Cloud Computing Security Skeptics Abound

The prospect of data security in cloud computing — particularly public-cloud computing — has security professionals taking a cautious approach.

By Ellen Messmer
Thu, October 14, 2010

Network World — The prospect of data security in cloud computing — particularly public-cloud computing — has security professionals taking a cautious approach.

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"We are a very conservative risk-adverse company by nature," says Mark Pfefferman, assistant vice president and director of identity and access-management program at Western & Southern Financial Group. "As a life-insurance company, managing risk is part of our DNA." While his company has outsourced some data applications such as payroll to ADP, Pfefferman says there's no interest in turning to a cloud provider to store and process customer-related data.

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The main reason springs from the sense that "I don't feel I have good control of the data out in the cloud," Pfefferman says. The company retains its own data center with a staff of IT professionals, and a look at some of the possibilities in cloud computing has left the impression that it not only is not as much of a cost-savings as sometimes claimed, it raises risks substantially.

There are lingering questions about where data might be stored geographically, or what contractual arrangements are required in the event of a data breach, or how back-up is done, Pfefferman says. While Western & Southern Financial Group is making limited use of Google (GOOG) collaboration applications, the intention is to avoid inclusion of any sensitive information.

Gartner (IT) Symposium ITxpo preview

These are some of the issues related to cloud computing that will come under focus at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo next week in Orlando, the annual techfest which this year features keynote addresses from Cisco CEO John Chambers, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

Among numerous Gartner conference sessions related to enterprise use of cloud computing will be "Three Styles of Securing Public and private Cloud Computing," with Gartner analyst John Pescatore.

"Fortune 1000 companies have to worry about compliance and security," notes Pescatore, who says there's a lot of reasonable skepticism in those ranks regarding public-cloud computing and security. But he adds that small businesses and city governments, "which don't have two nickels to rub together" in these troubled financial times, are looking at cloud-computing as a less-expensive option.

The federal government is regarded by cloud providers like Microsoft (MSFT) and Google as among the biggest fish to land."Microsoft and Google are chasing the federal e-mail business," says Pescatore, adding he doubts Google really cares much about enterprise business. A recent Gartner report showed Google Gmail has less than 1% of the enterprise e-mail market

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