Is Cloud Computing Secure?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brittany Lyons

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Cloud computing has changed the way the world can interact with and manage data, but is it as secure as its proponents say?

Both Google and Amazon use cloud services to manage their massive networks, with Amazon's A3 service available to the public. Purchasing space on A3's network is relatively cheap in terms of cloud storage and distribution, but having your information shared across multiple servers does cause some concerns.

Businesses, non-profits, online PhD or education programs and individuals alike have begun to rely on cloud computing for their daily Internet needs, but is this new type of technology secure enough to handle sensitive information?

The answer is a simple yes: it's just as secure as standard computing and hosting. However, the media sometimes gives the impression that it isn't. Often you hear about major networks like Google suffering huge outages across their cloud network, which can send users into a panic about their information.

What many people don't realize is that while these outages do occur, they're not any more significant than a traditional outage. The data has not been "hacked," and the outage does not mean that the information was lost.

Because of the risks of cloud computing, many major providers take their security much more seriously. Their policies and physical security on site are often much tighter than traditional hosting platforms, with employees dedicated to actively monitoring how the network is performing, and taking action when an intrusion is detected.

Just as cloud computing is a boon for society because of its redundant nature, the security is that much tighter for the network because of its security redundancy. Most offer some sort of encryption for your data so that as soon as it enters their servers, it is impossible for an outsider to read.

The difference between cloud computing and traditional computing is that most traditional hosts offer nightly backups. Thus, if something happens, the latest backup is from the night before. This differs from cloud computing, which is designed to back up after each transaction, instantly.

Therefore, should something fail within the service, the last backup was only moments before the last transaction. For problems that exist inside the cloud, a single fix can instantly alleviate any problems experienced by consumers.

If you are still worried about the security of your data, there are measures you can take to ensure that your information is safe. For example, you can encrypt your own information before you submit it.

Some hosts offer their own form of data encryption to help protect it, but taking security measures into your own hands keeps you protected even if something should happen to the thousands of servers that have access to your data. Additionally, you can run your own back-ups of the information, so if the cloud network goes down you still have the data.

The future of data storage online is most certainly cloud computing, as it provides instant access to data under a heavy load and redundant backups for when the inevitable fail should happen. The security measures that go into protecting this future will only become more stringent as time goes on, so there's really nothing to worry about.

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