Tag Archives: Encryption

“Right” Cloud Services—The Identification Problem

Every business considers itself unique, with a unique set of problems and concerns. The cloud considers every business generic, and builds its services around the “generic” needs of the business. Therefore, it is no wonder that businesses find it extremely hard to find a cloud solution that fits in with their every need!

Given the fact, how does a business identify the “right” cloud solution?

The nature of a particular business has a very important bearing on the kind of cloud services that the business should select. Businesses that deal with large volumes of confidential information (government bodies, health care units or advocates) cannot afford to lodge their information in a public cloud. They would do well to consider a private cloud or at best a hybrid cloud that enables them, create data repositories online and offline simultaneously for instantaneous recovery.

Businesses that cannot afford downtime (e-shops, travel agents or service centres) without huge loss of revenue should go in for hybrid clouds that permit them to switch from onsite data repositories to online repositories, and vice versa, quickly and seamlessly. Small and medium businesses that generate large volumes of data (that are neither private nor confidential) and would like to store them for data mining and data analysis purposes may consider public cloud stores.

But, whatever the nature of the business and type of data generated, no business likes to have its information hijacked by malicious elements. Data security protocols implemented by the cloud vendor can influence” right” choices. All types of businessmen want to be sure that their data is protected during transmission and in storage. They want to be assured that the data cannot be accessed by anyone other than those authorised to access the data. They want to know that the remote server is physically secured against intruders. They make the effort to scrutinise data encryption algorithms, user management systems, Log maintenance systems or activity monitoring and reporting systems. Certifications received, market reputation, past history of breaches or even word of mouth can have an impact on the selection process.

Aspiring cloud users like to know that they can retain control over their data even though it resides in a third party repository. They may like to implement the enterprise specific policies in the cloud. The customisation options and administrative flexibility provided in the cloud will have a positive impact on the vendor selection process. Points that may be taken in to consideration include: disaster recovery, failover architecture and availability of fully functional trial versions for testing.

Of course, costs make all the difference. Cost comparisons will be made and will be used to clinch the selection of the successful cloud service vendor.

We, at Backup Technology, are on standby to help our potential customers understand their requirements and match it with the features we offer. A fully functional trial version can be set up for you to test drive our services before you sign up. We can help you get a feel of our services before you firmly commit yourselves to a service. Our support team is ever ready to handhold you and guide you through the process of trying out our services via telephone or email.

How Do You Avoid Bad Backups?

Every backup process is fraught with risks. The cloud is no exception. However, unlike in tape and other kinds of backup, bad backups or backup failures in the cloud can be instantly tracked and corrected.

Backup failures in the cloud can occur at source. If the backup software manager is not resilient, power failures can disrupt a backup schedule and cause a backup failure. Most cloud vendors are conscious of this problem. The software comes with log files which immediately record the failure of the backup or backup reports can be set to automatically popup on restoration of power or manually called up by the system administrator monitoring the status of the backup.

Where the client based cloud software provisions for continuous backup, the backup failure is registered in the log and the backup will resume automatically on the restoration of power. In either case, proactive cloud vendors handle bad backups and backup failures by constantly monitoring the status of customer backups from their end of the chain and notifying the customer of a backup failure via email or telephone in addition to any alerting mechanisms that may be triggered at the client end.

Poor compression, de-duplication and encryption algorithms can generate bad backups. The data being encrypted, compressed and deduplicated may become corrupted by poorly constructed algorithms, making the data unrecoverable. A similar problem can arise at destination if the data is encrypted, compressed or deduplicated at the cloud vendor’s server with poorly structured algorithms. Mid process power failures may be blamed for other types of data corruption that can occur at the client or server side of the backup process.

Unauthorised listeners on the network, employees with malafide intent or even ignorant personnel can cause a good backup to go bad. While most cloud vendors attempt to prevent hijack of data during transmission and make an all out effort to safeguard customer data from malicious attackers, no system is absolutely hacker proof. Wise users will insist on maintaining multiple copies of their backup as insurance against possible corruption of any one copy.

Data replication, data mirroring are done at the server end of the chain by cloud vendors to ensure high availability and security of customer data. Many cloud vendors encourage their customers to maintain a local copy of their data in addition to the offsite copies that they create. Many vendors offer local backup devices as part of their package. The client based software creates a local copy of the data on the onsite device even as a cloud based copy is being created on the remote server.

