4 easy ways to mitigate the risks of cloud computing

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Mitigate the risks of cloud computingCloud computing has caused many to talk of how this will unchain the enterprise, make the workplace more efficient, and allow for innovation and productivity anywhere with a WiFi signal. But, like most new things, cloud computing also poses some concerns. However, with a little foresight and planning, you can enjoy the many benefits of cloud computing while mitigating those risks.

Risk: Network dependency
Cloud computing is built on the idea that you access the applications and information you need online. Adobe, for example, now sells their Creative Suites as products you access online. You no longer have to worry if your computer has enough disk space or RAM to handle the application. You just have to make sure you have access to the ‘net. And, here’s the rub. The ubiquitous nature of Internet connectivity would seem to discount any threat posed by network dependency. However, what happens when your network connection fails or if there is some event that brings the networks down for an extended period, leaving you unable to access to vital business applications or data?

Mitigation Strategy: While you can create redundant systems to ensure no loss of connectivity, network outages may still be unavoidable. The good news with cloud computing is that your data is still available. Create a contingency plan that allows for employees to work from other offices, their home, or remote locations until the crisis is over.

Risk: Security
Although recent surveys have shown that security concerns about cloud computing are decreasing, security, regardless of where you store your data, should always be top of mind. As Dropbox found out last year, as cloud computing services and SaaS become more popular, more vigilance when it comes to security is imperative.

Mitigation Strategy: The first thing to do is to make sure you back up your data. Cloud backup services like Cloudfinder make it incredibly easy to automate the entire process for services like Google Apps, Salesforce, and even your own servers. This way, you always have a clean version of your data stored separately from your SaaS vendor. In addition, make sure your cloud computing vendor uses the strongest possible encryption standards, such as Server Side Encryption (SSE) and 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256).

Risk: Compliance
Compliance regulations are a fact of life for many organizations. Whether the regulations are imposed by governmental decree or internal request, ensuring compliance is a major concern for many companies. Although your data resides on the servers of another company, you are still responsible for its compliance.

Mitigation Strategy: Overcoming the compliance issue goes back to the security of the cloud computing vendor you are using. Cloudfinder, for example, uses SSE and AES-256. In addition, Cloudfinder also encrypts data traveling in both directions, importing and exporting. Moreover, make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of your compliance obligations. Then talk to your cloud service provider to relate your concerns and seek expert advice.

Risk: Ownership
It may sound odd, but the data you create or store in the cloud may not belong to you. As Roger Grimes writes, “Many public cloud providers, including the largest and best known, have clauses in their contracts that explicitly states that the data stored is the provider’s — not the customer’s.” A shocking and almost unbelievable statement to be sure! But luckily this is changing. As Thomas J. Trappler points out, Amazon, the great enabler of cloud computing, has stated in their contracts: “Your Applications, Data and Content. Other than the rights and interests expressly set forth in this Agreement, and excluding Amazon Properties and works derived from Amazon Properties, you reserve all right, title, and interest (including all intellectual property and proprietary rights) in and to Your Content.”

Mitigation Strategy: Like any other legal contract, understand what you are signing before you sign it. Although I would guess that most of us just click on the “accept” box in most terms of service agreements with cloud vendors, the onus is on you to understand what those terms mean. Do the research before you get to that stage. Find out if others have had problems with data ownership issues.So while there are certainly risks involved with the use of cloud computing, they are by no means insurmountable or prohibitive. There are risks involved with every type of media that stores business data, from paper and pen to computers. The idea is to create strategies to mitigate those risks before they happen.

What strategies are you using to mitigate your risks?

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