Up in the Clouds: Benefits and Risks of Cloud Computing
So much of what we do today is on the cloud, but do you actually understand the basic benefits and risks of using cloud services?
Thanks to the now-ubiquitous usage of cloud computing, many people have derived a general idea of what the cloud is: a means of storing and accessing data online. Many Apple users are familiar with this concept because most of the data on their devices can be transferred simply by logging into iTunes. Everything in Google Suite is on the cloud and can be accessed and saved by multiple people in real-time. And while that understanding isn’t wrong, there’s a bit more to it.
Cloud computing, whether it be for storage or a digital workspace, was a desire since the inception of the internet. At that time, employees who worked on a document together would have to meet in a physical space and share a computer, or work on pieces of the project separately and eventually compile each individual’s work. Neither method was anywhere close to efficient. The interest in a multiuser workspace sparked development of time-share applications able to operate in real-time, which eventually evolved into today’s cloud services.
The use of the cloud can amount to just about anything: from processing (like mining for Bitcoin), creating a Google Doc, sending an email, and storing data. However, calling “the cloud” is a bit of a misnomer. What we know as the cloud is not a single special entity. It is comprised of a variety of software and hardware working together. When we store data, it exists on one of many remote servers, not in some nebulous glob of code up in the sky somewhere. For us to be able to view and access that data, software is in place to display and keep track of changes – for example, the blockchain. Which, by itself, doesn’t really sound all that impressive. So it begs the question:
How can cloud computing benefit your business?
Working on a cloud prevents an enterprise from having to keep everything on-site. Many institutions, like hospitals, will have a private network where their own servers are installed and typically can be accessed without Wi-Fi (they are hardwired in). For everyone else, you can have a dedicated cloud where you can upload all of your data, then forget about it until you need it again. It’s a bit like having an off-site storage unit so you can actually park your car in your garage instead of filling it with boxes.
An enterprise can source its cloud needs to a third party – Redhat, IBM, Microsoft, etc. – and the maintenance of the cloud is done by the third party. That creates wiggle room for the IT department to focus on larger security risks. So imagine that storage unit is climate controlled and has a staff of professionals for general maintenance. They take care of it and you get to spend more time on the things that matter more to you.
The round-up is: cloud computing doesn’t require physical space from the enterprise, is cheaper than bulky servers, and is accessible 24/7 from virtually any location with a Wi-Fi connection. Pretty sweet deal. But that being said, cloud computing does come with its own risks.
How can cloud computing harm your business?
With so many businesses using cloud computing, it’s no surprise that it ends up being a big target for cyberattack. Using the cloud does not necessarily protect your data from hackers any more than if it was on your local system. Instead, you’ll need to pay the third party to take care of it for you. Computers are still computers, and data is still data – your network can still be hacked. And if you’re using the cloud, it’s part of that network.
How exactly does one access a cloud? Easy: you log-in. Just like always, using a username and a password to access your data presents a potential for account hijacking. Credentials can be stolen using spyware and phishing tactics, and once a hacker has those credentials he or she can access, steal, and manipulate your business’s data. And there are more threats than just spyware. Hackers can create malware and embed it into the cloud software to gain access. Your own employees can misuse data and take advantage of the cloud function. Basically, anything that could happen on your local system could probably happen in some way to the cloud too.
The final, big risk is the fact that your data is not physically accessible to you. If your third party keeps its servers in a location where a natural disaster occurs, you may be at risk of losing your data completely. It is unlikely to happen, but it definitely could.
Cloud computing is a revolution that has forever changed the way we interact with and store our information. We find ourselves enjoying applications that our predecessors could only dream of. Spotify, YouTube, and Gmail are just a few examples of how this incredible technology is used in our daily lives. Like any technology, it is crucial to be aware of risks associated with using the cloud, but it can still be a helpful resource for your enterprise.
Who would’ve thought that having our heads in the cloud would be a good thing?
If you, your organization or company, or someone you know would like more information on our company or the cybersecurity side of cloud computing, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mission Multiplier at firstname.lastname@example.org.