5 reasons IT pros should be paranoid

Secret data leaks, data centers on the brink -- and your career hanging in the balance

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IT paranoia No. 3: The cloud will obscure the mountains behind it

The cloud is on the horizon, yet most enterprises are unprepared for it.

On one hand, cloud computing can dramatically reduce capital expenditures and allow IT to outsource bread-and-butter internal ops so that internal expertise can be applied to innovative and differentiating projects, says Kurt Underwood, managing director of the global IT solutions practice for risk and business consultants Protiviti.

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"The cloud gives you another lever to throw," he says. "It allows you to shift more of your attention and IT talent from mundane IT tasks into strategic technology initiatives that enable business innovation, while driving costs out and adding value to the company."

At the same time, the cloud poses unique security risks, adds Scott Gracyalny, managing director for Protiviti's risk technology services. Even if your cloud vendor scores high for security and regulatory compliance, there are multiple places where control breakdowns can occur, such as data location and segregation, recovery, or support for investigations.

"Companies should ask tough questions and have a risk assessment performed by an independent party," says Gracyalny. "There are still a lot of breakpoints in how and where you interface with all of that. You've opened yourself up to a whole new set of vulnerabilities."

Operating in the cloud changes everything, from software asset management to user authentication, says Rob Juncker, vice president of technology operations for Shavlik Technologies, a provider of cloud-based IT services. And it all relies on a single point of vulnerability: the Web browser.

"Capable of running whatever code it downloads, our browsers now become a new application delivery platform which IT admins have to pay due attention to," he notes. "With an explosion of security patches for IE, Firefox, Adobe, and other Internet-based delivery mechanisms, are you really secure?"

As with the invasion of mobile consumer devices into the enterprise, however, IT pros aren't likely to have much of a choice, says Scott Archibald.

"A good cloud computing implementation can make you a hero," says Bender's Archibald. "A bad cloud computing implementation or strategy can go horribly wrong and cost a company hundreds of millions of dollars. The reality is this: Cloud computing is here to stay -- and the sooner the IT pro gets his/her arms around this concept and develops a strategy that is good for the company, the better. Because the question about cloud computing is going to come from upper management at some point."

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