Cloud Computing has and will continue to change the way we interact with technology. With every passing day, the influence of Cloud Solutions is increasing exponentially. Initially, it was the hardware that migrated to the cloud but now, we are seeing a similar trend in data and software.

This post will cover some of the major areas where Cloud Computing has generally changed or even revolutionized the IT industry.

As pointed out earlier, the trend of migrating the software itself to the cloud is on the rise. What this implies is that the old practice of installing a particular software on each individual machine is discontinued.

Conversely, the role of hosting, maintaining and updating the software has also been assumed by the cloud service providers. Let’s highlight a few key advantages of hosting a software or application on the cloud network.

Virtualized Workforce

Virtualized Workforce

Another area where Cloud Computing has brought about a revolution is a company’s workforce. With the Migration Towards Cloud, more and more professionals are offering their services remotely. This means that companies can avail the professional skills of the right people for the job even from afar.

This trend of remotely functional human capital was almost impossible before the cloud. It has revolutionized the workforce in two ways. Firstly, employees working from the comfort of their home are much productive and motivated.

A recent study conducted showed that job posts with the option of “work from home” received many more applications as compared to the conventional model where the employee is required to turn up at the workplace on each working day.

Secondly, this has brought great cost savings for companies. A company has to pay much lesser to an employee working from home as compared to the one turning up for the job. This puts the hiring company in a much stronger position when negotiating the remuneration and allied benefits of an employee.

Cloud Security Challenges

Cloud Security Challenges

As more and more users switch to the cloud, Cyber Security Challenges are bound to arise for cloud service providers. However, this is good news for the organizations that are moving to the cloud. Let’s discuss how.

Previously, companies use to store their sensitive data in-house. This was a capital intensive deployment as vast storage devices had to be procured. In addition, the physical and cyber security of these databases posed even greater challenges.

To regulate access to these highly sensitive databases, elaborate authentication protocols had to be designed. Each user had to be granted limited access to the data, keeping in view the nature of the assignment and organizational role.

This is easier said than done as it is a pain in the neck for network administrators. Cloud Computing has transformed the data security spectrum for even the largest companies on the globe. Firstly, the entire database is shifted onto the cloud.

Security of this database is the sole domain of the cloud service provider. In most cases, the basic level of security is incorporated within the upfront fees or charges. But as the sensitivity of the data increases, so do the stakes for its security.

In the present day, cloud service providers take care of all your data security needs. Whether its data protection or access related issues, cloud companies are happy to help organizations meet these challenges.

Virtualized Software and Applications

Virtualized Software and Applications

The primary and perhaps most vital benefit is licensed software. Although the idea of using pirated software sounds quite fascinating, it can have devastating consequences for both productivity and the entire machine running it.

Cloud Service Companies source and offer only licensed productivity software to their users. Not only do they function much more stably, they are also harmless for the machines running it. As data on the cloud is much more secure, so the tasks performed using various productivity software and applications are never lost.

Another key benefit of using licensed software is that keeping them up to date with all the latest features and security patches is the sole responsibility of the cloud company. This means that each user across the cloud is using a software with exactly the same features and patches.

Abstract Infrastructure

Abstract Infrastructure

Cloud Computing has greatly changed the way today’s Workspaces are designed. Gone are the days when companies had to purchase hardware worth millions of dollars to support their operations. This hardware included laptops, desktops, servers, routers and what not.

Then, companies also needed a sizeable physical space to accommodate all this hardware. This was an additional burden on the company’s financial resources. All this hardware had to be maintained in optimal working condition which also carries additional costs.

With the adoption of Cloud Computing, a company’s entire database is housed securely in the data centers of the cloud service provider. The user will pay a nominal fee to the cloud company in return. Each employee of the company can access the requisite data 24/7 from anywhere.

This revolution brought about by Cloud Computing has transformed the financial viability of many companies that may otherwise have closed their doors to customers. The cost savings brought about by this revolution can now be channelized towards much productive avenues.

Centralized Data Centers

Centralized Data Centers

With the increasing trend in outsourcing of business processes, the different operations of a business are geographically dispersed. However, many of these operations are an intricate web where the timely conclusion of a process is critical for some other key operation.

So, employees of the same organization have to access the same information system despite being physically dispersed. This is where the power of the cloud is leveraged as a centralized database. All operations of the company are maintained at a single data center of the cloud provider.

This database is continuously being updated from all quarters of an organization in real-time. When an employee sitting in Europe wants an update on a critical business process being executed in Singapore, it can be done with the click of a button.

Remedies for Cloud Computing Vulnerabilities

  • We can’t change the way users will log into the cloud because this is what makes it so great in the first place.
  • So, what needs to be beefed up is the security of the very devices that are used to gain access to the cloud.
  • This is a two pronged approach in which firstly, we will need to educate the user about the importance of incorporating security features in their devices.
  • Secondly, each user of the cloud should ensure that the devices that are used to access the cloud do not fall into the hands of mischievous users in the first place.
  • Cloud companies will have to incorporate multi-layered authentication protocols for their users. The standard combination of a unique ID and Password are no more relevant.
  • Access related authentication for each user should be done via dynamic or unique parameters. A few examples of this model are One Time Passwords (OTPs), Random Number Generators and Finger Print Sensors.
  • Data Breach risks, although shared, largely fall in the domain of the Cloud Service Provider (CSP). They have both the means and requisite expertise to incorporate data security protocols.
  • However, this objective can never be achieved without bringing the cloud users fully on-board. Users should not only be sensitized to cyber vulnerabilities, they should also participate in the exercise by adhering to the recommended procedures / protocols.
  • The role of regulators in this regard also needs to be highlighted. As the number of CSPs increases, so does the need for regulation of this industry.
  • Basic standards of cyber security should be defined by regulatory bodies and a rating system for each CSP’s security should be introduced.
  • This will make it much easier for organizations availing Cloud Solutions to identify a CSP that meets the minimum security standards.
  • Effects of any data breach can be mitigated by maintaining recent backups of the critical data at multiple locations, other than the CSP itself.
  • In order to thwart the risk of an “inside job”, each organization must maintain detailed event logs of each user / employee that accesses the cloud in general and data in particular.
  • These event logs should be constantly monitored to highlight any unusual behavior over the cloud network and “nip the evil in the bud”.
  • Even if an inside job is executed with some degree of success, these event logs will serve as an irrefutable evidence against the culprit.
  • Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) should be monitored by regulators to maintain bare minimum standards of cyber security so that the long-term interests of all stakeholders are protected.

Conclusion

The vulnerabilities and threats on the internet in general and Cloud Computing Services in particular are an inescapable reality. Neither the CSPs, nor the organizations or users availing the cloud can shy away from their share of responsibility.

If any slackness is shown on the part of either stakeholder, it can have devastating consequences for the CSP, user and the industry as a whole. The role of cyber security in this vast ocean of Cloud Computing is that of an anchor.

Regardless of whether we represent a CSP or an end user, we have to realize our share of responsibility and fulfill it to the best of our abilities. The menace of cyber-crime is too overwhelming for either party to cope with in isolation.