Author Archives: Florence

The Impact Of Google’s ISO 27001 On Business

The Impact Of Google’s ISO 27001 On Business

Google has recently acquired an ISO 27001 security certification. This certification is provided by an independent body to companies that pass various security requirements. For a company to obtain the ISO 27001 certification, it must agree to be examined by an internationally recognized, independent body for information security risks. The body will check the company for threats, impacts, or vulnerabilities. Aside from examining information security risks, the body will also examine the company for information security controls. Such controls must be in place, together with fully functioning risk management measures. The methods are used to fight off any unacceptable risks. Another area which the certifying body will examine is the company’s management system. It will have to be assured that a system is in place in order to meet any information security requirements in the future.

Ernst & Young CertifyPoint audited Google for the purposes of ISO 27001 certification. An informal review was conducted in order to assess security risks and controls aside from the full in-depth audit. After the audit, various follow-up reviews were also made to assure that Google is implementing information security practices. On May 28 this year, Google Apps for Business was ISO 27001 certified. With the certification, businesses can now put their security concerns on Google Apps to rest, because it proves that Google has placed top priority on resolving information security issues.

With SSAE 16/ISAE 3402 audits as well as the FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government, Google can now brush off critics, for it is able to assure the public that it is highly committed to maintaining a high standard of security as well as its continuous evolution of security practices. Google is continuously undergoing other third-party audits to further stress this commitment.

Because Google is now certified, a business owner is now assured that their business data is safe and secure with Google Apps. Google has a commitment to keeping a customer’s data intact and safe from outside threats. Businesses can now trust Google to protect their data. The audit lasted for six months and the certification covers its technology, datacenters, processes, and systems used for cloud computing service applications. With the certification, Google is optimistic that it can draw large financial institutions as well as the public sector into using its services such as Gmail, Docs, and others.

Google took pains in obtaining ISO 27001 and SSAE 16/ISAE 3402 for its Google Apps in order to prove that their applications have the necessary security controls. While other providers obtain certification for their infrastructure and datacenters, Google took another step forward and had its personnel, code processes, and software certified. Although the certification is issued for Google Apps for Business only, Google claims that users of the standard free edition of the cloud suite and Gmail are also benefitted, because the core technology layer overlaps. However, Adam Swidler, Google Apps for Business senior manager, agrees that there is really no perfect security guarantee. But for Google Apps for Business, the security controls are industry specified and the public is free to check on such controls.

By Florence de Borja

How To Tap Cloud Computing To Obtain A Competitive Advantage

How To Tap Cloud Computing To Obtain A Competitive Advantage

Because of the popularity of the digital global economy, any investment in technology by small and medium-sized enterprises can provide them with a competitive advantage. Cloud computing has allowed small enterprises access to data systems which were once available only to huge corporations. Automatic data backup in the cloud reduces cost and even maximizes the cost flexibility of the company’s IT services and software. IT issues have also been reduced because the cloud computing service provider takes responsibility for such matters. Small businesses can then focus their efforts on other things, allowing them to grow their businesses. With cloud computing, small entrepreneurs can work anywhere, anytime.

Most businesses employ people who are either working from home or are always on business trips. Their suppliers, as well as their customers, may be found in other countries. Using cloud computing technology can increase the business’s productivity. KPMG released a research report in Australia suggesting that the adoption of cloud computing services could increase the Gross Domestic Product by as much as $3.32 billion annually after ten years. A business website can derive  greater advantages, as it can help to expand the business customer base, increase business credibility and visibility, and identify untapped revenue streams. Research by MYOB also found out that almost two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises in Australia do not yet have websites, and that those which have an online presence are starting to enjoy better operational and financial milestones. Contrary to common misconception, creating a website is easy, and there is no need to employ specialist IT personnel for the sole purpose of creating one.

Online retail and e-commerce are currently experiencing a surge as more and more customers turn to websites for their shopping needs—these clients can shop at the comfort of their homes. Many online stores provide money transfers and payments over the Internet, and even traditional brands are creating online stores in order to compete with online businesses and seeing an increase in revenue. Small and medium-sized businesses must consider going online in order to grow quickly.

