Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft advises preparation for cloud computing migration

Software giant Microsoft has communicated some thoughts as to how the continued expansion in the cloud computing industry is likely to affect businesses around the world.

Microsoft’s server executive Bob Muglia outlined the ideas during a speech at the TechEd 2010 conference in the USA, suggesting that in order to remain competitive, businesses will need to prepare for cloud computing now, rather than making the transition in a single leap at a later date when migrating services could prove to be costlier and more complex.

Mr Muglia said that the cloud computing industry is on the brink of significant expansion and evolution, which he believes will have an impact across all business sectors the world over. He also said that although the prospects of cloud computing are exciting to many, the actual process of integrating cloud solutions into existing in-house systems is neither simple nor quick to achieve.

Mr Muglia went on to say that many businesses are not aware that the applications that they use on a daily basis via their in-house systems are already optimised and ready for migration to the cloud. He believes that this transition will involve finding a hybrid solution or a happy medium between total cloud adoption and the rigid continuation of in-house system support.

Mr Muglia was keen to point out that he believes the idea that total migration to the cloud must be performed instantly and permanently is a myth developed by some vendors in order to further their own businesses rather than actually aid the client.

He went as far as to say that many firms will have invested in cloud-ready technology without perhaps realising that they had done so, which may mitigate the cost of migration and make the transition easier for staff as the user interface will remain the same while all of the benefits of the cloud can be assimilated.

Microsoft is clearly keen on publicising its own commitment to cloud computing, but it is facing stiff competition from many other firms in this fast growing industry.

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.

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.

Analysts predict hardware spend will fall as cloud computing dominates

Research firm Gartner has revealed that IT budgets will become increasingly focused on cloud computing, open source projects and virtualisation, creating a vacuum in the hardware market as demand falls.

The arrival of Windows 7 last year will have helped the hardware industry slightly as firms move to upgrade systems in 2010. However, it is believed that this year many larger projects revolving around in-house infrastructure changes will be dropped by some businesses as they look to alternative options.

In a recent report Gartner suggested that some 2.1 trillion will be spent on IT this year, which is up over five per cent compared to 2009. In 2011 it predicts even greater budgetary increases, with 2.3 trillion or more potentially being spent.

It is believed that spending on storage will increase as firms look to expand their data capacity, which is constantly being stretched as data requirements grow. However, over the next four years the forecast for most hardware spending looks to be on a downward trend.

Interestingly most firms upgrading server hardware are opting for entry level solutions as stop-gap solutions in order to tide them over until they are ready to make the leap to cloud computing and virtualisation of their systems.

The arrival of Windows 7 is expected to account for 1 per cent of the market growth in 2010 as firms commit to an upgrade cycle. Small and medium sized businesses are switching to the new Microsoft operating system because most believe that it offers better usability and heightened performance.

Gartner says that current IT spending is still being driven by improving efficiency whilst cutting costs, as the global recession is still biting hard in many industries. This is causing many firms to seek out services that can automate essential processes.

The result is that open source projects and virtualisation of data storage will become far more commonplace. This will be good news for vendors in these areas and it is believed that the competition this will generate will continue to ensure that such services are cost effective.

Illegal downloads lead to data loss

A survey has found that a significant proportion of data loss and identity theft is caused by viruses and malware transmitted via pirated software.

The study, conducted by Microsoft, has found that consumers and businesses can easily become victims of a security breach if they unwittingly download files which are shared online and breach copyright, as hackers are using these tempting files to piggyback their own malicious software.

The survey covered one thousand UK adults and asked whether they used illegally obtained programs at work or at home. Nearly 17 per cent of respondents said that they did.

Microsoft carried out the survey in order to assess the attitudes of UK citizens towards piracy and privacy and its publication has come at a significant time in the context of data protection, as the Digital Economy bill is potentially to be brought into effect before the general election is held.

60 per cent of respondents said that they were aware of the heightened risk posed by pirated software as opposed to other illegally downloaded media such as film or music.

Security expert Susie Winter told the Telegraph that identity theft and data loss could be unwanted symptoms of illegal software downloads. She said that innocent employees could often become victims in certain cases when a firm was knowingly using illegally downloaded software without the knowledge of its staff.

62 per cent of respondents said that they had seen their computer systems infected with a virus as a result of downloading and using pirated software. 31 per cent admitted that the pirated software had contained malware that led to data loss and further security headaches, with 38 per cent experiencing system crashes and failures as a result.

In London it was admitted that 14 per cent of staff were using pirate programs whilst at work. Of this group, nearly 60 per cent said that their superiors were not of the opinion that using illegally downloaded programs was unacceptable.

Experts say that businesses can come up with many excuses if they are discovered to be using pirated software, but that these are inadequate in addressing the consequences, which may include fines, data loss and perhaps most damaging of all, diminishing consumer trust in their brand.

Cloud security improvements requested by Microsoft

In a bid to increase confidence in cloud computing, Microsoft is calling for legislative and regulatory action from vendors and the US government aimed at improving the security of current cloud platforms.

Microsoft’s senior VP Brad Smith told the Washington D.C. based think tank at the Brookings Institute last week that businesses were not being provided with enough motivation to switch from in-house data backup and storage systems over to the cloud.

As a cloud provider itself Microsoft is of course affected and Mr Smith’s call for transparency in cloud security measures and standards would also require that the US government took it upon itself to create policies designed to police cloud computing. Mr Smith also suggested that there should be stronger powers available to punish criminals seeking to compromise the integrity of cloud systems.

Mr Smith said that cloud vendors could only win the trust of businesses if they were willing to openly explain how their data was stored and in what way it would be used by them. The involvement of a third party in any aspect of a business’ operation is always going to come under scrutiny and when valuable data is involved this is intensified.

The flow of data from individual PCs in a business network to the cloud would need to be governed by the elected authorities, said Mr Smith. Protecting the privacy of the individual in the eyes of the state would also have to be ensured and it is getting this balance of transparency and security right that is clearly the biggest challenge facing businesses and cloud vendors.

Mr Smith pushed for wider debate on the international stage concerning the regulation and operation of the cloud, because it is clearly necessary to keep global as well as national legislation in step with the ever-progressing technology involved.

Microsoft has evidence to support its desire for a more thorough discussion of cloud security and data protection policy, as a recent survey it commissioned found that 90 per cent of business owners are questioning the security and privacy of data stored using cloud computing. The survey also found that there is much enthusiasm for cloud computing, with 86 per cent saying that they were interested in the opportunities it offers.

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