Category Archives: The Cloud

Study shows small businesses still perplexed by cloud

A new study has identified that many business leaders who run small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) are far from at home with the technology and possibilities offered by cloud computing, leading to mistrust and misunderstanding of the industry.

GFI Software carried out a survey into cloud awareness and comprehension amongst UK SMEs, and it concluded that technical language and fears about network management under cloud computing are contributing to a less than universal appreciation as to the value of cloud-based solutions.

Only 10 per cent of SMEs based in the UK can explain what cloud computing is, according to the respondents who took part in the survey. In stark contrast to this figure is the 90 per cent of those questioned who were able to understand the key concepts of hosted services and managed solutions.

The report points out that most SMEs are becoming entangled in the superficially complex but often synonymous terms which are use to describe the different elements of cloud computing. It believes that this continued confusion is proving to be a roadblock to wider cloud adoption.

The report asked respondents to identify the service that they were least likely to outsource for whatever reason. It found that an overwhelming minority, some 79 per cent, were unwilling to assign the management of their networks to a third party vendor, with just over a fifth claiming that they believe that the opposite is true.

Other roadblocks to wider adoption of cloud-based solutions amongst SMEs around the UK include cost and the duplicitous nature of certain third party vendors, according to GFI’s CEO Walter Scott.

Mr Scott believes that cloud firms need to streamline the way in which they market their services in order to attract smaller businesses. The simplification of the jargon that is profligate in the industry is seen as a first step in the right direction.

Mr Scott also suggests that putting cloud products on the same level as the likes of SAAS (software-as-a-service) will allow understanding to permeate the UK SME market.

Expert claims lack of SIEM provision by cloud vendors is troubling

A cloud computing expert has spoken out about the inadequate availability of security information and event management (SIEM) for firms signed up to cloud computing services with third party providers.

The distinction between the operation of private cloud systems and public cloud services is often made by the relative complexity of SIEM in relation to the two, according to Q1 Lab’s data security expert Chris Poulin.

Mr Poulin believes that cloud vendors lack the motivation to act transparently, largely obscuring the operation of their systems from clients.

Mr Poulin said that in order to guarantee client access to various important system log files on request, many businesses would have to negotiate this at the very beginning of the process, as getting full disclosure after a contract is signed may prove to be far more difficult.

The applications of SIEM are wide ranging amongst firms and organisations that are required to comply to specific industry standards and regulations, such as the PCI DSS.

Members of the SIEM market are currently predicting that a significant shift towards public cloud use by larger businesses will take place in the near future, according to Mr Poulin. This is being anticipated by the vendors as they ready themselves for an influx of new business.

There is currently a lack of analytical tools available to businesses looking to move their data onto public cloud platforms and Mr Poulin believes that the provision of these tools must come from third party suppliers.

The biggest players in the public cloud market, Google and Microsoft, have the means to offer robust SIEM to clients, but they are currently allocating resources to other areas of their businesses, according to Mr Poulin. In the example of Google, he believes that it is focusing on marketing when it could turn its attention to SIEM quite easily.

Mr Poulin also commented on Microsoft’s commitment to SIEM, saying that his own view was that the software giant did not fully appreciate the wider ramifications.

Data security strengthened by cloud computing according to survey

A new survey has shown that opinions on cloud computing could be changing, with more IT professionals than ever before suggesting that by switching to cloud-based solutions, businesses could actually be improving the security of their data and systems.

There is ongoing debate as to whether shifting data storage and other IT workloads over to third party cloud vendors is a positive move, with many having previously expressed concern as to the security of cloud computing in comparison with traditional in-house alternatives.

In a report authored as part of the 360°IT Event, more than 50 per cent of respondents said that improvements to their overall security levels could be achieved if they chose a cloud computing platform.

Nearly 300 professionals took part in the survey, with 20 per cent suggesting that switching to the cloud would neither improve nor weaken their data security. A further 25 per cent believed that a negative impact on security would be observed if cloud technology were to be employed.

Cloud computing expert Richard Hall said that the perception of cloud computing as intrinsically less secure than internal systems was gradually being addressed. Mr Hall believes that the security industry and businesses are actually using the move to cloud computing as an opportunity to improve security across the board, creating better systems for protecting personal information and sensitive data, whether stored internally or with a third party cloud vendor.

Mr Hall wrote on a personal blog that data loss and security breaches have typically been caused by the inadequacies of in-house management tools and processes. As a result, he sees the automation of basic security measures such as encryption – which is offered by cloud providers – as being key to the argument that cloud platforms can be far more secure than was previously believed.

By removing the requirement for human intervention in essential security systems, cloud vendors can create a secure, automated environment on which data can be stored and retrieved with total security guaranteed at every point in its journey, according to Mr Hall.