In order to better communicate, segment, and understand their customer base, companies must be able to tap technology in order to explore opportunities and streamline operations. Employing high-quality workers is also a factor in gaining a competitive advantage. The use of old technology is a detrimental factor to business growth, because new technologies have been found to reduce costs and increase productivity. No business would be able to hold onto tech-savvy workers if its technology were not up to date.

It is important to note that when a business decides to bring its business online, it is not only offering lower prices, but also better service and greater efficiency. Although many customers are drawn to online shopping by price, the reputation of the business and quality of service play an important role in customer decisions to purchase online. By investing in technology, a business can support customers’ need for an innovative shopping experience. Software applications are available in order to assist online shop owners so that they can understand and know their clients and be able to respond to their requirements. The use of new technology can equip a small business owner to make informed decisions regarding retention and expansion of their customer base as the business deals with the challenges brought about by its online competitors.

By Florence de Borja

The Effects Of The Amazon Web Services Outages

The Effects Of The Amazon Web Services Outages

There has been no major cloud computing outage in 2012. However, non-believers had a field day when Amazon Web Services customers experienced some service disruptions on June 14. Although AWS went offline for a few hours only, the downtime experience did have an impact on customers’ businesses. According to reports, a power outage struck Amazon’s Northern Virginia datacenter. Internet sites and startups such as Heroku, Quora, Pinterest, and Parse were affected. Heroku filed an incident report. As per Amazon’s Service Health Dashboard, the problem was reported before 9 p.m. Pacific Time. The power outage affected AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Amazon Relational Database Service, and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, which are all housed at its datacenter in North Virginia. The services were fully restored in a few hours.

The outage was clearly not IT-related, but Amazon did receive a lot of flak for the service disruption. A large number of comments have been posted online from people from all walks life, even from the company’s competitors and non-clients. In a nutshell, the lesson cloud computing services users must learn is that they must spread their workloads across various parts of Amazon Web Services in order to prevent being hugely affected if an individual AWS region experiences service disruption. In most cases, such service disruption is often blown out of proportion. Customers who are having doubts regarding the credibility of cloud computing service providers will likely stay out of the cloud and still prefer to buy more expensive IT products hosted on-premise.

In April 2011, the North Virginia datacenter suffered a similar service outage which affected GroupMe, Quora, Reddit, HootSuite, Twitter, and Foursquare. Amazon reported that the outage was a “re-mirroring storm”. At that time, only the relational database service and the Amazon EC2 at the North Virginia center were affected, but it did affect many customers’ services and websites. What is surprising is that even though AWS experienced some outages, the company is continuously growing. Amazon reported that its S3 storage has more than a trillion objects, which is 143 times the population of the world.

According to a recent report by the International Working Group on Cloud Computing Resiliency, a minimum of 10 hours are lost because of service disruptions yearly. The group found out that since 2007 a minimum of five hundred hours has been lost as reported by the thirteen biggest cloud computing service providers, which can be translated in economic terms to be worth a minimum of $70 million. In that same report, the group claims that a cloud computing service is usually down for an average of 7.5 hours each year, although an electric power service outage is pegged at a low 15 minutes yearly.

The group gathered the data from various sources such as Twitter, Amazon, Google, Paypal, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, and others. It is estimated that the travel service provider Amadeus loses $89,000 per hour during any cloud computing outage, while Paypal loses around $225,000 per hour. There is no known data for the number of people affected by a cloud computing service outage.

By Florence de Borja

Why Is Europe Not Storming The Cloud?

Why Is Europe Not Storming The Cloud?

It is expected that Europe will be behind the US by a minimum of two years when it comes to cloud computing adoption, due to four major issues: the current euro crisis, advanced privacy rules, the changing political decision-making, and local business needs. These are the primary reasons why Europe is taking a much slower pace in adopting cloud computing as compared to the USA. Analyst group Gartner believe that although there is high interest in cloud computing in Europe, there are so many local complications that it could result in delaying adoption there by at least two years.

