When you board an airplane, you’re asked to buckle your seat belt and listen to an important safety announcement. The same is true before you propel your data down the runway and jet it into the cloud.
So, what’s in our safety demonstration?
If you’ve flown before, you’ll know that there is limited space in the cabin--with the majority of your luggage having to travel in the hold. Therefore, when you pack, you make sure your most valuable items are squeezed into your carry-on bag. For data, it’s not very different.
Before packing all your data off into the cloud, you need to sort it and, for most organizations, not all of it will be suitable to store in the “hold.” If the data contains sensitive information that, if compromised, could damage your organization, then you need to consider whether it should be part of the cloud computing data.
Prepare for Passport Control
Sticking with our aviation theme, after you check your luggage, you have to pass through stringent security checks and have your passport examined. Legitimate travelers will have the correct documentation and be allowed access. In an ideal world, those who don’t are identified and prevented access before they can cause any damage.
Assuming you’ve decided to store your data in the cloud, you need to make sure your passport controls are just as effective. If they’re too stringent or time-consuming, legitimate users may not be allowed access; if they’re too lax, anyone can get in and violate the data.
Providing flexible access may mean your users will want to use personal devices from outside the corporate environment. This can open a whole can of worms, because the device may be infected with key loggers or other malware that could jeopardize the data or application’s security.
If data is password-protected in the real world, then in the virtual one it needs even stronger defenses. The question has to be asked whether cloud security offers this and, if it can’t be guaranteed, then serious doubts must remain over its suitability.
Another element is download speed. While bandwidth should not be the only consideration when selecting a cloud service provider, it is an important factor. It needs to be balanced with quality of support, pricing, features and reliability.
Fasten Your Seatbelt
Personally, I always wonder just how effective an airplane seatbelt is--but, luckily, I’ve never been on a plane when it has experienced violent turbulence, so I haven’t found out. Could the same be true for cloud seatbelts?
New encryption software is creeping into the market designed to protect data stored in the cloud. With AES 256-bit encryption accepted as the most secure option in the real world, I wouldn’t recommend anything less even be considered for virtual storage.
Until we really know how insecure these storage facilities can be in the first place, we have no solid idea as to whether these solutions are necessary--or will even work in the event of a breach. That said, admittedly I still fasten my seatbelt when the pilot switches on the sign, and recommend that you do the same for your data. If you’re in any doubt about whether you can risk your data falling from the sky, perhaps it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
IT analyst Gartner advises businesses that they must work closely with their cloud computing services providers to ensure that potential security issues are flagged, and dealt with, before they become a problem. Don’t be blinded by promises of performance or cost savings; a security breach could quickly eradicate both of these benefits and potentially deal a fatal blow to your organization.
One final consideration is to make sure you’ve got an escape route planned. How will you reclaim your data? Are you locked in for a given period? Will they help you transfer to another provider?
We’ve all experienced the vacation of a lifetime that doesn’t quite live up to its billing. The climate that’s either too hot or too cold, or half the items you’ve crammed into your suitcase aren’t needed, yet your cell phone recharger has somehow been left behind. The cloud is exactly the same: It isn’t suitable for everything, or everyone. Careful consideration and planning needs to be undertaken first if you’re to migrate the right applications and data to benefit from increased efficiencies and lowered costs.
Andy Cordial is managing director of Origin Storage Ltd. Contact him via originstorage.com.