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What is the cloud?

According to IBM, the cloud is the delivery of on-demand computing resources—everything from applications to data centers—over the Internet on a pay-for-use basis.

However, the definition of what the cloud actually means to you could be a little fuzzier. For us, as IT professionals, it means that we now have a way to consistently update our software on the fly, size up or size down resources in a flash, only pay for what we use and in the long run it helps us extend our IT capabilities to you because the cloud also offers self-service access.

Your staff and operations will be connected across the globe, independent of location and you can access information from any device. There will be no limits to the reach of your operations. Work can be done with any device, anywhere and anytime.

Another benefit of the cloud is that the market will have a lower capital cost for IT - no more expensive projects. With the cloud costs will shrink and grow proportionally to the size and growth of your company.

There are a couple different terms popping up when it comes to the cloud services that are out there.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Think of this as rent-a-software. New software and different cloud applications are hosted and distributed by your cloud provider so that there is no actual download required, everyone connected to the cloud has access and you only pay for what you use. If something happens to your computer, your information is safe because all of the data is stored in the cloud and not on any one device.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Same concept as SaaS, but with PaaS you are able to rent a virtual server and any associated services including hardware, storage, network capacity or operating systems.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Sometimes referred to as Hardware as a Service (HaaS), IaaS allows businesses to outsource the equipment necessary to support day-to-day operations, which includes storage, hardware, networking components and servers. The cloud provider owns and operates the hardware and the business pays for its usage.

IaaS works especially well for start-ups because there is no need to invest in costly equipment and since it works on a pay-per-use scale it is OK if the workload fluctuates.
What is the difference between private and public clouds?
A public cloud is owned and operated by multiple companies to consistently offer affordable computing resources to several organizations at a time.

A private cloud is owned and operated by only one company and they have control over the way resources are customized and used as well as eliminates the risks that come with multi-tenancy.

A hybrid cloud takes the best of both worlds and smashes them together.

Businesses can use a private cloud and simultaneously manage their workloads using a public cloud and other data centers.
Are there problems with the cloud?
Cloud computing is still a relatively new concept for most business owners, and even though we think the cloud is awesome there are some issues to watch out for.

One of the disadvantages of the cloud is that you need a very reliable internet connection. Everything is dependent on the internet being up and running, so if it's down, you're down.

We believe that using the cloud can save you money, but depending on your service provider you could be paying more than you should. Keep in mind that the cloud is going to save you money right off the bat - no costly equipment, no in-house team, no software to install, but eventually the cost per month may end up being comparable with having an in-house IT professional

Security is probably the biggest issue the cloud is faced with. Cloud providers house the data of multiple organizations making them a valuable target. Some of the security issues that threaten the cloud are:

Data breaches - A single flaw in one of the applications could allow a hacker to easily access multiple client files.

Data loss - Your data could be erased by either a hacker or a careless cloud service provider. We recommend encrypting your files, but you also run the risk of losing your encryption key.

Account/service traffic hijacking - If a hacker gains access to your data, they could falsify documents and essentially eavesdrop on the day-to-day activities of your business.

Insecure interfaces and APIs - Even though these are essential to the cloud's functionality, weak interfaces could allow a third party to begin building on your interface, injecting their own add-on services that are illegitimate.

Denial of service ranks - An attacker could either cause a system outage or even if they are unsuccessful, they could make it so that it consumes so much processing time that you can no longer afford to run the systems.

Malicious insiders - Could be a disgruntled former employee, business partner, contractor, etc, but if they gain access to your cloud they can wreak havoc.

Abuse - Abuse of the cloud could mean that an attacker is using the cloud itself to break encryptions, launch attacks, or share malware and pirated software.

Insufficient due diligence - This refers to organizations who embrace the cloud without fully understanding contractual issues, liability, operational problems or the risks associated with using the cloud.

Shared technology vulnerabilities - If even one component of the cloud is breached in some way, the entire environment is also at risk.

Even though there are risks involved in using the cloud, we still believe that the good outweighs the bad. We have a couple tips to amp up your cloud security.

Encryption is key. Your data should be encrypted when it is being stored as well as when it is being transmitted through the services.

Know the process. When you sign on with a cloud services provider, ensure you understand how they backup data, delete data and store your data.

Understand the risks and work with an IT professional if you need advice. We'd be happy to help!
We want to know your thoughts. Using the cloud already? We want to know what you think.

As technology evolves, managing it all can be complicated. We at SC Systems can help. Contact us today and let us connect you to worry-free technology.

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