Due to the present economic crisis in Europe, most huge investments have been put on standby. Also, strategic decision-making has slowed down and only a few organizations are expressing willingness to invest in major technologies. Many businesses would like to have a better understanding of the implications of the financial crisis prior to investing their money in technology.

Privacy legislation is also a major problem for European organizations who want to shift to the cloud. According to Gartner, these organizations see the US Patriot Act as a stumbling block because they fear that it is illegal or undesirable to tap cloud computing service providers in the US. The US Patriot Act is a law which permits US authorities to access data in specific circumstances. Because of this Act, European companies are taking a slower pace in adopting cloud computing because major cloud computing service providers are incorporated or located in the United States of America. According to Gartner, these European companies are getting inaccurate information and they should seek ways of tapping the cloud safely.

Another factor contributing to the slower pace of European adoption of cloud computing is the policy details in the European Union. Policy making takes a long time. The EU usually sets regulations and policies which are incorporated in each member state’s legislation. However, every member state has the right to append local legislation to such policies and regulations. Because of this, resolution of issues regarding cloud computing regulations takes a long time. Lastly, each country in Europe has its own business practices and regulations. Enterprise software developers and providers have made huge profits by providing country-specific versions of their accounting software. Because of these country-specific regulations and business practices, the local business needs may not fit with the cloud computing one-size-fits-all business model.

Gartner vice-president David Mitchell Smith believes that although these inhibitors will slow down European adoption of cloud computing, it will not prevent adoption, because cloud computing offers attractive benefits and, in the interest of agility and efficiency, these inhibitors will not be able to delay adoption any further.

Alcatel-Lucent, another research company, believe that availability, response time, and stability are really the major inhibitors of European adoption of cloud computing services. In the company’s survey of technical decision makers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, India, France, the UK, and the US, Alcatel-Lucent found that as much as 66 percent name service outages as the primary reason why they are not yet moving to the cloud. Forty percent of these decision makers said that long or frequent service outages have been experienced and that 50 percent complained that service-level agreements have not been complied with by the cloud computing service providers. According to the same report, sectors such as the government, healthcare, insurance and finance are very reluctant to adopt  cloud computing technology.

By Florence de Borja

How To Reduce Risks In Cloud Computing

How To Reduce Risks In Cloud Computing

Healthcare IT News survey results released recently show that 48% of respondents plan to include cloud computing in their IT projects, while 33% have already done so. However, the survey also found that 19% of respondents had no plans at all regarding cloud computing. The co-founder and president of ID Experts, Rick Kam, has a reason for this: security. The 19% of total respondents fear that cloud computing is not secure enough for their data.

For health care institutions, entities, and providers in particular, it is data security that is of utmost importance, because these organizations must protect health information. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as well as Federal HITECH, health care organizations are responsible for the protection of health information in the cloud.

However, all is not lost for these health care organizations, because it is possible to reduce the risks associated with cloud computing as follows:

  • When tapping the services of a cloud computing provider, a health care entity must fully review the terms and conditions of the Service Level Agreement so that the entity’s risks and liabilities are fully understood. As such, the health care entity must accept that such risks must be fully absorbed by the organization.
  • Once operational, the health care organization must limit access to the cloud computing system. However, small health care entities may have to make do with whatever cloud computing service they can afford. These entities may not be able to limit access; their data and applications may be hosted in the public cloud because it is a lot cheaper than a private cloud.
  • Before signing on the dotted line, the cloud computing applications must be researched fully, because there are federal laws which limit access to protect health information to the very minimum. Only authenticated and authorized users must be able to access the cloud computing applications and there must be a log so that IT can audit each individual instance of access. However, not all applications have this feature; so, it is the primary responsibility of the health care institution to do its homework before acquiring cloud computing applications. Also, the cloud computing application must be designed for interoperability and data must be securely and smoothly moved between software applications which somehow expose health care information to certain risks. Therefore, protocols and standards for interoperability must be developed. When a health care institution procures a cloud computing service, it must ensure that the interoperability feature is present in the application.
  • A small health care organization must ask for third-party validation when taking advantage of a cloud computing application. It can ask its cloud computing provider to present a certification from a medical organization or association confirming that its cloud computing application meets the HIPAA and HITECH security requirements.
  • The health care entity must keep an inventory of the organization’s protected health information and personally identifiable information. This way, it can regulate the way it disposes, stores, uses, and collects the entity’s protected health information, because the said inventory can make known any data breach risks. A health care organization will then be able to plan its security measures so as to reduce the risk of a data breach.
  • The health care organization must create a cost-efficient and effective incident response plan which will help the entity meet the HITECH and HIPAA requirements alongside creating guidelines in case a data breach occurs. The plan assigns roles and offers guidelines, as well as the response team’s actions and responsibilities when a security breach occurs, and offers instructions on how to determine notification requirements, especially to the regulatory authorities.

