Cloud Computing: The Pros and Cons

www http gold redThe business world is moving to a concept called Cloud Computing, where programs and storage of data usually residing on the companies’ computers is stored and operated over the Internet on computers owned by companies who provide the service. In other words, companies who, in the past, have guarded their software and data with extreme security are now deciding to let someone else run their software and store their data for them. While the Cloud Computing companies “guarantee” that the software and data will be kept in high security, safe from any and all hazards; I find that hard to believe. If governments around the world, including the U.S. and Great Britain, have been hacked time and again, sensitive data exposed and stolen from parts of the government who are known for their security, secrecy, and technological strength…can you say U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security?…then how secure do you think these Cloud Computing businesses will keep a client’s technology assets?

Cloud Computing has become popular in the last five years or so, probably because businesses have had to trim their technology spending in a bad economy, and have done so at the peril, in my opinion, of losing their technology assets, intellectual property, and other company secrets that cyber criminals would be happy to sell to their competitors or ransom back to them, the rightful owner.

Home computer uses are not exempt from Cloud Computing. Anyone who uses an online email service like Yahoo or Gmail, or online office-related software like word-processing, spreadsheets, or database management are also using a form of Cloud Computing and are therefore at risk. Admittedly, home users have less valuable data to be stolen compared to a business; however, your data could be sifted and searched to find personal or financial information that could be used to steal your identity, clean out your bank accounts, take out credit in your name, and generally make your life miserable for a long time. Identity theft is a big business in the cybercrime world, and hacking a million or so Yahoo or Google user’s personal documents would yield a considerable amount of revenue for the bad guys.

If you, a home user, are using one of these free online “Cloud Computing” applications; my advice to you is as follows. If you’re using cloud-based applications because you can’t afford to purchase an off-the-shelf office suite, consider switching to OpenOffice or LibreOffice for your needs. They are free, the software is downloaded to your computer, and your data and documents reside on your computer. If you must use the online Cloud Computing applications, be careful to avoid documenting and storing personal information which can be aggregated by the bad guys to identify you.

As always, I appreciate your comments on this subject…so please do. And be careful out there…it’s extremely dangerous these days.

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Home computing is a blast…keep it safe, productive and enjoyable.

Best regards,

Paul

paulshomecomputing(at)yahoo.com

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10 Comments

Filed under home computing, Internet, security

10 responses to “Cloud Computing: The Pros and Cons

  1. This is a great article and I largely agree with your assertions. However, let me take a different persecutive. I see Cloud services as not only highly useful but also becoming pervasive. Said another way, there is a strong motivation for using these services. The question then is to come up with some strategies for balancing the usefulness with minimizing risk.

    First, let me state that there are a number of risks even with the best providers. The most secure is a service where the data transmission is secure (e.g. https), the data resides on the server encrypted and access to the data is properly controlled. Though secure data transmission is largely ubiquitous, some companies do not want to offer at-rest encryption (or if they do, offer the consumer the right to set and keep the key private), since they depend on technologies like “de-dup” to reduce their storage needs. Though I’m a Dropbox user, this is my biggest concern with their service.

    However, I do believe with some safeguards, the balance can be maintained. For example, I’m on a board of a non-profit. We use Skydrive for collaboration and storage of our documentation. None of this documentation is highly sensitive and the few items that are (like the financials), we encrypt.

    A more difficult example is email, which is one of the original Cloud services. The problem here is that by definition most email is sensitive (though some is very sensitive and requires special handling). Also, by definition, email resides on various servers in the network and one doesn’t have a clue where. So, the challenge is to mitigate the risk, with the understanding it’s a 90% solution. Encrypting the message is the best solution, but the currently state-of-the-art is difficult to use for the non-technical person and chunky at best. Given that, what I recommend to people is to eschew the popular services like Google, Yahoo, etc. for other more secure solutions. I personally use Godaddy’s business email service for my family’s email so that I have some assurance that my emails aren’t being scanned by the provider to make money on.

    Great Blog … thanks!
    Greg
    http://thefamilyhelpdesk.com/

    • Greg,
      Thanks for your comment and input on this issue. I agree with your comment…provided the cloud services companies will do what you suggest to mitigate the threats. Encryption will mitigate many of the threats to a point. Meaning, if the accumulation of data in a cloud service server poses as a good target, eg. it will produce enough personally identifiable information, or better yet, credit card numbers; the crooks will spend the time and money to decrypt the data. I’ve learned in my career to not fully trust any computer that I didn’t control.

      Thanks again for your insightful comment that certainly furthers the conversation.
      Best,
      Paul

  2. I do not agree with your some points here. As I know that cloud computing is the best way to keep your data secure.

    • David,
      You’re entitled to your opinion, but I disagree. You haven’t provided any reasons why you “know that cloud computing is the best way to keep your data secure.” I understand that you are connected in some way with Intel Cloud Builders and that may be coloring your opinion. But as I stated in the article, “Cloud Computing has become popular in the last five years or so, probably because businesses have had to trim their technology spending in a bad economy, and have done so at the peril, in my opinion, of losing their technology assets, intellectual property, and other company secrets that cyber criminals would be happy to sell to their competitors or ransom back to them, the rightful owner.” I believe these threats, and that of losing personally identifiable personal information, are possible for a home computer user, except perhaps at a lower level of loss. I can only identify one advantage of storing personal computer data in the cloud, that being that your data will be stored offsite and will be there, not in your home, should your house or apartment burn down. However, even that benefit is overridden by the possibility of the data being compromised by cyber criminals hacking the cloud computer and cleaning out your bank account and maxing out your credit cards.

      Thank you for your comment, but again, I disagree.
      Best,
      Paul

  3. Paul,

    Great article and especially, “Great Advice”… The generation coming up has no idea or concept about privacy or identity protection. It is a “just put it out there attitude” without realizing the ramifications.

    Rick

    • Rick,
      Great to hear from you. I agree, computer users are our own worse enemy when it comes to using, or not using in this case, good security practices. Perhaps our kids and grand kids, whom I’ve labeled “native users”, will learn how to protect themselves and their computers. That way, SOMEONE in the house will know what to do.
      Best,
      Paul

  4. Pingback: Cloud Computing Pros And Cons | B2B Inbound Marketing and Sales - What is Cloud Computing - Cloud Computing

  5. Thanks for the wonderful article! 🙂

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