Licences for the management of applications to set boundaries of the cloud

Experts believe that most businesses will be restricted in their move towards cloud computing as a result of the various licenses that govern the way in which the applications they use can be implemented.

With some applications licensed only to run on internal systems or private cloud-based platforms, businesses could find themselves drawing up boundaries within the cloud because of third-party policy.

Novell’s Javier Colado explored this subject at the firm’s Brainshare Europe conference last week, suggesting that there was a thin line for IT managers to tread between complying with regulations and actually using the cloud with as much flexibility as the technology can theoretically offer.

Mr Colado said that businesses would need a management system that could balance the workloads of various applications without breaching licenses, compromising security or limiting scalability. These potentially mutually exclusive criteria are said to be achievable, but to many it may seem like an impossible task.

Mr Colado envisions a future of three tiered IT operations, with physical, virtual and cloud-based stacks, all requiring management, robust data security and online backup in order to avoid conflict, loss and non-compliance with industry regulations and application licenses.

The juggling act of keeping customer information and business secrets safe and secure whilst properly implementing the multiple layers of storage is set to become harder for those who do not equip themselves with the right tools, according to Mr Colado.

Many software firms are working on products that will allow businesses to designate the management of different application workloads across their internal and virtual systems, with the option to shift everything to the cloud depending on the requirements at any given moment, which is a true definition of scalability.

Novell’s Roger Whitehead said that management software and services would gradually become more homogenised as business requirements change, with IT departments requiring less of a distinction between the various systems and services they employ. As cloud adoption grows, a new set of challenges continues to emerge, but there are also vast opportunities which are increasingly recognised by industry leaders.

Survey shows cloud computing inadequately marketed to SMEs.

A new report has shown that cloud computing vendors are failing to engage with small and medium sized UK based enterprises (SMEs) and as a result are predicting more demand in the sector than there actually is.

Over 250 SMEs participated in a survey carried out by GFI Software. According to the results there is still a considerable degree of confusion as to the benefits that cloud computing can offer SMEs, with IT professionals working in this sector unable to appreciate or recommend switching to the cloud.

The survey’s most significant finding is that only 12 per cent of UK SMEs are actually being deterred from cloud computing because of security concerns. This is still the second highest reason given, but the overriding worry is that businesses will be tied to a single vendor for an inordinate amount of time when signing up for a cloud-based service.

The cost-cutting capabilities of the cloud, which are relatively well publicised, are also poorly appreciated by SMEs according to the study, which shows that 56 per cent of those questioned are happy to maintain their internal systems for data backup and storage.

SMEs understand that by adopting a cloud-based platform they will be benefiting from the experience of the vendor, in addition to sharing the accountability for data protection with another entity. However, total cloud migration is a rarity, with many choosing to combine in-house and outsourced systems in a hybrid approach.

86 per cent of firms with over 100 staff say that they are either signed up with a cloud vendor, or have plans to do so in the future. However, amongst those with fewer than 99 employees this figure falls to 69 per cent, and still further to 39 per cent for SMEs with 10 people and below.

GFI’s Walter Scott blamed the excessive use of jargon and confusing advertising for the slower uptake of cloud computing amongst SMEs in the UK. He also points to fear tactics employed by vendors who supply on-site technology to businesses as a contributing factor to mistrust and confusion.

New scoring system to rate cloud migration relevance

A rating system has been created to determine whether or not businesses are ready to take the plunge and switch one or more of their systems over to a cloud-based alternative to in-house management.

The ability to plan and assess cloud migration is believed to be of significant benefit by creator Fortify Software. The new scorecard system gives firms a simple indication as to whether or not their operations are cloud-ready.

Fortify’s Brian Chess identified a significant problem with the current perception of cloud computing amongst those business managers not involved in IT. It appears that many perceive switching to the cloud as an instant way in which to increase the security risks facing their customers’ personal data and their own intellectual property.

Mr Chess says that a lack of confidence in software platforms can result in a negative response to cloud migration. He suggests that any business that would not be happy using its current internal software platforms in the open-ended world of cloud computing should seriously consider reviewing its current data security measures.

Mr Chess is one of a growing group of experts who are in accordance that cloud computing in its various forms represents a great way in which businesses can save substantial sums. He told Infosecurity Magazine that the uptake of cloud platforms would occur from the bottom upwards, with small and medium sized firms making the switch before larger businesses and corporations.

The new cloud readiness scorecard system is far from just a passive tool. It can be used to identify potential weaknesses that will need to be addressed in order to improve data security within businesses in preparation for future migration to the cloud.

Experts from many fields are attempting to redefine the image of cloud computing, building trust with businesses looking to outsource IT systems and software platforms. It would seem that these efforts are being met with some degree of success. Initiatives such as the scorecard system can only help in persuading current sceptics that cloud computing is a safe, secure option provided that the correct steps are taken.

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