Jinfo BlogThe cloud - more secure than we think?

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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Abstract

More companies are adopting the cloud and finding they save time and money in terms of security management. Government worries about cloud computing relating to privacy, security and data flow may be overstated, and the cloud may eventually become more important to individuals than their personal computers.

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Policymakers are struggling to keep pace with the rapid growth of cloud computing, according to one recent influential report. Meanwhile, though, those smaller businesses that have embraced it seem to be reaping the benefits – and consumers aren’t far behind.

Government angst about cloud computing continues, according to an article in the United States International Trade Commission’s Journal of International Commerce & Economics. Cloud services are growing rapidly – many of them across borders, confirm the authors Renee Berry and Matthew Reisman – and the old issues of ensuring privacy, security and the free flow of data continue to exercise the authorities.

Non-mandatory, best-practice guidelines can be developed rapidly and are more able to keep pace with technological change, the authors say; binding commitments may emerge more slowly, but offer investors a greater sense of certainty about countries’ policies. The two elephants in the room, though, are China and India; they currently lack the domestic policies and infrastructure to develop their cloud industries fully, but governments and private parties in countries such as these are seeking to address these gaps.

Is the continuing apprehension justified? A new survey of small and medium businesses, carried out by ComScore for Microsoft, confirms that security remains the number one barrier to adopting cloud services in the United States. It also suggests that these worries may be misplaced.

Using the cloud saves over a quarter of the IT budget and reduces security management time by 18 hours a week, say the converts, who have apparently decreased their security spend by five to six times that of non cloud users over the past three years. Non users, on the other hand, spend almost a third more time each week than their cloudy counterparts simply managing their own security.

Creation of industry standards surrounding cloud security could help non cloud users break through key barriers of adoption, the survey finds. It’s music, no doubt, to the ears of Microsoft, which runs its own cloud services – but it’s competing hard with other large cloud service vendors, in an environment where business may be in danger of being outpaced by ordinary consumers.

According to the IT analyst Gartner, the rapid growth in the use of applications and services is poised to transform the way in which people store, synchronize, share and stream content. They’ll expect their content to flow seamlessly, combining consumer, business and government domains – and they’ll want more than just online storage.

Indeed, if things continue as they are, the cloud could eclipse the personal computer as the hub of consumers’ digital lives by 2014, analysts at Gartner claim. If they’re right, businesses – and regulators – that haven’t overcome their residual cloud fears can expect to fall behind fast.

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