Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Cloud Infographic  – 5 Ways To Become Extinct As Big Data Evolves

Cloud Infographic – 5 Ways To Become Extinct As Big Data Evolves

Cloud Infographic – 5 Ways To Become Extinct As Big Data Evolves

The enterprise is currently in a ‘Big Data Limbo’, where leadership has begun, or is preparing to invest in analytics – but lacks clear direction with where and how to implement.  The technology is powerful, and like the moniker suggests, “Big Data” is massive, leaving some executives with the impression that for these projects to be successful, IT departments must ready themselves to boil the proverbial ocean.

Below is an infographic provided by the group over at infochimps.com

Big-Data-Info

Infographic Source: infochimps.com

5 Reasons Why The Cloud Is Still Not 100% Secure

5 Reasons Why The Cloud Is Still Not 100% Secure

5 Reasons Why The Cloud Is Still Not 100% Secure

In the last year, many big cloud companies have come under cyber attacks leading to outages and data losses

Cloud companies offer tremendous trade-offs to businesses in terms of flexibility of scale, better security, reduced manpower and maintenance cost. The majority of organizations and individuals are now convinced of the value of the cloud and are starting to migrate their data over their.  Now, it’s generally assumed that ones data is more secure within the cloud than it would if it were residing inside an unsecure desktop or server room. Unfortunately, this assumption is not true all the time.

If there is one area that is common between Google, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Spamhaus, American Express, Evernote, Facebook and Twitter it is the vulnerability of a cyber attack. All these organizations use cloud solutions for their business and have been victims of cyber attacks over the past year. Some of them have publicly acknowledged that data breaches have taken place during such attacks.

crime-cyber

Many cloud subscribers today wonder why these high profile tech companies are unable to keep their data safe & secure. Here are five such reasons why this may be the case:

1) Dynamic nature of business and inherent complexity

For an end user, the services offered by cloud companies are structured in very simple manner. But the structure inside the cloud is inherently complex. Multiple customers share physical databases, file servers, web servers and disk spaces. It is only logical and technical implementation and rarely the physical separation that keeps them apart.

Moreover, organizations’ business requirements and thus cloud needs keep changing. As a result, regular restructuring of security controls becomes essential. It’s a daunting task to maintain security controls for such a dynamic and complex environment at the cutting edge so that they cannot be exploited. Any slip-up there opens the door for hackers.

2) Cloud companies cannot own 100% of responsibility to make it secure

Organizations often overlook their own responsibilities when they offload a business domain to the cloud. While the service provider will do its best, it cannot ensure absolute safety at the subscriber’s end. Organizations themselves have to ensure that their own systems are patched; the access to the cloud is for authorized users, there are no stale users in the list and encryption keys are kept safe.

3) Increased sophistication of cyber attacks

In recent years, the hacker community is better organized, and they receive huge funding. In certain cases organizations and governments back them. The change is evident in the speed at which zero day vulnerabilities are ready for exploitation, the size of payload and comprehensive functionality available in malware. In the month of March DDoS attack on Spamhaus was able to generate 300 gigabits per second, something that was unheard of before. It is not easy to completely ward off such sophisticated and powerful attacks.

Notable cyber attacks in 2013

Courtesy (http://hackmageddon.com/2013-cyber-attacks-timeline-master-index)

Month Target Description
Feb 2013 Twitter Twitter announces in a blog post to have detected unusual access attempts to the accounts of 250,000 users. As a consequence the affected users’ accounts are reset.
Feb 2013 Facebook Hit by targeted attacks and admits to have been by a watering hole attack in January.
Feb 2013 Apple Apple admits to have been hit by the same sophisticated cyber attack that targeted Facebook. The culprit is iPhoneDevSDK, a forum compromised to serve a malware exploiting 0-day vulnerability.
Feb 2013 Microsoft With a scant statement on its Security Response Center blog, Microsoft admits to have been targeted by the same cyber attack that hit Facebook and Apple.
Feb 2013 American Express In name of #OpBlackSummer. TunisianCyberArmy1 AKA @TN_cyberarmy claims to have hacked American Express and to have stolen 2 Gb of data.
Mar 2013 Spamhaus Spamhaus is the victim of massive DDoS attack made with DNS Amplification and reaching a peak of 300 Gbps.
Apr 2013 WordPress Security analyst from at least three Web hosting services detect an ongoing attack using more than 90000 IP addresses to brute-force crack administrative credentials of vulnerable WordPress systems.
Apr 2013 Google The Bangladeshi hacker TiGER-M@TE defaces the Kenyan domain of Google (google.co.ke)
May 2013 Drupal Passwords for almost one million accounts on the drupal.org website are reset after hackers gain unauthorized access to sensitive use data exploiting vulnerability in an undisclosed third party application
Jul 2013 Apple Extended outage on its developer portal (developer.apple.com) due to an intruder. Apple does not rule out the possibility that some developers’ name, addresses may have been accessed.

