Webopedia on Google+Webopedia on TwitterWebopedia on FacebookTech Bytes Blog
Main » Did You Know » Hardware & Software »

Cloud Computing Security Challenges

Committing to a cloud computing provider can result in significant cost savings and more streamlined, flexible operations. However, trusting that provider to keep your data secure can be another matter entirely.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing opens up a new world of opportunities for businesses, but mixed in with these opportunities are numerous security challenges that need to be considered and addressed prior to committing to a cloud computing strategy. Cloud computing security challenges fall into three broad categories:

Data Protection: Securing your data both at rest and in transit
User Authentication: Limiting access to data and monitoring who accesses the data
Disaster and Data Breach: Contingency Planning

Data Protection

Implementing a cloud computing strategy means placing critical data in the hands of a third party, so ensuring the data remains secure both at rest (data residing on storage media) as well as when in transit is of paramount importance. Data needs to be encrypted at all times, with clearly defined roles when it comes to who will be managing the encryption keys. In most cases, the only way to truly ensure confidentiality of encrypted data that resides on a cloud provider's storage servers is for the client to own and manage the data encryption keys.

User Authentication

Data resting in the cloud needs to be accessible only by those authorized to do so, making it critical to both restrict and monitor who will be accessing the company's data through the cloud.  In order to ensure the integrity of user authentication, companies need to be able to view data access logs and audit trails to verify that only authorized users are accessing the data.  These access logs and audit trails additionally need to be secured and maintained for as long as the company needs or legal purposes require.  As with all cloud computing security challenges, it's the responsibility of the customer to ensure that the cloud provider has taken all necessary security measures to protect the customer's data and the access to that data.

Contingency Planning

Cloud Computing Users

With the cloud serving as a single centralized repository for a company's mission-critical data, the risks of having that data compromised due to a data breach or temporarily made unavailable due to a natural disaster are real concerns.  Much of the liability for the disruption of data in a cloud ultimately rests with the company whose mission-critical operations depend on that data, although liability can and should be negotiated in a contract with the services provider prior to commitment.  A comprehensive security assessment from a neutral third-party is strongly recommended as well.

Companies need to know how their data is being secured and what measures the service provider will be taking to ensure the integrity and availability of that data should the unexpected occur.  Additionally, companies should also have contingency plans in place in the event their cloud provider fails or goes bankrupt.  Can the data be easily retrieved and migrated to a new service provider or to a non-cloud strategy if this happens?  And what happens to the data and the ability to access that data if the provider gets acquired by another company?

Cloud Computing Security Summary

While there are real benefits to using cloud computing, including some key security advantages, there are just as many if not more security challenges that prevent customers from committing to a cloud computing strategy. Ensuring that your data is securely protected both at rest and in transit, restricting and monitoring access to that data via user authentication and access logging, and adequately planning for the very real possibilities of compromised or inaccessible data due to data breaches or natural disasters are all key security challenges that a company must address when considering cloud computing providers.

Congratulations! You now have a better understanding of the security challenges involved in cloud computing!




Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.





TECH RESOURCES FROM OUR PARTNERS
QUICK REFERENCE
5 Best Cloud Storage Services

With cost and security in mind, we look at five cloud storage options that will suit the needs of most home and SMB owners. Read More »

Windows 10 Tips for Desktop PC

Five basic tips to help you customize Windows 10 on your desktop PC. Read More »

29 Free Android Apps for Cash-Strapped Students

From wacky alarm clocks to lecture hall tools and after class entertainment, these Android apps are a good fit for a student's life and budget. Read More »

DID YOU KNOW?
The Five Generations of Computers

Learn about each of the five generations of computers and major technology developments that have led to the current devices that we use today. Read More »

Small Business Marketing's Greatest Hits

The following compilation of small business marketing tips highlights some of the expert advice published over at Small Business Computing. Read More »

13 Best Free Android Apps

From secure messaging to document editing, our top free must-have apps have been rated, reviewed and named the best free Android apps of 2015. Read More »