Tag Archives: Cloud Computing

Outsourcing to the cloud; a key strategy for Government IT in 2011?

With government spending always a hot topic and with the recent rise in VAT, how public money is being spent and how it is being saved will be under even more scrutiny this year.

A leading research firm has recently published a paper stating that 2011 will see an increase by many government agencies in both outsourcing and offering more services over the cloud.

Since the last budget announcement on cuts in public sector spending, cloud based services are being viewed as a cost cutting strategy as government agencies explore all avenues in saving cash.

The increased use of the cloud and business process outsourcing (BPO) are expected to be the two main trends to push efficiencies in Government IT expenditure in 2011. Author of the paper, Jessica Hawkins working for research firm Ovum, argues that government agencies will seek to outsource many back-office processes in bids to save money as quickly as possible.

She also states that government agencies should adopt a long term strategy in both their own in house services and those that are offered out in order to deliver more efficient services, stating: “Many will look to their IT vendor to give them guidance on new technologies and vendors should be ready to do this”.

So is it good news for all Cloud Based Service providers? Not necessarily. Given the sensitivity of the data involved and their standing in the public eye, service providers can be sure that these agencies won’t outsource to just any cloud provider.

Some vendors have already in place their own long term strategies to ensure that when large organisations come looking for any Cloud Based solution – be it Online Backup, Virtual Disaster Recovery or Hosting – their own internal processes and what they offer have been fully independently audited.

By receiving ISO 9001, 27001 and 25999, a vendor can ensure it has in place internationally recognised standards for the services it offers. Given data breaches through bad practice are always news worthy; public bodies can be sure that when outsourcing their data to a cloud based service provider, there are companies out there who are already meeting the high standards required by such important organisations. Additionally, vendors can receive sponsorship to achieve UK Government security clearance, so the staff they employ are cleared to deal with all Government agencies.

Expert praises security potential of cloud computing

Art Coviello, the head of RSA, told the audience at a security conference in the US that the ongoing adoption of cloud-based solutions was giving vendors and businesses a chance to create a more secure environment for data storage and protection.

Speaking at the 2010 EMC World conference in Boston, Mr Coviello said that building cloud platforms from the ground up meant that professionals could integrate security measures into the foundations of the new systems, resulting in a more stable, trusted environment and a reduction in the likelihood of data loss or theft.

Mr Coviello sees the rise of cloud computing as a chance for firms to go back and start from the very beginning, by which he means that proper data protection needs to be considered and included in the core functions of any cloud-based system. He believes this to be something of a once in a generation opportunity that should not be missed.

There is still some apprehension surrounding cloud solutions, with even the vendors questioning whether they can offer adequate security and build confidence in the client base. Mr Coviello gave the example of a recent report which found that over 50 per cent of IT managers are still mistrusting of the security offered by cloud computing.

Experts are attempting to push for the creation of a platform which will have multiple layers of security to be harnessed by businesses from day one of its adoption. The intention is to make the monitoring of each system as simple as possible, whilst the protective layers are there to make it difficult to attack or misuse data.

The EMC’s Pat Gellsinger concurred with Mr Coviello, adding that a significant security benefit of cloud computing was its ability to implement protective measures in a granular form.

Both Mr Coviello and Mr Gellsinger offer warnings as well as positive messages in relation to the cloud, with the general assumption that cyber criminals will pounce on any cloud system which is not adequately protected. Cloud security is seen as a somewhat black and white environment, guaranteeing either complete protection or a data loss nightmare.

Global data usage figures predicted to soar in 2010

The latest statistics suggest another record year for global data output, with a total of 1.2 Zettabytes set to be produced over the course of 2010 by businesses and individuals around the world.

The Interactive Data Corp (IDC) has published this information in a report that asks whether firms are ready to face what it is calling the Digital Universe Decade.

A Zettabyte is the equivalent of a trillion gigabytes, or in current pop culture terms, the same volume of data that could be stored on about 75 billion Apple iPads with 16GB of capacity.

Between 2008 and 2009 the annual global data output grew by 62 per cent, according to IDC. This rate of growth shows no signs of slowing, and to give some perspective, the figures have also been translated into terms that will be comprehensible to social networking fans. 1.2 Zettabytes is equivalent to the volume of data that the entire global population would produce if everyone used Twitter non-stop for a century.