4) Ascertaining jurisdiction is difficult in a virtual environment

Virtualization is amongst the founding principles of cloud computing. For a subscriber, it is not easy (at times impossible) to find out where exactly their data is stored. The location may be a different data centre in a different city, state or country altogether. Unless jurisdiction is ascertained it is difficult to take help of the law and precious time gets wasted. In case of a breach it becomes difficult to seek legal help and go after the culprits. This situation works to the advantage of the hacker community and many times they continue to remain at large.

5) Vulnerable users are everywhere

Any amount of security is not enough if there are vulnerable users in the system. Despite all those trainings and awareness programs, people make mistakes and thus expose the whole system to security risks. Use of easy or predictable passwords, sharing of accounts, falling prey to phishing / vishing attacks continues to happen. In the end, the hackers need just one small door to enter the fortified castle.

While cloud solutions are here to stay but so are the cyber attacks on them. Organizations and individuals must weigh pros and cons of cloud solutions before embracing it.

By Manoj Tiwari

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

How Cloud Computing Will Help Your Small Business

How Cloud Computing Will Help Your Small Business

How Cloud Computing Will Help Your Small Business

The days of storing paper files in stacks of boxes are long over. But digital storage for small businesses can still be a headache without the right technology. Cloud computing, however, is an easy and data-friendly way to keep every file you need safe and easily accessible in one online location.

businesses

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Better Storage and Protection

Cloud lets businesses store any amount of data without worrying about maintaining a private server — something unrealistic for many small businesses. With cloud computing, small businesses don’t need to rely on purchasing hardware that can accommodate a lot of data, because the cloud stores it all and makes it accessible from anywhere. Not only is the issue of losing data essentially gone with the cloud, there are also myriad ways the system can protect your files.  It’s possible to limit employee access to files, increase encryption and monitoring on certain data, and limit the amount of data accessible from certain devices.

Easier Access for Employees

Employees can edit documents simultaneously with cloud computing; one person’s edits won’t be lost because another person opens the document. Similarly, employees won’t be locked out of viewing if someone else has the document open. They can also access information from any Internet connection. Problems like extra copies of documents or problems backing things up offline and to specific devices, which Google Drive has had issues with, are gone with cloud computing.

More Efficient File Sharing

Sharing files on the micro level is easy on the cloud — but so is moving and saving large quantities of data. Moving to a new office or selling part of a business used to mean transporting lots of files and data backup headaches. Since cloud computing keeps information in one place, a new office or a new bundle of data is no problem.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Increasingly, companies are allowing employees to use their own devices both in and out of the office. The cloud makes that even simpler, since devices don’t have to stay connected directly to an office server to access information. Instead, people can reach the cloud from their own devices, which means easier telecommuting and better on-the-road access for travelling employees. Plus, BYOD frees up businesses from having to buy, maintain, and update office devices. As discussed previously, cloud computing also offers several security solutions to keep sensitive data from being accessible if a device is stolen or hacked.

Faster Testing for New Ideas

Since everyone has access to company documents, employees and teams can test out new ideas and models in real-time. There are no messy email chains, no stacks of copied documents, and no memos floating between desks. If you’re trying a new strategy, a new plan for a project, or new creative work, everyone in and out of the office is involved at once, increasing efficiency. Answers about whether the new implements are effective come much faster since ideas and results are there immediately for everyone to see.

Easier IT

Cloud computing is automated and maintained by an outside company, which means a business’s IT department won’t get bogged down with employee issues regarding the cloud. Often times, the same people who provide your Internet will provide a cloud service as part of the package, like Verizon fiber optics, which means that you’ll be relying on one company to fix issues and answer questions relating to both the Internet and the cloud.

Plus, the people who provide the cloud service are worried about maintaining, improving, and fixing the software. This is an advantage for businesses too small to have in-house IT support, because a single company will be able to answer most questions and fix most issues, saving you from having to pay third parties to untangle data woes.

