many who have their reservations about entrusting their precious data and document storage to it.
Part of the perception problem is the very concept of the cloud, when even the name lends itself to the notion of an ethereal entity. Larry Ellison voiced his concerns about the perception of the cloud back in 2009 at Silicon Valley business and technology forums the Churchill Club.
He rightly pointed out that the cloud doesn’t actually exist, and would be better thought of as computers in a network, as the mythical image of the cloud is actually putting businesses off using it. After all, the cloud is not a new concept, and simply refers to accessing data and applications via the internet. I have to agree with him and advocate the demystification of cloud technology.
There will always be those who are early adopters as opposed to the laggards, but when there are so many strategic business benefits to be gained for those businesses using the cloud, it is key that this demystification is accelerated. It is also vital that businesses lose their negative, unfounded perceptions of cloud technology and focus instead on the myriad of efficiency savings it offers.
It is not just the idea of the cloud that has caused reservations. Recent concerns have been highlighted around the security of data storage in the cloud, with some highlighting the lack of enterprise-grade security incorporated in some cloud services. The issue being raised is that as many cloud services are designed to be replicable, the security on offer is not adequate enough to protect the data stored.
Many businesses also have reservations about data being stored on overseas storage servers in locations such as the US, in the belief that they will be more vulnerable to malicious viruses and other types of attack and as such are unwilling to transfer their data to the cloud. These fears are unnecessary, and businesses need to be reassured that their data is safe.
NetSuite, for example, employs 128-bit bank-level encryption, has passed a SAS70 Type II Audit, complies with PCI-DSS requirements and is EU-US Safe Harbour Certified.
As a cloud provider and consultant, I am only too aware of the potential savings available for businesses moving from a traditional office server model to applications and storage in the cloud, but in my view these savings should never be compromised; data security should always be paramount for those providing and purchasing hosted solutions.
Research is key here, and despite the maturity of cloud technology, a degree of diligence is required when selecting a service provider. It would seem prudent for users to select the most secure and highest affordable cost option, even ahead of functionality.
More established cloud solution providers are able to utilise the collective purchasing power of a sizeable user base to provide world leading security. Often this is outsourced to specialist providers who in turn utilise external bodies for audit and certification, for example the Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70.
Such options would simple not be affordable to the majority of businesses alone, so this is itself should act as a reassurance that cloud data storage security is actually superior.
As with any major IT purchase, it is vital that businesses research the provider and storage options they choose carefully, and ideally choose one who can provide a consultative approach and demonstrate all aspects of security to provide complete peace of mind.