Trouble in the clouds: Data breaches threaten cloud computing

July 19, 2011 by bkrenek

Cloud computing.  It’s a buzzword that’s lately been bandied about in the context of recent data breaches, casting a shadow on a technology trend that has formerly been considered a bright light in data storage.  Do businesses that have come to rely on cloud computing need to worry that they’re at increased risk of data breaches?

First, let’s be clear about what cloud computing entails.  While the name sounds confusing, we’re all operating in the clouds these days, as cloud computing implies anything delivering hosted services over the Internet.  Because data is stored on remote servers and accessed online, consumers can have every piece of data that they need readily available wherever they are, on whichever device they need.  Cloud services have been a boon to businesses because they enable outsourcing of the cost and hassle of hosting and updating software on their own servers.

But hacking attacks against companies have drawn concerns about the level of data security within cloud computing.  Cloud services that handle enormous amount of data amongst consumers and corporate clients are a big target of fraudsters, and the recent wave of high-profile attacks may cause enough second-guessing to slow the growth of the exploding cloud computing market (expected to reach $55 billion by 2014, according to technology research form IDC).  When a cloud service that handles numerous corporate clients is breached, clients whose customer information was compromised must issue alerts and apologies to their own customers.  The end consumer may have never heard of the subcontractor, so the corporate client is the one that may suffer the blame – and lost business.

While the damage to companies when their marketing and email providers are hacked can be huge, many industry experts believe that cloud applications are still safer than in-house applications.  Companies who make their business in cloud computing invest vast resources in data security – far more than most individual organizations could ever handle alone, and while their systems are constantly under attack, they have highly specialized experts whose mission is to stay on top of the latest hacking loopholes.  Indeed, many believe that cloud computing can yield a net gain in data security for businesses, so long as these organizations exercise due diligence and planning before engaging a cloud service.

The clouds are here to stay, and businesses can come out ahead from the benefits these services offer.  Just remember that smart data security policies are as important with cloud computing as any other aspect of a company’s technology systems.  When it comes to security in the clouds or on the ground, preparedness is always key.