By Florence de Borja

How To Handle The Shock When You Receive Your Cloud Computing Bill

How To Handle The Shock When You Receive Your Cloud Computing Bill

It is common knowledge that there are hidden costs when your cloud-computing bill is delivered each month. There are, however, tried and tested practices you can adopt to avoid surprises. According to Dave Zabrowski,CEO and founder of CloudCruiser, it is really difficult for cloud computing providers to be completely transparent, especially for public clouds, but the hidden costs can be eradicated if only these providers would make an effort to be more transparent.

Over-allocation is a basic problem being faced by cloud computing customers. When a company taps the public cloud for its storage or computing power, it usually assumes that its workload will be at a certain level and, as such, it usually over-provisions and buys a higher-priced cloud computing plan to ensure coverage. However, experience shows that the real workload is not generally as demanding as the company has assumed. A cloud computing provider must be transparent with regards to a company’s allocation and usage so that the entity can downgrade to a less pricey plan.

Firstly, so that a company can save on its cloud computing plan, it can make use of cloud cost management and cloud management tools. There are various tools available that can assist a company in fine tuning their requirements in order to maximize usage of its cloud computing power and optimize cost. Different applications can recommend proper provisioning, tradeoffs between performance and cost, and alternative pricing models. Some tools also allow setting of alerts so that a company can be notified automatically if usage exceeds certain thresholds. In essence, a company must be able to monitor its instances real-time so that the monthly cloud computing bill will not be a shock.

Secondly, create clear cost-management procedures. In traditional IT deployments, IT had clear processes and control in place when it came to provisioning and approval. However, with cloud computing there is no particular policy in place. Therefore, an organization which makes use of the cloud must have clear governance policies in place.

Thirdly, create a management role which is dedicated to cloud computing alone. If a company is moving to the cloud, it is of utmost importance that they have dedicated management personnel to monitor and manage cost efficiency. The company must also search for the appropriate cloud computing provider to be able to negotiate.  Streamlined processes must also be created to support cloud computing provisioning.

Finally, there must be checks and balances in place through automated monitoring and cost management tools. However, human intervention is still required in order to provide the rules of engagement and proper governance.

By Florence de Borja

The Politics Of Cloud Computing

The Politics Of Cloud Computing

There are many issues taken for granted by companies when they move to the cloud. Aside from various technical issues, businesses fail to recognize that they’ll have to take into consideration the cultural environment of their own company. A very common problem that all businesses will encounter is the internal politics within the organization, which will tends to slow down cloud computing adoption.

Many application programmers won’t give up control of their software programs and servers because it can hamper software performance. Aside from that, these developers will reason that they will have difficulty controlling and deploying application updates. Users will resist cloud computing implementation within the company due to fear of the unknown. The internal structure of IT departments in companies and the legacy approaches to their process management will definitely bring problems to the speedy implementation of cloud computing projects.

To remedy these issues, it is best to assemble a team composed of senior managers so that business issues can be addressed before the adoption of cloud computing. It is also best to reorganize the IT department to hasten cloud deployment. Another important factor is to provide an opportunity for users to get hands-on experience with the cloud so that various IT functions can be automated. Companies must focus on changing the management processes within their IT departments so that cloud computing can be deployed with less disruption.

