Does growth in cloud computing lead to an even bigger security risk?

Nov. 10, 2009

There’s no denying that everyone is talking about the growth of cloud computing. Despite the fact that the concept is nothing new it is expected to become a multiple billion dollar industry within the next few years. In the security industry and for those techy IT guys who live and breathe this kind of stuff everyday we refer to it as Web-based services while others would agree that Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing go hand-in-hand.

ABI Research, among many other industry experts, foresees that cloud computing technologies will become a huge push for mobile applications. We’ve already mastered being able to send messages through Gmail and uploading photos to Myspace. Now, with mobile application growth and cloud computing combined, users will no longer be limited to all these sorts of applications from their desktop PC to access saved information. But the big question is whether the advantages of cloud computing outweigh the risks.

It’s clear that cloud computing reduces costs and limitations. For those larger companies that do have a lot of data and not enough capability to store it, cloud computing is a plus as that data is no longer maintained on their own systems (machines) but instead across the Web to a number of data centers. Others are questioning the security of cloud computing, primarily how that stored data of theirs is affected once it is distributed to different data centers. Then there is the whole debacle of a private cloud versus a public cloud; although the differentiation between the two may be clear--with a public cloud getting access to a network connection may be clearly easier than to a private cloud--there is still question as to how this is specifically regulated, by whom and how reliable it is.

Some may say that having their data distributed across a number of sites is good because it’s harder to track that data. Others speculate as to how that data is changed once it’s out of the safety of their own hands. Still others may ask who cloud computing really benefits and what benefits do the data centers get out of this?

Industry leader IBM is already setting the bar high with new cloud-based services available: the IBM Rational Software Delivery Services for Cloud Computing; and IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud. Both are intended to help organizations manage software assets while maintaining cost.

In October, Microsoft Corp. and Chunghwa Telecom Co. partnered to develop cloud computing-based applications. Industry research firm Gartner also forecasted that revenue from cloud computing will total near $14 billion by 2013. Even SaaS-provider Brivo Systems LLC, Bethesda, Md., recently came out with their new product offering, the Brivo Appstack, a catalog of complementary security management resources available with their hosted ACS WebService.

Cloud computing will definitely continue to gain ground into the next year but developers and providers have to be ready to face the many speculations that many already have about the offering. Despite the advantages, cloud computing clearly has its risks and challenges not only for those on the receiving end of the service but also on the providing aspect of it. As more folks continue to transition their data via cloud computing, the providers and IT folks need to be ready to face whatever challenges come their way, even if that means additional required training on issues they have yet to deal with, such as security threats on the network.

Natalia Kosk
Assistant Editor, Security Dealer & Integrator magazine