More and more businesses – small, medium and large – are embracing cloud computing: the delivery of IT services over the Internet. The good news is that cloud services can deliver faster, more reliable app updates with greater flexibility. This can bring economies of scale since businesses would only pay for the cloud services they use, and new features will be added as needed. However, cloud providers can also put your sensitive data at risk, painting a digital target on your back.
Businesses that choose a cloud provider can typically avoid the upfront and ongoing costs of purchasing and maintaining assets such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence. Cloud providers configure and maintain the necessary hardware and software on data centers via the Internet. By doing so, cloud providers can easily scale up or down a customer’s computing power or software when needed. A significant example was during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when large gatherings were banned. The NFL tapped into its cloud computing partner to quickly ramp up its resources so the league could safely and efficiently conduct virtual drafts; over 100 live streams would run simultaneously for the next three days.
However, not all cloud providers are equal. Business owners should “trust but verify” a potential or existing cloud provider. Why? Because, just as Willie Sutton said, “That’s where all the money is,” when asked why he robbed the banks during the Depression, cloud services are here today. where all the data is. Even a well-meaning cloud provider can unwittingly serve as a “honeypot” for cybercriminals who can crack a single digital “safe” and gain access to tons of potentially valuable passwords, personally identifiable information, and other data.
In addition to scalability and potentially lower initial investment costs, there are many reasons to choose a cloud provider. A cloud computing environment can provide improved reliability with effective data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity services; the data will be mirrored (or copied) across multiple sites in the cloud provider’s network. And reputable cloud providers can offer robust policies, technology, and controls that help protect data, applications, and infrastructure from potential threats.
However, it is crucial to verify a cloud provider’s claims, ensuring that the particular provider can successfully meet security and other business needs. And that may mean doing some research. First, a business owner must go through the contact and confirm exactly what the supplier promises. Does it say they will move your information to the cloud and secure it? Or is he just saying they’re going to move him? Just guaranteeing data transfer is like hiring a moving company to haul your household goods, only to find them all tossed on the lawn of your new home because the deal didn’t say they would place them at inside the house.
Another essential step is to understand who verifies the supplier’s claims. For starters, a company that performs services shouldn’t be the one that checks them. Instead, the best practice is to ensure that a qualified independent third party reviews the provider’s cyber practices. Additionally, it’s a good idea to consider whether the vendor’s cloud architecture, standards, and services are suitable for your company’s workload and management preferences. Find out if a significant amount of recoding or customization will be required to align your company’s legacy workloads with the cloud provider’s platforms.
Cloud providers often outline how they can protect your sensitive data — and that’s a valid point, as long as their cyber defenses are as robust as they claim. Unless an ethical hacker verifies them, a potential customer can learn about the provider’s network of secure data centers. A vendor that runs multiple regularly upgraded data centers is likely to offer more benefits – including the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware, lower network latency for applications, and greater economies of scale – than a provider that operates only one enterprise data center.
Cloud computing can provide powerful benefits to businesses of all sizes, but migrating can be daunting. Working with a trusted IT services consultant, taking the extra steps, and gaining a thorough understanding of the issues involved can make the process smoother and ensure that your data is efficiently migrated and maintained securely.
Carl Mazzanti is the president of eMazzanti Technologies in Hoboken.