Cloud Computing Is for the Birds

For data security and safety, it’s better to stick with hardware. Pro or con?
Watch the video—then scroll down to read the debate

Pro: Put Your Trust in On-Site Hardware

The fastest, most secure, and safest way to transport multiple terabytes of data is to pick up your hard drive and physically carry it with you to another location. That’s why the large public cloud providers offer "ship your drives to us and we’ll load the data" services.

This isn’t to say that the benefits offered by cloud storage don’t exist—they’re just not comprehensive. Businesses need data redundancy to protect against individual hard-drive failures. It’s a best practice to have at least one copy of local data in two locations and remote access to data via a browser or smartphone; the cloud is still lacking here. Modern on-premise storage devices provide all of these benefits fully under your control, at a much lower cost than a hosted solution can offer, and without the lag time of the Internet.

As anyone who has tried to upload a large presentation knows, the public Internet can move very slowly. And as anyone knows who has lost crucial information when a vendor unexpectedly doesn’t perform, putting your business (e-mail, documents, financials) entirely in the hands of others—including cloud storage companies you’ve never used before—can turn disastrous.

Smart companies value external data hosters, cloud or otherwise, for what they are: useful backup resources and occasional recovery mechanisms for ancillary or temporary assistance. But as anyone who’s ever waited impatiently for an e-mail to download can tell you, for data speed, security, and safety, it’s better to stick with on-premise hardware.

Con: Don’t Let Data Walk out the Door




Case in point: Epsilon’s and now Sony’s (SNE) data breaches. A single person was able to steal the personal information of millions of people. According to the Ponemon Institute, a research organization, 80 percent of U.S. companies have experienced a data breach. So how can we assume that using hardware means more secure data?

It’s not that cloud computing providers are immune. The cloud business, by its very nature, puts them in the security business. They’ve invested heavily in securing their infrastructures with the latest and greatest security technologies, and they employ top experts. Security threats are evolving at a rapid pace, and cloud businesses make it their job to stay on top of them and ensure the safety of every customer’s data.

From my conversations with enterprise executives, I’ve gathered that security remains a great concern, but it’s less of a hurdle today for those who have done their due diligence. Enterprises are finding that cloud computing allows them to focus on their core business without the burden of maintaining an IT infrastructure. The most security-sensitive enterprises around the world are kicking the tires of the leading cloud platforms and demanding the highest levels of security, which benefit all of us.

We no longer generate our own electricity or keep money under our mattresses (at least no one I know does). Likewise, IT has also evolved. The presence of hardware alone no longer provides a sense of security.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Businessweek, Businessweek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

ottoteller

How does one anticipate the unanticipated? Due diligence aside, IT security can deal with many known issues, but can never totally plan for new attack tactics and strategies devised and implemented by ingenious hackers. Nor is it possible to totally immunize the workforce at any company from disaffection and monetary enticements that would lead them to share assess to restricted data areas. No amount of argumentation would convince me to trust any delicate data to the cloud. I would just as quickly trust investment bankers.

Avery G.

I can't speak to how cloud computing affects large companies, but for small businesses it has some major benefits, like keeping our costs low and offering scalability. Another good article to reference is: http://resource.onlinetech.com/the-six-benefits-of-cloud-computing/

Nicholas

People should treat their data like they treat their financial portfolios...diversify! It doesn't make sense to put all your important data in one place. We learned that in grade school (Dont put all your eggs in one basket). Keep a copy on a drive in a secure location and back it up to a cloud to take advantage of both scenarios.

Rick Pardo

Ottoteller brings up a good point: If the data is so sensitive that you can't afford to lose it, secure it yourself.

In the case that your data is important, but your resources are such that you're able to identify that you can't afford to secure it correctly (how much does a security team cost these days?) then the cloud option might be a good fit. Can't stress enough though, that your budget does not drive the decision to use an outside provider; your willingness to take on risk does.

NC-Business-Dude

I agree with Avery G. Not only does being cloud offer the small business benefits of low costs and scalability, but now you can have all those sexy Apple machines in a predominately PC world without headaches. Company went Google and is utilizing Salesforce.com, both clouds, now that iPad is looking more feasible as your new travel companion. Next step is to get the heads of the people at Intuit in the clouds!

Robert

Cloud computing is a great idea for backing up data and accessing applications that might be too expensive to buy, especially if you’re only going to a use it a couple times. To make cloud computing successful, broadband speeds need to be increased. Where I live there are still old copper lines; Telco doesn't want to upgrade the lines and cable doesn't even come down our road. I’m lucky enough to have a wireless internet provider in the area, but the fastest speed is 3MB down, not even fast enough to stream video at a consistent rate. So cloud computing might not be great for everyone, especially with slow broadband solutions.

Dave Pierce

Typically, resistance to cloud computing comes from the accounting and IT groups. Yet we all pay bills via the cloud and the major banks move money electronically every day. Very little evidence that any cloud computing data has ever been breached. Easier to put skimmers at retail outlets.

Rick Blaisdell

From my experience, data on the cloud appears to be more secure than in a physical environment. I suggest that companies select a cloud vendor that offers security options as well, as I believe this is better than do-it-yourself.

I have worked with NaviSite and they have professionals that are configuring the cloud environment according to anyone's needs, security options included. These security experts that are on staff manging the customer's services make the cloud a more secure environment.

I also debated the subject here as well: http://www.rickscloud.com/is-the-cloud-more-secure-than-a-physical-environment/

jg

Re Con: "We no longer generate our own electricity..." For mission critical data and applications, we do setup sites that have electric generators. That is true for the big guys all the way down to the small business to the private homeowner and is a big deal.

"The presence of hardware alone no longer provides a sense of security." Yes it does. The issue is ownership and control, which gets complicated in places like CoLos, shared centers, and big virtual server farms.

Hassene Akkeri

The security arguments against cloud computing had been raised a few decades ago against the Internet, and they didn't be able to change the history's flow.

Cloud computing is already reshaping the development roadmaps of many domains. Mobile communications for example, which stands as one the largest technology fields, is already going toward cloud radio solutions. And all the main gear suppliers are working on this trend.

Moreover, in the current globalization context where business competition is getting to the extreme level, the cost advantage of the cloud computing cannot be ignored and will definitely overcome the security concerns.

Furthermore, building cloud datacenters will reduce the start-up costs of the new businesses, provide huge computing capacities to research and development, reduce the global energy consumption rates, and drive the global economy to a new era of mass innovation.

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