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The worst economy in 70 years hasn't deflated the cloud: In 2009, cloud services were already a $16 billion market, says research firm IDC. By 2014, global cloud revenues will hit $55.5 billion, growing five times faster than other IT products.
It's not hard to see why enterprises large and small are flocking to the cloud. The cloud reduces IT capex and opex by shifting those costs to the enterprise's cloud provider. That's an obvious benefit even in flush times, but it's even more attractive when the recession has CIOs and IT managers looking to run as lean as possible.
Cloud computing also helps enterprises stay nimble -- by enabling them to take advantage of new technologies faster than if they had to buy and deploy the equipment themselves, for example. That flexibility can produce competitive advantages, including rolling out services quickly to respond to changing market conditions.
Another big draw is the ability to scale IT systems up and down to meet changing needs, such as peaks during the holiday shopping season. That lets enterprises be more responsive to a flood of new customers, but without purchasing IT infrastructure that would be underutilized between peak periods.
5 Tips for Fighting Breaches
As any CIO or IT manager is quick to add, the cloud's benefits can't come at the expense of security. Even minor breaches can have big implications, ranging from a PR nightmare and class action lawsuits when confidential customer information is compromised, to jail time if it turns out that lax security policies violated laws. Worst-case scenario: a breach so big that Congress enacts a law nicknamed after the company.
Some enterprises have an internal cloud, others work with a cloud provider and still others have a combination of the two. These tips apply to all three models:
1. Start clean.
Some enterprises require their cloud provider to put their data only on brand-new servers. They believe it's impossible to remove every trace of former tenants and that this electronic detritus creates back doors for hackers.
2. Secure access to the cloud.
Implement strong authentication mechanisms to secure every Web path that provides access to the cloud. Ditch simple, password-based logins in favor of multifactor authentication. In fact, some industries mandate this. One example is financial services, where since 2006 the FFIEC has required banks to use multifactor authentication to protect logins into their sites. Also, take a look outside your industry to see if there are any regulations and best practices that you could adopt or adapt to beef up cloud security.
3. Safeguard the data in the cloud.
This is another place where it's key to keep up with industry-specific laws and best practices, including ones that can be borrowed from other sectors. For example, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard specifies physical and logical controls for data both when it's at rest and in motion, while HIPAA provides similar requirements for medical data.
4. Verify and audit.
Third-party auditors can verify that your cloud or your cloud provider meet security and privacy laws, as well as any industry-specific best practices. Besides PCI and HIPAA, audits may look at compliance with SAS 70 which covers application security, physical security and security processes. Another is ISO 27002, which lists hundreds of options for security management.
5. End clean.
PCI is also an example of how some industries require that data be destroyed, including the hard drives. That includes when switching cloud providers: The contract should spell out exactly how data must be destroyed.