The boom in data storage requirements that will be seen as a result of increased data volumes is believed to mean that in ten years time there will be many more professionals working in the IT industry than there are today. However, this will be a relatively small increase compared to the capacity of the data storage solutions that will exist in a decade, with at least a 62 per cent increase predicted.

The most telling fact noted by IDC is that the global community is already producing 35 per cent more data than there is available storage. This discrepancy is only set to grow, with a 60 per cent overflow rate being predicted within the next few years.

Experts believe that this seemingly insurmountable growth in the data storage requirements of businesses will mean that switching to cloud-based solutions will be the only viable option to maintain effective operation.

IDC says that 80 per cent of the world’s data output is stored by businesses, despite the fact that the creation of 70 per cent of the total annual data can be attributed to individuals. It also says that firms that adopt social media tools for internal use will also bear a greater proportion of this growth as a result.

Cloud expansion fuelled by falling budgets, experts claim

UK businesses will increasingly rely on cloud computing solutions to backup their data and operate systems because they represent cheaper options than traditional alternatives, according to the National Outsourcing Association (NOA).

Over the next two years, cloud-based providers are expected to experience a growth rate in the region of 78 per cent, with the peak coming at some point in 2012. These figures have been published in a recent report into cloud computing and IT spending authored by the NOA.

The NOA says that the three per cent penetration level for cloud technology that exists today is a fraction of the potential expansion which will be seen as budgets are slashed and savings are sought.

Businesses are also believed to be turning to the cloud in order to access a more scalable set of technologies which can adjust in line with the storage and backup needs of any given firm, and as data volumes increase exponentially.

The NOA found that the majority of businesses it questioned in creating the report would be looking to integrate cloud-based solutions with current in-house systems, rather than migrating everything to the cloud in a single upgrade. Virtually every respondent said that cloud computing would be intrinsically linked to desktop computing in the near future.

The biggest concern amongst businesses considering adopting cloud solutions is the risk of becoming inextricably tethered to a single provider for a prolonged period without the ability to change. 92 per cent of those questioned cited this as a significant issue.

The security of data on cloud platforms is also an ongoing area of concern, with nearly 75 per cent stating that the adoption of cloud-based solutions would be a worry because data protection concerns had not been fully addressed.

The NOA’s Martyn Hart said that the UK business community was about to experience a significant shift towards cloud computing in the next two years. He also said that universal adoption was beyond the horizon for the time being, with adoption levels just beginning to pick up pace.

Cloud services compromised by poor password practice

Businesses that use cloud computing services to backup and store sensitive data are leaving themselves vulnerable because employees and administrators are choosing poor passwords, according to CRYPTOCard.

Some of the biggest names in the business, including Microsoft and Facebook, have said that the number of similar passwords used by common customers was putting at risk the millions of items of personal data that people store on their services. This applies not just to social networking and consumer services, but also to the business world and cloud computing solutions.

Firms and employees are allegedly relying on basic, easily predictable passwords to secure their cloud platforms and CRYPTOCard believes that it is only a matter of time before this is exploited by criminals to steal data and industry secrets.

Experts say that the tools that make password hacking simple are freely available online and in a matter of minutes any third party could gain access to the data a business stores on the cloud if it has chosen a weak password. This is said to be one of the biggest weaknesses with cloud computing, perhaps unsurprisingly centred on the human factor.

In a recent study it was discovered that most business managers are unaware as to the types of applications that employees are using at work and cannot explain whether they are based internally or on a cloud platform.

People who have passwords for social networking and webmail services that they access for personal use are often duplicating these basic passwords for work services, according to CRYPTOCard’s CEO Neil Hollister.

Mr Hollister believes that although things are improving, the process of encouraging people into better password habits is a slow one and in the meantime viruses data loss can occur due to poor password choice.

Mr Hollister said that finding out about employee interests from their social networking profiles and then creating a malware-bearing website related to that interest which will be accessed at work is a relatively simple task.

Mr Hollister concluded by pointing out to SC Magazine that there are already security measures out there that can neutralise the risks posed by weak passwords in a cloud-based environment, but the implementation of these has to be kick-started from the top.

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