Trusting Cloud Computing

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Here's a story about cloud computing. My wife was updating her resume; however, she recently bought a new laptop and didn't have Microsoft Office, instead relying on SkyDrive and Office Web Apps. She was concerned because she couldn't open and view a local copy of the revised resume and therefore couldn't be certain that the document she might send to a prospective employer would match what she created in the cloud solution.

I was reminded of this story this morning while reading a press release from GreenSQL, a database security company. Amir Sadeh, GreenSQL CEO, was quoted as saying, "The cloud is still a new, uncharted territory for many, and trusting data to the cloud borders on an act of faith." That act of faith was something my wife was definitely not willing to make, and when it comes to corporate data, many companies are similarly unwilling.

GreenSQL conducted a survey in October, with the results indicating that 81 percent of IT professionals have concerns about moving data to the cloud. The specific concerns seem to be familiar cloud fears, ranging from lack of trust in the security of the cloud service to fear over losing control of their data to regulatory and compliance issues. If IT pros, with access to the best information about cloud and data security, are still suspect of the technology, it's no wonder a regular consumer would doubt its validity.

cloud computing, cloud security

Further, according to the GreenSQL infographic, 51 percent of small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) have security concerns about moving their applications to the cloud. After years of using applications on a local drive, I can attest to the feeling of helplessness faced when relying solely on a cloud app for document creation -- and that's still different from any underlying security flaws that might expose my data.

Yet, Microsoft and others continue to tout just these sorts of solutions as perfect for small businesses and start ups. You can onboard with Microsoft Office 365, running your email through Exchange Online, managing your documents through SharePoint Online, and using Office Web Apps for document creation -- all for a fraction of the cost of setting up these systems on premises. And provided the systems stay up and accessible (granted, not always a safe bet, as another recent Office 365 outage showed), you've got all you need to get your business up and running.

Symantec recently released its vision for the future of the cloud as safe and agile, and you could say that if a company known for security says the future will be safe, the present just might be in trouble. At the same time, almost everyone believes that the cloud -- in some version: private, public, hybrid -- is the future for IT. I'm left wondering what it takes for IT pros and general users to truly trust in cloud computing.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone whose business relies on cloud services extensively about how you made the decision to go that route. What sort of sacrifices were made and what benefits gained by going with the cloud? What type of business systems or operations were you willing to use cloud computing for, and what was considered too important to risk leaving your local control? In other words, what does it take to trust cloud computing for your business? Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

(And by the way, I wrote this all in Microsoft Word Web App. Not bad, but certainly not Word.)

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins
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on Nov 27, 2012
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B. K. Winstead

B. K. Winstead is a former editor for Windows IT Pro specializing in Exchange Server, messaging, mobility, unified communications, and cloud computing.

Jeff James

Jeff James is a former editor for Windows IT Pro.
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