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Cloud Computing

Cloud computing’ is a relatively new expression and the subject of much discussion in business computing circles. In fact, many businesses that have started in the last twenty years did so in the cloud... as soon as they adopted the internet and email. Common use of the expression, however, refers to two relatively new developments:

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is cloud computing where the software you would normally install on office computers is instead delivered via the Internet. It is also commonly known as ‘hosted software’ or ‘hosted applications’. Currently, customer relationship management (CRM) software is the most common type that is hosted in the cloud.

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud computing is where you rent space in a datacentre and use their servers rather than buying new hardware to run your business. A common example of IaaS is website hosting.

The Risks

Analyst firm Gartner has identified seven perceived risks of cloud computing:

  •    Privileged user access 

Keeping sensitive information with a third party has inherent risks because you are bypassing your company’s own IT infrastructure and support team. 

  •    Regulatory compliance 

Customers are responsible for their own security and data integrity.

  •    Data location 

You do not know where the information is physically being stored; it could be anywhere in the world.

  •    Data segregation 

Your data is stored alongside other people’s data and an encryption failure could make your data completely unusable.

  •    Recovery 

What happens in a disaster? Is the data being replicated?

  •   Investigative support 

Inappropriate or illegal activity might be hard or impossible to investigate. 

  •   Long-term viability 

What happens if your provider is bought out or bankrupted?

You can either choose to host applications and infrastructure selectively in the cloud, or opt for a provider who provides a total cloud offering. 

Choosing a Cloud Provider

  • Ask colleagues, suppliers, trade organisations and other companies who they use.
  • Carry out an online search for ‘cloud services’.
  • Look for:
    • Evidence of relevant experience.
    • Someone who can help you as you grow or your needs change.
    • People who understand your requirements and your business.
    • References.
    • People who can talk your language, who explain problems in a way you understand.
    • Companies with sufficient resources to meet your needs.

Hosting Contracts

You need a contract in writing that clearly defines:

  • What exactly they will do for you (and what they expect you to do for yourself).
  • A schedule for any project work that will be undertaken (such as how long will it take to install a new server).
  • A service level agreement – how quickly will they respond to and fix problems.
  • A clear fee structure. 

 

See also...

 

Data Loss Prevention
Your data is one of your most important assets. Keep it safe.

Backups
Backing up files is easy to do and is essential for protecting data.

Wireless Networks and Hotspots
Simple rules on setting up and using wireless networks and hotspots.

Software
Stay safe and legal when choosing and using software for your business.

Remote and Mobile Working
Keeping connected away from the office must be secure. Here’s how.

Data Encryption
Prevent unauthorised people from accessing your valuable data.

Data Protection Act
The Act carries serious obligations. Make sure you comply. 

Information Access Management
Control who has access to what business data.