'To cloud' or 'not to cloud' . . .

Chuck Herman
BridgeTower Media Newswires

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past, and we must respect the past, knowing that once it was all that was humanly possible.
— George Santayana

There was a time when the only option for “off-site” data storage was a courier who came to your business on a regular basis and retrieved media (tapes, disks, floppies, etc.) that contained copies of your data and transported them to a “secure” physical location for safekeeping – does the name Iron Mountain sound familiar? Or a business owner or trusted employee took the media home – more times than not this was the person who lived closest to the business, therefore guaranteeing a swift return of the data if needed – Hmm. “All that was humanly possible”….

Things have certainly changed in the last 5-10 years. The proliferation of vastly increased bandwidth, inexpensive storage, and the requirements for data integrity and security have driven this change.

Not only can you now store that data off-site for recovery purposes, but it can be your working, current set of data that you can access 24x7 in order to run your business – aka, working in “The cloud.”

The cloud can be private – storing and accessing data on your equipment at a co-located site, or it can be public – storing and accessing data housed with any one of a number of service providers – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Box, Dropbox -- just to name a few.

Of course, the $64,000 questions always seem to be: Is my data secure? How much control over my data am I relinquishing?

More salient questions, at least from my perspective, would be:

How secure is my data presently? How am I controlling the data under my roof now?

Basic answers

There aren’t a great number of answers to these questions – but they usually reference physical security, networking perimeteredge security, and employee access to data security. Regardless, company safeguards should be in place whether your data is “in-house” or “in the cloud.” If your company has experienced IT employees on staff, then you could reasonably expect satisfactory answers to these questions.

As far as answering the question of “to cloud” or “not to cloud,” there are a couple of points worth considering. Cloud providers have built and continue to maintain state-of-the-art infrastructures to provide for data security (from both a physical and electronic perspective), maximum uptime, and data availability (redundancy). They employ technology that can ensure that your data is 100 percent segregated from another client’s data, and they can, in some cases, assist with developing a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy.

You can house just your data with these providers, or your entire computing environment, or a combination thereof. This is their business, it’s what they do – and they can usually do it better, andor cheaper, andor faster than you can.

Keep in mind there are many ways to leverage the cloud, and suffice it to say this mode of working is not immune to malware occurrences, service outages, and security breaches of one sort or another. You would be encouraged to research all offerings of the provider you’re considering, as well as their uptime, delivery, and security history – and make an informed decision. And if you’re still on the fence…

Just recall the first time you gave your backup tapes to the off-site courier who immediately placed them in a battered cardboard box for transport, or the “trusted” employee who stored your backup disks in their basement on top of the water heater, or when you took that money you had stuffed in your mattress to the bank for safekeeping plus 2 percent interest.

I’d say that going “cloud” is a lot less risky than any of those.

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Chuck Herman is a senior network engineer at Alliance InfoSystems.  He has over 18 years of desktop and network management experience.

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