Clouding the Issue – Your Data Security

According to Gartner, SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions are expected to grow a further 20.3% in 2016 to $37.7 billion, which is just a fraction of the 16.5% predicted growth for the whole public cloud service industry, from $175 billion in 2015 to $203.9 billion in 2016.

The ‘cloud’ is a term that’s used pretty freely nowadays, with varying degrees of accuracy. In a nutshell, anything cloud refers to ‘cloud computing’, the process of sharing internet-based data to any other device, from any other location.

Cloud computing is used in many of our everyday business interactions online, from opening email to mobile apps and storage solutions like DropBox. It feels like there’s a cloud application for everything, from social image sharing to cloud based budgeting software. To put things into perspective, Morgan Stanley predicts that 30% of Microsoft’s revenue will be generated from cloud products by 2018. Amazon Web Services (more commonly known as AWS) generated an additional 69% in revenue in the fourth quarter of last year at $2.4 billion – compared to the $7.88 billion AWS brought in across the whole of 2016.

Whilst elements of cloud computing make up much of what we do; the model can be broken down further into five cloud based delivery services:

Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to any cloud service that allows consumers to access software over the internet. Notable examples include: Google, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

  • Data as a Service (DaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Development as a Service (Another DaaS)

Cloud Computing Layers

Image Source - http://www.mazikglobal.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Cloud_Computing_Layers.png

So, what has changed? In the last few years, you’ll have noticed that we’re more concerned with where our data is stored and how safe it is rather than what it costs to store it. Or at least we should be.

You don’t have to look much further than the controversy surrounding Snapchat’s operations and the notorious iCloud leak that dominated the news in 2014, to see that cloud computing has become more topical than ever. While both could be seen as detrimental to public opinion on cloud services, it is essential to remember that people put prodigious faith in third party services to house their data – why?

Which is likely to have better security: your computer or the data center of a global business titan?

Not only is your computer susceptible to physical attack; burglary, hardware, USB software injection and arson, it’s also susceptible to environmental factors – natural disaster, power outage, service faults, fire and flooding. Not to mention the lack of preventative measures against hacking and viruses. There’s the additional social factor: in short, people don’t want to take responsibility for their data, they’d far rather someone else did. That way there’s someone to blame.

Compare the physical and digital vulnerabilities of housing your data at home, versus housing it in the data center of a multinational conglomerate. Enterprises spent $114 billion on hardware and software for their data centers in 2015 alone. Though the costs of physical security aren’t openly disclosed, watch five minutes of any documentary on data centers and you’ll spot security guards, guard dogs, CCTV, impressive fence gates, metal detectors and other scanners – not to mention that most data centers are housed underground.

Also, consider that when you take full responsibility of your digital data, it’s likely you are housing it all in one place. That’s invoices, sensitive client records, business deals, private emails, payment information, employee and business passwords, all in one place. When you choose to work with a third party service provider, you’re giving them access to a subset of your business’s data. You’re choosing to host your website server with them, or your emails, or your client database, or your passwords. At no point is all of your data in one place. Which means that in the event that one of your service providers suffers a debilitating cyber-attack, they still don’t have access to your entire business infrastructure.

For small businesses, it may seem cost ineffective to house your data elsewhere. Cloud based applications like SharePoint, DropBox and Amazon Web Services will certainly rack up considerable costs, depending on your usage. It isn’t just your business that will suffer the consequences of improper data security.

It’s your customers’ too.

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