What 3 Security Questions Should I Ask Before Moving My Data To The Cloud?

As we all have heard, more and more of our computing experience is being moved to the cloud.

If you do not know what the cloud stands for then you are probably not alone.

cloud computing has its risks

cloud computing has its risks

What Is The ‘Cloud’?

The industry tends to have slick little buzz words to describe something that we do all of the time.

When someone says the cloud, they mean that the program is running on a server.

For example, if you use Google’s Gmail service then you are using a program on the cloud as opposed to Microsoft’s Outlook program which is installed directly on your computer.

Another example would be using Google Document and Spreadsheet services as these are both online equivalents of several of the Microsoft Office products, the main difference being that you can use them online and for free.

As you can see, Google has put a lot of stock into cloud based services.

So much so, that even their new operating system will have a lot of cloud elements to it.

If you own a company then you might want to think about moving your data to the cloud.

The 3 Cloud-Related Security Questions You Have To Ask

Before you do, however, here are three security questions that you might want to ask the host that you will be using.

1. Responsibilities

The first question that you will want to ask when it comes to the security of your data on the cloud is what is the hosting the company responsible for?

Are they able to make certain guarantees and if they are not fulfilled then will you be compensated for the trouble?

Or do they expect you to use their service as is and offer no guarantees?

This is important for you to know before you decide to do business with them.

You must be able to figure out whether your data’s security will be protected because it is in their best interest.

2. Hardware Use

Another question that you should ask before you decide to host your data on one of these cloud services is to find out what hardware they use.

Do they use specialized hardware to protect the data such as dedicated hardware firewalls?

Or is most of their hardware from off the shelf components that they have specialized for their purposes?

Also, what kind of back up procedures do they have for your data?

The whole purpose of the cloud is so that your data is not in one spot and that it has redundancy checks.

This means that your data should be in more than one place at all times so that if one spot fails, then the others will be able to take its place.

Your data should not be just hosted on one server with one back up because if something happens to that remote location then your data is lost for good.

Backing up the data in several different places is very important for someone who is using a cloud service.

3. Security Expertise

And the last question that you should ask when it comes to having your data being secured on the cloud is what kind of security specialist they have working at the facility?

Is their highest specialist just a normal IT worker or is it someone who specializes in security for the cloud.

You want to make sure that you have the best people protecting your data.

This data is your livelihood so not just anyone should do.

Protecting your data on the cloud is very important so make sure that you ask the right questions.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. Jason Sherron says:

    Thanks for replying — definitely check out Office 2010, particularly the free online version:

    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps/

    And more generally, the Microsoft Cloud page gives a broader view of the company’s approach:

    http://www.microsoft.com/cloud/

    Have a great day!

    Jason

    • Thanks Jason, I will certainly check out the free version of Office 2010, though I’ll delegate the testing to my son as he has a school report to compile!

  2. Jason Sherron says:

    You raise good points. I’d emphasize your first point even more — reading and understanding your SLA is critical. SLAs aren’t insurance policies — at best, they’re refund policies in most cases, and won’t compensate you for the loss of business during an incident. I’ve argued in many forums that the most crucial component of cloud services of any sort is no-commit pricing. The ability to walk away and go to another provider is the strongest statement that you can make as a customer that the cloud provider must deliver. Nothing beats voting with your wallet, and locking yourself into a long-term service commitment with no escape negates much of your ability to respond to poor service.

    I’d also like to correct a few factual errors and implications in the text. The comparison between Gmail and Outlook is fair from a technical standpoint, but neglects to mention Hotmail — a “cloud” email service that predates Google as a company.

    Also, Office 2010 shipped recently, with a large number of versions that run in various desktop and cloud configurations, including “free in the cloud”. I realize that this is a newer development, but wanted to call it out explicitly. Google has indeed put a lot of stock in cloud services, but so has Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Amazon and others who might offer relevant services.

    Jason

    • Hi Jason

      Thanks for your comments on SLAs – you do make some very good points yourself about how they aren’t insurance policies and that is something that potential cloud service users would do well to understand.

      As for hotmail, how could I overlook such a service? You are right, of course, it was an early ‘cloud service’ that predates many of the services that are around these days by a good few years.

      I have to confess to not knowing very much at all about Office 10 as I have never seen an installation of it, let alone used it – you’ve given me reason to go and learn more!

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