by C.G. Lynch

Cloud Computing Requires Changing Your Mindset on Security

Oct 23, 20084 mins
Enterprise Applications

If I had to do it over again, I would have inserted a few snarky questions into our cloud computing survey that came out this week. They would have been added around the section about security, seeing as security concerns topped the worries IT pros and leaders had over cloud computing. 

Here’s a couple of questions: 

Do you have a personal account with Amazon where you enter in your credit card information? 

Has your business done Web advertising through Google?

It’s funny that I can’t remember the last major data breach either of those companies have had as a trusted vendor in the consumer space. So tell me, why would they fail to extend the same security policies to enterprise data if you entrusted it to them? Would that be good business for them?

If the economy weren’t tanking, I’d say this rhetorical notion that cloud computing is somehow vastly less safe than traditional on-premise environment would continue to hold, encouraged by consultants and vendors who have a stake in making sure you overpay for applications and maintenance on utilitarian systems (such as e-mail) and call it “strategic investment with a trusted partner.”

But as IDC (a sister company to CIO’s publisher) points out, the huge cost savings that can be realized from moving to the cloud will be more than IT pros can ignore, or (I’d add) their increasingly more tech savvy CFOs and CEOs will let them ignore.

The reality is, worrying that Amazon or Google “isn’t secure” doesn’t mean they’re not secure: It either means you don’t want them to be secure because you’re used to doing things a certain way, where you have a certain level of control, or you’ve just been heavily swayed by vendors that don’t want to take the next step in computing. Worse, perhaps you’re just worried what a shift to cloud computing might do for your job security.

Of course, IT vets (especially those on a high level) still have a bright future in a cloud computing world, so you shouldn’t worry in that regard. But it will be a very different role, centering around managing vendor relationships or working on integration efforts (the latter, by the way, I think should have scored much higher in the “concerns about cloud computing” than security).

Some people might have found it surprisingly high that 58 percent of survey respondents said “cloud computing will cause a radical shift in information technology driving the next wave of innovation.” I found the number surprisingly low — an answer of “yes” to that question should have been near unanimous. 

The Web has profoundly changed the way we consume information and now, with Software as a Service, the way we contribute and update information as well. As such, I have to believe the days are numbered for the alarming 42 percent who checked off “no.” It was even more alarming that 30 percent said cloud computing wasn’t on their technology road map at all.

There are legitimate worries about cloud computing. How will you get disparate applications run by vendors in different parts of the world to play nicely with one another? When will the functionalities of certain cloud-based applications catch up with the functions of on-premise apps (think: the difference between an Excel and a Google Apps Spreadsheet)? 

Uptime is a concern. Google (as an example) has shown that outages can be a tremendous problem for customers, recently watching its Gmail go down for 30 hours, leaving workers and even CEOs without their email and documents.

But the ultimate question will be when are CIOs and IT pros really ready adopt the culture change involved with cloud computing?

The change might be upon them sooner than they think, whether they like it or not.