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Head In The Clouds

October 9, 2014

“Rodney, you’re an IT guy. What is “the cloud.”

What do you mean?

I mean when a company says they store your data in “the cloud” where does it get stored? is it actually stored. . .I don’t know. . .in the air? Like a cloud?”

My friend Darren is a banker. He’s a very smart guy, currently working on his MBA. So, his question wasn’t from lack of intelligence. He’d seen the ads and didn’t understand “the cloud.”

Here’s a really simple definition.

The cloud = The internet

Cloud providers will explain that “No, it’s really not the internet because with our product, you can host your own cloud, and unlike the internet “the cloud” has protections and safeguards” and blah, blah, blah. It’s easiest to think of it as the Internet. And there isn’t one cloud, there are many. Your data is not stored in the air. It is stored on a server somewhere. More likely a series of servers scattered across multiple data centers to provide redundancy. What makes a cloud different than the internet at large is that a cloud has a login and a password. If you want to get to a “the cloud” you need a login and a password from your provider. Also, you share the cloud with other people, but protections keep you from seeing their data and keep them from seeing yours. The cloud has some huge advantages and some pretty serious potential pitfalls.

Strength

The real strength of the cloud and the reason that companies are moving to it is ease of use. If your data is stored in the cloud, you can typically get it from anywhere. Sharing data is easy. No more emailing a copy of a document to ten people and having ten separate replies. You can put your document on a cloud location and give everyone access to that cloud. Also, it’s really, really easy to expand the space you need. Your provider can expand your amount of free space on the fly.

Weakness

Security. Cloud providers will disagree with me strongly. In fact, they will tout their security as a benefit rather than a drawback. And in some ways they are correct. They are going to typically have state of the art encryption and security software and update it multiple times per day. However, if they are a USA based company they are subject to some laws, including The Patriot Act that expose your data to government spying. A friend from Microsoft was trying to get me to move our corporate email to the cloud.

Rodney, why don’t you want to go to online storage for your email?

Security.

But, we are totally secure. we can secure our data better than you can in your datacenter.

That’s true. But, tell me, if the government came to you and said, “We want you to give us access to that company’s email . AND we do not want you to inform the company we are watching,” would you do it?

At this point, my friend got kind of quiet.

Of course you would. Legally, you have to. We have never turned down a Discovery request, but I want to know who is looking at my executive’s email.

My mother asked me if she should move her little 6 person financial investment firm to the cloud for email.

Sure, Mom. It will save you money by not having to hire someone in to maintain an on-site Exchange server.

But, what about security?

Don’t worry about it. In your case, you’re a small enough firm that the government isn’t going to be interested in snooping through your email.

But, for a large corporation? Yeah, the government might come knocking. And according to the patriot act, your cloud provider has to give them access. Ironically, the Patriot Act is for our own safety. But, we give up some privacy in exchange for that safety.

I explained to my friend that no, his data wasn’t floating in space somewhere. Although when you consider you use ETHERnet to access your CLOUD, his confusion is understandable.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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