Cloud Computing is a term that is thrown around a lot in the technology world, but as a business owner it might still remain a mystery shrouded in a lot of what sounds like gibberish.
We're here to answer the most frequently asked questions about the cloud as well as address what you need to ask your cloud service provider before you make the switch.
First of all, what is the cloud?
This is where the tech talk might have thrown you off course. The cloud is essentially a virtual storage space that the average person can access using the internet.
Now, here's where it gets complicated. There is a private cloud, a public cloud and a hybrid cloud.
A private cloud is operated solely for the customer while a public cloud is a shared virtual space where customers have a designated space within the cloud. A hybrid cloud is a combination of the two; entities remain unique but they share standardized technology under the same roof so to speak.
Think of it like this: a private cloud is like renting a whole house. You have the place to yourself, but the landlord still has control. A public cloud is similar to living in an apartment building. You might all be under the same roof, but you have a designated space that you can call your own. A hybrid, however, is like renting out your basement. It's still yours, but you have to share a little bit.
What is the SPI Model?
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)- This model includes storage and computing resources. What does this mean for your business? The cloud houses virtual hardware to keep things running, like server space, network connections, IP addresses, etc.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) - Using this model, you're provided an operating system which allows applications to be built upon the cloud infrastructure. This means that the platform and services needed to create software and services are stored in the cloud and can be accessed by web browser.
Software as a Service (SaaS) - Includes the first two, infrastructure and an operating platform, but also hosts the software. Essentially, software on demand. Rather than buying a program and installing it on your computer, it is hosted it the cloud and can be accessed using the internet.
The perks of the cloud are scalability and cost effectiveness as well as basically everything is available on demand.
Is it safe to store personal information in the cloud?
Technically speaking there is nothing preventing you from storing personal data in the cloud. However, there are different definitions of what constitutes 'personal' and many of the files you will need to store will contain sensitive information.
Even the top cloud providers are vulnerable to an attack. Take care to learn the different security requirements for the types of files your business needs to store.
Is the cloud secure?
Hackers typically want the most information with the least effort and will go after the cloud server rather than an individual user. Make sure you store your data with a reputable service provider who has a good history of client security.
Ensure your data is encrypted while being stored in the cloud and also when it is travelling back and forth through internet exchanges. You will also need a strong password. Passwords can and usually are hacked, but don't make it easy.
Just as you would back up your computer's hard drive, ensure that the data being stored in the cloud is being backed up on a regular basis.
Is the cloud better for large or small businesses?
The cloud works well for both because of its inherent flexibility. Large businesses are able to scale up or scale down on demand, while small businesses have access to the same tools as big business but for a price that fits their budget.
Is the cloud for governments?
While some governments seem to be embracing the idea of the cloud, there are several privacy and security issues that keep it from moving forward.
A more detailed example of the risks that businesses and governments face when using the cloud can be found here.
What is the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and what does CCSK mean?
The CSA is a not for profit organization that works to educate and instruct cloud providers about cloud security. CCSK stands for Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge given by the CSA to those who have completed their preparation course.
How do I find a secure service provider?
We recommend researching several vendors before deciding to sign on with them. Different vendors have different levels of security and different means of keeping your information private.
Does the provider have the right to access or use my information?
Your cloud provider should only have access to customer information in order to provide the appropriate service and information.
Questions to ask before moving to the cloud:
What happens to my data in the cloud? - It will depend on the cloud service model you end up choosing, but you will probably end up sending your data over the internet to the cloud server where it will be stored in a virtual storage medium rather than on a physical device. In order to access your information you will need to log in to the cloud server using an online interface and from there the server will either transmit the data back to you or allow you to manipulate it on the server itself.
Who is responsible for data security in the cloud?- There will typically be different answers to this question because companies will be set up differently. Get them to explain to you exactly who is responsible for security and the measures they take to protect you. Not happy with the answer? Don't feel guilty walking away.
Where is my data/ hardware hosted? - Many providers do not limit the use of their servers in countries located outside of the European Union. However, it may be imperative to your business to follow the EU's data security and privacy requirements. You will have to ask your cloud service provider if they can restrict your data to servers within the EU and if that will entail an extra cost or loss of functionality.
Can your other customers access my data?- Before you sign anything, ensure that the provider has explicitly stated that only those with proper verification can access your information
How do you handle the transfer of information to the cloud? - If they don't encrypt the information that could be a big warning sign. Don't sign up with a provider that could leave you and your information vulnerable.
How do you ensure my privacy and my security in the cloud? - Make sure that the provider in question has been able to demonstrate its compliance with security and privacy regulations. It should be in their contract as well.
Who is liable in the instance of missing or leaked data? - You may need to negotiate the limits of liability in case of a leak or missing data. If the service provider is hacked, there is little they can do to retrieve the information. Consider the pros and cons: limited recovery versus economic value.
Who has access to my data? - It is possible that no matter where your data is stored public authorities may attempt to access data. If you are storing sensitive information ensure that you hold the encryption keys and not the cloud provider.
How do you handle deleted data? What will you do with my data if I decide to stop using your services?- Most providers will leave the deletion of data in the customer's hands and once it is gone, it's really gone. It doesn't hurt to ask them about their practices though. Ensure that it says in the contract that once your agreement is terminated, your information is no longer retained.
How can I find out if the contract is being followed?- A reputable service provider should be able to give you an independent audit of the services provided.</li>
Still have questions about the cloud? Ask them below or call us today! We can help connect you to worry-free technology.