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The darker side of the cloud

Earlier this week I wrote that web hosting firms needed to embrace the idea of cloud computing in order to stay competitive, citing the recent announcement of Chrome OS and Google’s general sway over internet trends in general. But what about the downsides of cloud hosting?

First, a quick refresher. Cloud computing is a loose term generally expressing the idea of data processing and management taking place remotely relative to the user with the word “cloud” representing the internet in general. This form of computing would see typical home users store more and more of their data remotely while accessing typical software as a service in the cloud as opposed to installing the software locally. This type of infrastructure allows for easier network management and software deployment limited only by bandwidth, making it much easier to apply a software update, for example, as the update is applied only once to the cloud as opposed to millions of times when installed on users’ machines. Given the buzz that the idea has generated and its solid backing from Google – they do sell online advertising worth billions of dollars each year, after all – it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon while leaving your concerns behind.

The main complaint about cloud computing focuses on data security; with all of your valuable files and information left floating in a cloud as opposed to residing on hardware in your office, who is there to protect it? Web hosting firms in the forefront of cloud computing like RackspaceCloud and GoGrid promise high levels of security but the concern remains that the extensive amount of data within those clouds could be susceptible to a network exploitation, making the idea of hosting sensitive data in the cloud frightening for many businesses and reminding us all of the retained value of private networks.

Cloud computing is a positive trend with its ability to easily deliver highly-scalable environments and near-endless amounts of data storage but the security concerns associated with this new technology are many. If your business is considering a move to a cloud hosting environment it is important to determine that your data is as safe as possible and the first question that needs to be asked is does cloud computing really suit my needs? If scalability and easy software and service deployment are less important to you than general data security and accessibility than the answer is no. If you find that cloud hosting solutions offer exactly what you need, be sure to choose your provider carefully and always ask the tough questions with the expectation of complete answers when it comes to the security of your data.

The amount of competition that exists in the web hosting industry combined with the burgeoning popularity of computing in a cloud mean that your options are spread far and wide; there is never a need to settle for less!

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