OPINION: Cloud security really about trust

If 70s and 80s rock star Billy Joel were to write a guest column on security issues of cloud computing, he would probably say it’s just a matter of trust.

In other words, the key to data security is trusting your providers to take enough precautions.

You know security is a major issue in cloud computing when the chief executive officer of a major server and storage manufacturer says so. Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett Packard, said at a recent conference hosted by the Gartner research firm there is a “whole set of things from a security perspective” that need to be addressed to make sure the industry can keep the cloud “momentum going.”

Harvard University consultant Scott Bradner warned of the risks in the cloud, using the failure of T-Mobile’s backup service – attributed to Microsoft’s subsidiary Danger Inc.

At Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo conference, analysts pointed out cloud computing and virtualization give IT administrators less control over their infrastructure and can make it impossible to lock down a specific server.

Cloud computing is supposed to save companies money by allowing them to pay only for computing resources they actually use. Joe Weinman, AT&T’s vice-president for strategy and business development, briefed Network World Canada last month on his company’s approach. He said he paid to take a cab from downtown Toronto to our office in Scarborough, and his cab fare cost him more than he would have paid if he took his own car. But for someone who only needs a car on rare occasions, taking cabs can save money. The same principle works for computing, Weinman said.

As for security, Weinman said using services secured by virtual private networks and multiprotocol label switching can help keep hackers away from your data. But at the end of the day, you’re still entrusting your customer’s data to someone else. And if there’s a breach that was caused by someone else, you might not get off the hook just by pleading “but I am an innocent man.”

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