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Cloud computing services, which is marketing speak for virtual hosting, is becoming increasingly popular as the speed and reliability of the public Internet increases. smcloud


This article covers the security concerns around moving applications and services into the public domain and how to minimise the threat of data loss and security breaches. Cloud computing services comes in two flavours. They are application hosted and virtual machine hosting.


With application hosting, many customers operate in silos and connect to a common hardware infrastructure storing their data in separate database objects. An example of this type of hosted application is Microsoft Exchange. For a nominal monthly fee, you can have a complete corporate presence without any investment in infrastructure. Your clients can connect from anywhere and the communication is secured with SSL.


However, in this scenario a security breach could occur from an external source, such as a denial of service attack or a vulnerability in the application itself. This kind of breach could have potentially devastating ramifications for an organisation not only in terms of downtime, but if the information was commercially sensitive, could have even greater ramification to the business.


When you use the cloud, you probably won't know exactly where your data is hosted. In fact, you might not even know what country it will be stored in. For this reasons most established organisations prefer to host their own application, connect their clients using VPN services and avoid cloud services altogether, the business risk is too great.


However, the cloud can now address those concerns, using virtualisation. Cloud service providers supply a virtual instance where the customer has a complete virtual server installed on shared hardware. The operating system and storage can be encrypted and firewall connections provided by the service provider control access to the server. This arrangement overcomes some of the security concerns which application hosting has.


  • The customer controls all software installation and configuration. The customer can decide whether to encrypt the installation volume for additional security.Customers are ultimately responsible for the security and integrity of their own data, even when it is held by a service provider.
  • Traditional service providers are subjected to external audits and security certifications. Cloud computing providers who refuse to undergo this scrutiny are "signaling that customers can only use them for the most trivial functions," according to market analyst Gartner.
  • Firewall and VPN services can be deployed to limit exposure to security vulnerabilities.
  • Virtual snapshots can be made of the running machine to restore service instantly in the event of a failure or a security problem.
  • Virtual machine instance can be load balanced across multiple sites, which scales to hundreds of connections. Get as much information as you can about the people who manage your data. Ask providers to supply specific information on the hiring and oversight of privileged administrators, and the controls over their access.
  • Additional storage, CPU and memory can be added instantly, something a physical footprint can not do.
  • Reduced support costs, in terms of hardware maintenance and tech support, software updates.


Therefore, for the reasons provided above the flexibility, ease of use and other supporting benefits, starts to outweigh the few security concerns regarding hosting corporate information offsite.


By Angela Sutherland



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