With cloud computing, some of the most frustrating data storage issues no longer exist for small businesses. Be it sharing on-the-go, having a secure backup of all files, or being able to limit who can get access to what and from where, cloud computing is a fantastic way to de-clutter servers and increase employee efficiency.

By Tommy Wyher

Dreamforce13: A Heavyweight Event For CRM And The Cloud

Dreamforce13: A Heavyweight Event For CRM And The Cloud

Dreamforce13: A Heavyweight Event For CRM And The Cloud

San Francisco’s Moscone Centre is rocking again this week with a huge meeting of minds and talents hosted by Salesforce.com. The event, called Dreamforce13 features keynotes from industry heavyweights such as SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff, FaceBook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and evangelists such as Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer.

sean-penn

With entertainment and general fascination being provided by legends such as Greenday, Neil Young, MC Hammer, Huey Lewis, and Peter Gabriel, the event just seems to ooze cool. Who woulda thunk it? Music legends hanging out at tech conventions dedicated to sales reps! Even Bono is here.

Sheltered from the occasionally rainy streets of downtown SanFran, the theme is “the internet of the customer,” referring to SalesForce1, whose mandate is simplification of the sales process, both inside and outside: more sales and listening, less administration.

Major cloud providers and suppliers are present, of course, including, @HP, @HubSpot, @Accenture, @dimensiondata, and many more, and the thousands upon thousands of attendees are carefully assessing the evidence of a changing business world, in which apps and the cloud are being touted as the shortest path to customers and sales. @Salesforce, of course intends to ensure that its reputation as one of the world’s largest and most versatile CRM solutions continues to assist organizations both large and small, as they migrate to the cloud.

Attendees at this event are once again amazed at the size and organization of the DreamForce event, as well as the leading edge thinking – no, not just thinking, but actual doing and achievement – that its speakers and experts are sharing with the huge crowds: take Brian Walker, CEO office furniture giant @hermanmiller, stating how his company holds no inventory – their business is 100% build to order; or Meg Whitman of @HP, describing “marketing” as now a “technology business,” or the Prime Minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, describing the ways in which his country is transforming through the use of technology, and even a little help from Sean Penn. (Photo credit: @zissimos)

The Dreamforce13 event continues to demonstrate how high-tech is no longer the domain of just the people in IT, but instead that the worlds of business are truly starting to meld as the the interactive nature of the cloud gains strength. Dreamforce13 runs through November 21. Details are available here: https://www.salesforce.com/dreamforce/DF13

By Steve Prentice

The High Cost Of Cloud Service Provider Downtime

The High Cost Of Cloud Service Provider Downtime

The High Cost Of Cloud Service Provider Downtime

disaster-recovery-cloud

With so many businesses moving over the cloud, even just a few minutes of service provider downtime can have a massive effect not only on individual businesses, but on the economy as a whole. Over the last five years, there has been an estimated 568 hours of provider downtime, resulting in an economic impact of $71.7 million. The average business loses an average of $300,000 per hour in an outage, with brokerage firms missing out on approximately $6.5 million per hour. Clearly, it’s time to take a good look at your provider and decide if they are giving you the best possible service.

Of course, most providers issue Service-Level Agreement (SLAs) to their customers, but these agreements all too often give little more than an illusion of safety. Most providers state they have 99.95% availability and will pay out if they fall below that level, but as stated in this whitepaper, that number can be misleading. On one hand, this percentage could either be averaged out monthly or over the entire year, allowing a four hour outage once a year without payout. As stated earlier, that much downtime would cost the average business over a million dollars.

Clearly, relying on SLAs simply isn’t enough. Instead, the prudent end-user needs to do some in depth research before signing a contract with a provider. First steps naturally involve diving into the provider’s history of outages and how they were handled. Failure to follow best practices when responding to an outage is a good indication that problems in the future are likely to reoccur. One provider simply failed to switch over to backup generators in a power outage, prolonging the outage considerably. Such a failure suggests the provider has failed to have emergency procedures in place or has left improperly trained staff on duty, both of which don’t bode well for the future.

In an age of increasing frequency in natural disasters, many SLAs state that they are not responsible for any outages caused by factors outside their control. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes could shut data centers for an unacceptable amount of time with no payout from the SLA. If your SLA does not cover you for natural disasters, it’s important to make sure the provider has multiple data centers spread out geographically and can store backups of all your information.

