Public concern about the safety and security of cloud computing surged after the NSA revealed its PRISM spying program. In fact, Salon.com reported earlier this year that public cloud service providers in the U.S. could lose up to $35 billion in foreign contracts as a direct result of this recent news.
Although fears about the security of the cloud are essentially hyperbolic, it’s worth pointing out that security isn’t exactly the cloud’s biggest strength. Analysts at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation predict an “immediate and lasting impact” of PRISM on businesses if things remain as they are without any changes from the U.S. government.
The Unstoppable Cloud
Despite the public’s growing concern, research shows that the benefits outweigh the costs for most cloud users. According to The Wall Street Journal‘s CIO Journal, use of the public cloud is actually increasing. A remarkable 62.5 percent of respondents reported an increase in their use of the public cloud over the past year, with only 26.8 percent responding that they didn’t. It’s true that actions speak louder than words, but it’s still worth nothing that an even more significant 84.4 percent of people said they plan on increasing public cloud use in the coming year.
Are these users not that well informed about PRISM? Further inquiries indicate that respondents are very much aware of the threats this program poses, and only 20.5 percent claim that it affected their future usage of the public cloud. A substantial 68.2 percent reported no affect at all.
Note the Hidden Message
So what’s the moral of this story? Choose your cloud providers wisely. Security settings aren’t equal across the board, so use this threat as an opportunity to do more research. Businesses should ask providers about the kind of security they have and compare this with other providers. It might require a little research for those unfamiliar with the jargon and software involved in securing cloud sources, but solutions to cloud security concerns are being developed.
Although businesses can increase their odds for keeping information secure, nothing is a guarantee with the public cloud. For highly important files and information, it might be necessary to take extra measures and consider implementing a private cloud, which would keep information in the hands of only those authorized in the IT department.
A private cloud features a corporate firewall and offers more internal control over the company data. The downside of this is a higher risk of loss due to natural disasters. ROI isn’t great with this measure either, since it requires more efforts in running and managing IT resources.
Though the news from the NSA is somewhat unnerving for companies with plenty to lose, it should be reassuring that companies are sticking with the cloud. Moreover, it’s crucial to locate a public cloud provider that has invested significantly in improving the security of their services. The PRISM controversy should serve as a lesson to everyone to continually stay on the cutting edge of security technology and pay attention to the safety of private information.