We, at Backup Technology, understand the security needs of our customers. Our software logs every activity that is performed and backup failures are instantly reported. The continuous backup option enables the backup to automatically resume after power is restored, while a failed schedule can be completed by manually invoking the backup process. Our encryption, decryption and compression algorithms are well tested and proven. We replicate, mirror and maintain customer information in multiple servers that are geographically disbursed to ensure high availability and disaster recovery.

Getting Smarter with Cloud Computing

Complete automation is a myth. Absolute agility is a dream. But, the cloud makes it possible to automate those routine processes and activities that would otherwise consume considerable amount of time and deprive the organisation of the precious time that can be spent innovating, communicating, and building up their business.

The first step towards smarter computing is to spell out your rules and policies. These are triggers and frames for intelligent process definitions. For instance, if you want only certain section of your employees to have access to a specified set of data, it is important to have a user management policy. Each employee who can be authorised for access must be given a user id and password that allows access to the data set. The authentication server database must contain the information that is required for authenticating and permitting such employees to access the information. Any other person attempting to access the information will then be automatically rejected and denied access to the data set. Once the policy is in place and the rules of access have been spelled out, the system will take care of the process intelligently.

The cloud allows enmeshing of heterogeneous systems into a single system to increase enterprise reach and improve the agility of the business. This may involve transfer of data and information between these systems across time zones over the Internet. Security during the process of data transfer, and security at the point of data use become a major concern. Cloud service providers use encryption and user management protocols in innovative ways to ensure security of the information passing through the network. Data is encrypted at source and remains encrypted at rest. Only authorised users, who are authenticated by the authentication server, are given access to decrypted information. All others attempting to listen in will be unable to access the decrypted information in any manner. Attempts to listen in also generates alerts that can be tracked to the source.

Organisations that have migrated to the cloud can let go their tight hold on the amount of server / storage resources consumed by individual users. Users will consume only as much resources as they need for the present. The scalability of the cloud precludes the need to provision for and hoard resources against possible future needs. Moreover, users cannot store duplicate pieces of information, indiscriminately consuming space. The backup and recovery software automatically detects duplicate pieces of information and eliminates them during the data transfer to storage repositories.

Interesting? It seems smart! Smart organisations get smarter with cloud computing!

Cloud Service Closures—How Does One Deal with it?

The Nirvanix shut down created panic. What if your cloud service provider follows suit? Is it safe to transfer data to the cloud? How does one recover huge amounts of data entrusted to the cloud service, if the service suddenly decides to close shop? Smart cloud adopters are never fazed by these shutdowns! They have learnt the tricks of the trade and know how to hit the ground running even when their cloud service provider goes out of business. What is their secret?

They do not wait for bandwidth constraints to jam up their systems and force them to give up on their data. Most cloud vendors have the facility of backing up your data to removable media directly from their servers. This data will be copied in the encrypted format and can be shipped back to you. Ask your cloud vendor whether such a facility is available with them. Get your data shipped back to you in removable disk drives at frequent intervals for secure storage in your storage vaults.

Alternately, set up a remote server with a high speed Internet connection and ample bandwidth for transferring your data at frequent intervals during the lifetime of your contract with your cloud service provider. Many service providers permit simultaneous streaming of information to the local backup repositories, even when the data is being streamed to the remote cloud server owned by the service provider.

A few service providers offer local backup appliances or devices (as part of their package) that can connect to your network and download / replicate and mirror information that is streamed from various locations to the remote server in the cloud. This appliance / device remains with you and will be available to you even when your service provider goes out of business.

Smart users do know where their data is stored and how they can get their vendor to purge the data before the shut down. First, they sign up for services that allow them to encrypt the data with a user-defined impregnable key that remains in their custody. Un-purged data will pose no danger, as it cannot be decrypted without the key, and if accessed, it will make no sense to the person accessing. Second, they study the Service Level Agreement (SLA) in great detail and insist on the inclusion of purge clauses. They know exactly how their data is shared or used by the cloud service vendor and have control over their data at all times. They may even insist on the facility to “Delete” data from their end from all or any of the servers that are maintained by the cloud service vendor and go in and delete the data themselves.

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