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How safe is “safe” when it comes to the cloud?     

Tando Mtintsilanaby TANDO MTINTSILANA
LET’S address the invisible elephant in the room – cloud, and the safety debate that goes hand-in-hand with any mention of this new-age concept at the office water cooler.
The fear, felt by many, as a result of placing confidential business information and data in the hands of a complete stranger can of course be justified, without judgement imposed upon those trusting users who have been driven to the point of sceptical paranoia. Needless to say, it’s easy to point an accusing finger at the more-than-frequent cases of human error resulting in compromised username/password security or even a data breach as a result of a teenage hacker who has more time on their hands than they do morals.
Truth of the matter is that cloud computing does offer enhanced security for businesses, given you opt to go with a reliable cloud computing service provider of course. Technology has advanced at a pace that most of us wouldn’t have predicted in our wildest dreams, so too has cloud computing evolved in leaps and bounds. Proactive monitoring of cloud systems for the purpose of identifying and blocking potential threats has resulted in the automatic application of patches and fixes, all of which goes on behind the scenes. So it’s quite safe to say that cloud computing service providers have taken the necessary steps to ensure that malicious attacks of any kind are barred from getting anywhere near that all important business data.
Now you could look at this and think to yourself “with all the cloud-related breach reports that we hear about, why would it be any safer for my business?” Well, let’s say you were to shun the cloud and store all your information internally, similar to keeping money under a mattress as opposed to a secured bank, the probability of a break-in, a fire or any other heart-shattering, astronomical event is highly probable and at times unavoidable (unless your office is Fort Knox). Risks are everywhere, the only difference here is that you’ll be entrusting your data with a team of specialist whose job is to secure data – almost like a business data bank don’t you think?
Now as convincing as the above argument is, there are aspects of cloud computing that cannot be ignored, such as the laws that come into play when business data is stored globally. This is where things can get a bit complicated. Laws that govern cloud-based storage somewhat differ depending on location, servers and data centre facilities – all of which can result in a bit of legal pickle if handled without care. You could very easily question where your data will be hosted, but chances are the answer to that question will resemble a very direct: “in the cloud, duh” response.
Rudeness aside though, knowing where your data is hosted in a data centre, whether country A or B, gives an indication as to which laws are applicable in the day-to-day use of those cloud services. A complicated spanner thrown into an otherwise smooth and agile machine.
For a concept that has been around for decades, only recently seeing a massive uptake within the industry, cloud computing has made some noteworthy advancements – we’ve skyrocketed into a time when cloud has seamlessly integrated into our lives. Parking the costs that usually accompany cloud-based packages aside for a second – we can focus on the many ways in which it can and has brought about massive operational relief to both large and small enterprises. More so for small businesses that can’t afford to pay an arm and a leg for internal IT departments to maintain their data centre, and all the nitty gritty bits that come with it, such as installing and managing software, mail, server and the backing-up of essential information.
Cloud computing is a necessary good, despite its legal woes. It holds the answer to those who question interrupting their day-to-day business operations to focus on creating Fort Knox-worthy security, versus entrusting clever cloud people who specialise in keeping data in and hackers out, to oversee their cloud-requirements.
TANDO MTINTSILANA Executive Head for Vodacom Business Africa and Middle East Cloud & Hosting

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