I was sitting in a keynote last week at the TechMentor Conference in Orlando, where I speak twice a year on a variety of topics (mostly Exchange-oriented), and watching Mark Minasi -- the tech author famous for his Windows tech talks, support newsletter and forum-- discuss the cloud in a talk called "Cloud Computing: A (Lapsed) Economist's View." In that one session, I felt like Minasi ripped the rose-colored glasses from my face. He wasn't trying to expose the cloud as a fraud but to force admins to question the validity of some of the claims we hear about the cloud saving us billions or making our network more "agile."
Obviously, the word "cloud" is often just another way of saying "Internet." But the notions of cloud computing and cloud-based services go well beyond the days of old where we might put a website on a server somewhere. Now, we're looking at enterprise-oriented services: SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service), and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). Adopting them requires a great deal of trust.
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The hype around cloud-based services has been going on for a couple years now, and Microsoft -- like every other vendor -- has jumped on the bandwagon. The promises: a reduction in infrastructure expenses, pricing based upon consumption, deployment flexibility with a reduced need for personnel (which some might translate as a ticket to the unemployment line).
Trust remains a big issue for using the cloud
I left the session pretty much scared to death of the cloud, and I think that was Minasi's intent -- not to frighten us away, but to set us straight and to make those in attendance think a bit before we put all our trust into this cloud idea.
At the same time, I received an email from Andy Cordial, managing director of Origin Storage, with safety tips IT should take before moving data to the cloud. His view was not so scary, instead likening the shift to the cloud to our preparations before lifting off on a plane (into the clouds, as it were). He outlines his top tips:
- Data: Not all data may be suitable for the cloud. You might consider holding on to "sensitive information, that, if compromised, could damage your organization."
- Security: You need to ensure security measures are solid and clear with your cloud provider, regardless of the service, whether it is a repository for data, a hosted messaging environment, or collaboration tool (like Exchange and SharePoint).
- Encryption: In truth, you don't know how safe the methods proposed for the safety of our data really are. Time will tell, but in the meantime you want to take every measure to ensure the data is secure; encryption is a key aspect in that effort. With virtual storage, Cordial says "with AES 256-bit encryption accepted as the most secure option in the real world, I wouldn't recommend anything less should even be considered for virtual storage."