Aside from internal politics, cloud computing must also be able to hurdle international politics. For people who have no experience with cloud computing, it may be difficult to understand the political and international issues hounding cloud computing today. Because it is an intangible concept, people have difficulty understanding cloud computing.

Also, there are countries whose laws prevent global cloud development. These laws will also have a negative impact on a country’s economy. Telecommunications companies are also limiting the global cloud by data filtering and throttling. It is clear that politics has affected the Internet’s scalability, information flow, Internet access availability, as well the global cloud-based economy. Some worthwhile projects such as the provision of laptops for children in remote areas will fail if there is no reliable and stable Internet connection that allows a free flow of services, applications, and information.

Cloud computing providers are facing challenges with the legal restrictions present in different countries, which adversely affect the way cloud computing is delivered globally. Some huge cloud computing vendors have developed local infrastructures that permit users to choose their country. Nevertheless, there are still various privacy and security concerns that cloud computing must hurdle.

The political issues may seem vague, because the concept of cloud computing itself is vague. Nevertheless, it is important to the flow and growth of economies. International politics in cloud computing must be fought by resolving its issues one at a time. Each state or country must promote unbiased, free Internet access and network neutrality so that global cloud computing will continue to thrive and help all economies.

By Florence de Borja

Tax Issues In Cloud Computing

Tax Issues In Cloud Computing

Today, taking advantage of computing power has moved toward the subscription model away from the self-management and acquisition model. Through the subscription model, a business enterprise needs to tap into the skills of third-party managers in order to take advantage of the latest tools. The continuous evolution of cloud computing has provided many benefits to business, but it has also affected some of the present tax rules. Through cloud computing, accountants can access information and software anywhere, but location is an important consideration as regards taxation. Thus, there are challenges faced by cloud computing when it comes to tax regulations.

Cloud computing allows a user to access software and information through the Internet. Servers are no longer maintained and operated by a single company but are outsourced to third-party vendors who have a pool of more experienced and qualified IT personnel to deal with server problems. Because of this setup, a business can concentrate on growing the business rather than being tied down by server maintenance. Any device that can connect to the Internet can be used by a user to access software and information. This kind of setup can also bring down internal expenditure and IT costs.

However, cloud computing is also faced with numerous tax issues, such as sales tax. Traditionally, sales tax is levied on tangible personal property, but today, there is a dilemma regarding software because it is intangible—even federal income tax regulations treat it as an intangible. However, software must be stored in a tangible product such as a hard disk or a CD; thus, some states, such as Vermont, have treated off-the-shelf or prewritten software as tangible property, whereas in other states, such as California, software is treated as intangible property.

If software is treated as tangible property, it must be classified as either a tangible service or a tangible product. Some states levy sales tax on services that include software and computing, whereas California, for instance, does not, because it is treated as an intangible property that can be deployed electronically. In terms of maintenance contracts, some state laws follow the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement in order to categorize software maintenance contracts. If sales tax is computed using the destination approach, conflicts can arise because a client can buy several copies. That client may also create multiple copies for use in at least one state.

Conflicts can also arise with the computation of sales tax on software, especially when there is no clear distinction whether the software is part of the sales transaction or transferred. Some retailers bundle software with hardware where the software is treated as a hardware sale. Also, some vendors provide their customers with their own software for internal use only.

Some states have sales tax regulations when it comes to the use of storage, data, and software in cloud computing. In general, those states which levy sales tax on prewritten software also charge sales tax on software accessed by a business on a third-party server. Some states that do not tax software delivered electronically do not tax software used in cloud computing either.

As cloud computing is expected to grow, state laws must be able to fully determine its taxability, as cloud computing continuously challenges taxation rules in most states. As tax agencies strive to understand each cloud computing transaction, those people involved in the formulation of legislature must be able to determine if tax laws need to be changed or updated. It is still premature to conclude that Congress will be able to come up with uniform tax laws in this regard, although some experts believe it will someday resolve tax issues in cloud computing, just as it did with the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act. Some states may need to draw up sales tax exemptions because online education may become more expensive because it is not exempted from sales tax.

By Florence de Borja

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