3 Things to Consider When Moving to the Cloud

Talk of cloud computing has become ubiquitous, but before you make the move, there are several issues you need to address

 

Cloud computing is one of the hot IT topics of the day. It allows you to store information remotely, off your computer and on a network hosted by a third party. However, there are several considerations you should take into account before diving head long into adopting a cloud-only computing model.

The “cloud” is everywhere. It probably dominates a lot of the conversations you’ve had lately with your IT professionals. They talk about the “cloud” as if it were as common as, well, a cloud.

But to business people who haven’t spent the last decade trying to understand the changing landscape of information technology, the “cloud” brings with it lots of possibilities and, equally, lots of risks. For businesses that have decided information and data are key assets and want to manage them better, the “cloud” brings its own special considerations.

What Is the Cloud?

Just to level set the understanding of “cloud,” here’s a quick definition. Wikipedia says this: In common usage, the term "the cloud" is essentially a metaphor for the Internet. Okay. That’s partially right. It does mean that because of the Internet, we have the capability today to distribute computing power.

For example, we know that a desktop PC has the power to (1) compute or process, (2) provide applications such as Microsoft Office or Quick Books and (3) store your data. The “cloud”, or the Internet, simply makes it possible for you to put these functions anywhere on the network you like. That means you can use the computing power of several server farms that process information faster than your desktop. You can access applications that don’t reside on your PC, but on someone else’s computer in another state. And you can store your data in large storage facilities—like renting a public-storage unit for your data.

By distributing the functions that a computer does, you gain speed and agility as well as save costs. You don’t have to buy computers for everyone on your staff nor create an IT department to manage them. You can outsource these functions to the “cloud.” That’s the real appeal of cloud computing.

Cloud Considerations

When it comes to data in the cloud and the management and use of it for driving your business, you have some additional considerations.

Here are three questions to ask about data in the cloud:

1.  Do I collect and store sensitive data?

This is one of the first considerations around the “cloud” and data. If you collect and store sensitive data such as name, address, social security or credit card numbers, you need to ensure that your cloud provider has tight security, not only on the systems that store your data, but also on the facilities where the data is stored. It’s a fact that the majority of data thefts occur, not from being hacked online, but from having data downloaded onto a thumb drive and walked out the front door. The recent Target data loss happened because the hackers got into a HVAC system that managed a store—not your usual entry point for computer theft. So ensuring that your “cloud” provider has covered all possible routes for data theft is your first consideration.

 

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About the author

Theresa Kushner

Theresa Kushner is a journalist-turned-marketer and currently Executive Vice President at Dell leading their state of the art nalytics initiative. Formerly she was Vice President of Enterprise Information Management at VMware responsible for master data management, business intelligence and advanced analytics.  She and Maria Villar co-write a column for LatinBusinessToday.com. They are co-authors of Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence, published by Racom Books in 2008.

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