And so it’s time to take a good look at our providers and decide if they really are the right match for us. While migrating to a different provider can be costly, in the end uptime is king. If someone else can guarantee fewer outages, higher levels of redundancy, and a faster response time when outages inevitably happen, the cost of migration pales in comparison. If you’re unsure how to proceed from here, be sure to read this paper, which breaks down uptime standards into six basic characteristics.

By Nick Kleeman

What PCI DSS 3.0 Means For Cloud Service Providers

What PCI DSS 3.0 Means For Cloud Service Providers

What PCI DSS 3.0 Means For Cloud Service Providers

The only constant is change. Earlier this month, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council released version 3.0 of the PCI DSS standard (along with the accompany Payment Application Data Security Standard).  In it are a few key focus areas that will directly affect Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), which is why it makes good business sense to start thinking about version 3.0 right now. While some of the rules aren’t required for existing implementations until 2015, smart CSPs understand that customers will certainly be asking about the changes in 2014.

The most important change for CSPs in PCI DSS 3.0 is that they are required to provide a written agreement (or acknowledgement) to their customers of their explicit responsibilities for supporting the standard. PCI DSS 2.0 had some requirements for service providers, but 3.0 will require that CSPs develop specific, contract-level documentation of their commitments. The idea here is to eliminate the expensive finger-pointing exercise many organizations go through when something as simple as a disaster recovery or backup site, or when an audit finds expected portions of the standard are not met, or in the investigations following a data breach.

Another important change in 3.0 is the need for explicit definitions around the shared responsibility of service providers who provide PCI DSS-compliant environments and services to their customers. There will be no getting off the hook anymore.

This version of the PCI standard will also cause CSPs to take a look at the rest of their compliance offering-related infrastructure and processes — and sooner is better than later.  Here’s one change to watch for: the pen test requirement.  With version 3.0, the cardholder data environment has to be explicitly tested quarterly by an approved scanning vendor to verify that it is properly separated from other network environments.  It is critical that CSPs either work this requirement into their process and infrastructure set to make sure that the environment matches the new data security requirements.

There are also a host of smaller changes and clarifications that will be important to CSPs and thus deserve at least a mention here.  They include:

  • Increased education and awareness for personnel involved in managing the infrastructure and applications for the payment chain;
  • Specific clarifications around the use of encryption and cryptographic keys;
  • Account access procedures that limit CSP access to card payment infrastructure;
  • More detailed guidance about allowed password use;
  • More focused description of the limits of privileged and standard user access controls;
  • New access guidelines for CSPs that have remote access to their customers’ payment card data environments; and
  • New physical access requirements for onsite personnel
  • Increased visibility into the creation of new accounts and escalation of privileges by users with root and administrative access

As I said before, these changes do not need to be implemented until 2015, but affected CSPs should develop plans well ahead of time to ensure they can meet the new requirements. Doing so will give them a clear first-mover advantage in an increasingly security-focused market.

So, whatever your Cloud service offerings, getting ahead of the new PCI DSS requirements will enable you to both differentiate your offerings from the competition and give your customers greater comfort on the cloud security front. Don’t drag your heels addressing the additional requirements; instead, embrace the new PCI DSS standard in ways that will drive new business and also expand opportunities with your existing customers.

c-j-radford

By C.J Radford,

C.J. Radford joined Vormetric in March 2013 as vice president of cloud, a newly created leadership position that is tasked with leading the company’s cloud strategy and growth via strategic partnerships with cloud service providers (CSPs). He came to Vormetric from Symantec Corporation, where he spent more than five years driving business development and new strategic growth initiatives within the rapidly evolving CSP market. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oregon and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.

Cloud Infographic: Data Center Of The Information Highway

Cloud Infographic: Data Center Of The Information Highway

Cloud Infographic: Data Center Of The Information Highway

For many years, companies have been building data warehouses to analyze business activity and produce insights for decision makers to act on to improve business performance. These traditional analytical systems are often based on a classic pattern where data from multiple operational systems is captured, cleaned, transformed and integrated before loading it into a data warehouse. Typically, a history of business activity is built up over a number of years allowing organizations to use Business Intelligence (BI) tools to analyze, compare and report on business performance over time.

Included is an infographic provided by by the group at Equinix.

EquinixInfographics-BigData

Infographic Source: Equinix

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