Cloud Computing Concerns: How Concerned Are You?

clouds1Since the first time someone started talking about Cloud Computing there have been concerns over privacy, the security of your data, and other issues. The recent Amazon flap over deleting books seems to have spurred a new round of examining the hazards of having your data in the cloud.

One such article from the NY Times and another from Venture Chronicles looks at some of these hazards or as the Times article labels them “real dangers.”

I don’t think anyone can deny that Cloud Computing as it stands today is in any way free from difficulties. That’s simply because what it is and what it will become is evolving literally before our eyes. I’ve thought about this in terms of my own usage, and I’m as reasonably comfortable as I can be with how I take advantage of the cloud today. I also know that how I do so will continue to change as does the technology, and I guess as do the “real dangers.” Again, there are issues of access to that data, security, and privacy issues, among others that can be of real concern depending on your situation. My rule of thumb when it comes to having my data accessible and safe is a simple one. If it is important to me, I have a local copy of anything I have in the cloud. I can’t see that changing. I’m reevaluating my password and security strategies currently.

So, how concerned are you about Cloud Computing? I’m curious to know how GBM readers view some of these issues beyond the hyperbole and in their real world scenarios. Let us know.

11 Comments

  1. Tim

    07/21/2009 at 9:52 am

    The solutions to people’s worries over cloud computing seem very simple to me: If you’re worried about privacy/security, only put non-secret items in the cloud. Think of your local storage as a safe: Sure it’s more of a pain to get into, but only you can access it.

    As for access I agree that the simplest and best solution is simply make a spare copy on a thumb drive, it’s a good backup habit anyway.

    That said, as far as security/privacy goes: I don’t forsee any major companies having problems with data stolen from cloud computing as there’s no need for them to do it. A VPN connection to an company owned server for storing data serves almost exactly the same purpose, but, at least in my opinion, a much more secure way.

    Reply

  2. Alan Wilkerson

    07/21/2009 at 10:15 am

    Not totally sold on the concept of the cloud yet mainly because who knows if 5 or 25 years from now Google or ? will be around. Can anyone say Montgomery Wards, AIG, etc…

    As for me I share some things but only those which I have good hard/personal files of so that if/when it’s amazoned I can still see what I had.

    Reply

  3. LeeN

    07/21/2009 at 11:33 am

    I think Mozilla’s Weave is a good example of how the cloud can be safe and useful.

    http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/07/first-look-mozilla-weave-0-2-puts-firefox-in-the-cloud.ars

    Weave is basically a synchronization tool for firefox, so you can synchronize your desktops, laptops, mobile devices, etc, with your bookmarks, cookies, passwords, browsing history, and tabs. It stores all that information encrypted, the server is basically a storage service and any one can provide that storage service, your information is meaningless with out the key. And since that information is on your computer anyway, if the server were to lose your data, the data is still on your computer.

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  4. Somename

    07/21/2009 at 12:34 pm

    Cloud computing is hopelessly insecure from its conception. There are limited instances in which it makes sense (e.g., perhaps Weave) until something more secure can be provided, but we reside in an macroenvironment of increasing technical threats, increasingly intrusive governments, and increasingly organized private-sector criminals.

    Accordingly it behooves us to avoid such systems as best we can and to raise awareness in others so that they may do the same.

    Reply

  5. Tatej

    07/21/2009 at 12:35 pm

    I much prefer personal servers like pogoplug or windows home server. My data stays under my control and stays only on my hardware.

    Reply

  6. sbtablet

    07/21/2009 at 12:41 pm

    I think the cloud is useful for information I’m willing to share with anyone. I upload class documents to a website for my students to access and download, for example. But if it’s private, or something I wouldn’t want my mother to read, I simply don’t put it in the cloud.

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  7. Regular Reader

    07/21/2009 at 3:57 pm

    I’m not convinced that a home PC, home server, or home hard drive, if connected to the internet, is any more secure than what a responsible high-performing cloud vendor can and does provide. Unlike some of you readers, I have had the experience of living in a place that burned to the ground one day while I was at work. So I have my important stuff at home, encrypted, and encrypted on Amazon’s servers via Jungledisk.

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  8. Ben

    07/21/2009 at 5:34 pm

    i’m with regular reader, i think. “security” is only a comforting illusion. privacy also is. what kind of “top secret” documents do you really have? your financial information? well, i probably wouldn’t put that in the cloud, but i suspect that almost anyone who really wants your financial information can get it.

    in terms of companies and services going away, i think that any company worth using would allow you to download your files at any point, particularly if they are going to shut down.

    my main concerns about the cloud are: 1) that connectivity speed and access are woefully inadequate. 2) data and the internet companies are still (mostly) stuck in this proprietary keep-everone-locked-into-my-service mindset. i think that 2 will harm us more than anything. data is data, and it shouldn’t matter with who or with what service, web app, or program i use my data. so much trouble and time is spend when we have to “migrate” our data to another program or system. and most of these services don’t really communicate with each other. you have to make accounts everywhere–it seems like no one is using openid (even though every major online name is a provider, are any of them users?).

    in short, the cloud is too slow and too painful to use right now, but in my opinion (which doesn’t actually count for anything) it’s probably as secure as anywhere else.

    Reply

  9. double_o_don

    07/21/2009 at 5:46 pm

    Cloud computing is sufficient for a significant portion of the population when they use it for personal communications, most of my extended family included.

    Cloud computing for technical professionals and for businesses in general? I don’t see how.
    The security risks are too high and the availability is too limited.

    As pointed out so appropriately however, cloud dependancy is less risky than living without separate backups.

    Reply

  10. Masher203

    07/21/2009 at 10:56 pm

    I think cloud services are fine, but like smoking the user needs to be informed of the risks by the provider on each page. So to that end, all services that are cloud based should get the same sort of label as cigarettes, occupying the first few lines of each page:

    Warning: Data shared, transmitted or stored online is insecure by nature. Using online services with private information may expose the user to identity theft, discrimination and other unintended side effects.

    Reply

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