Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Seven Hidden Truths About Personal Clouds

Seven Hidden Truths About Personal Clouds

Seven Hidden Truths About Personal Clouds 

Increasingly, people are discovering the joy of using personal clouds for a wide range of tasks, such as photo and video sharing, mobile backup, anytime music and project collaboration. Consequently as their popularity increases, people’s skepticism about worrisome aspects, such as privacy, security and reliability, is starting to ebb and growing desire and expectation for anytime access of personal content is trumping concerns.

This article highlights some key potential gotchas that personal cloud providers prefer users don’t know, but, being aware of these is essential as it helps adopters gain the most from personal clouds while avoiding potential pitfalls.

#1: The service is free (except when it isn’t). Every personal cloud service offers free sign up, but the catch is the ‘freemium’ model that relies on users upgrading to a paid service or mining user data for advertising. So even though a service appears free, there is no such thing as a free cloud.

#2: We don’t care about your data (we want your $). Although personal clouds tout their many benefits, they are really offered to sell people things such as more storage, devices, mobile data and content. Or they are offered to reduce switching because your data is in their cloud. This is a modern version of the strategy of giving the razor away for free in order to sell the blades i.e. the aforementioned stuff. Don’t be fooled, keep a close tab on your wallet.

#3: Trust us, your data is safe & secure (unless it isn’t). A personal cloud service accessible by the public has a good chance of being hacked, even with stringent safeguards. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies can legally search cloud information, depending on location and circumstance. You should still not put anything online that you don’t want Uncle Sam or other unknown relatives to access.

#4: We are 100% reliable (except when we’re not). There have been numerous outages and incidents affecting personal clouds, resulting in data loss, despite best efforts to avoid this. It is too costly to 100% guarantee that all data will be available forever. The chances may be slim that you will lose data sometime, but if you really want to be careful, maintain an off-cloud version of important stuff. It’s like dentists say, you don’t need to floss all your teeth, only the ones you want to keep.

#5: Get a lot of storage for cheap (that you probably won’t use). Most personal clouds offer a nominal amount of free storage and a lot more storage for a modest fee. How do they do this without going broke? Is it economies of scale, storing data on low cost media, compression or storing a single copy of commercial content such as movies and songs? The answer is yes , but it’s also a numbers game. Services are based on the premise that a high percentage of purchased storage is never used. When you run out of free storage and upgrade for more, it takes time to fill it up, which for most people, never occurs, for many reasons. When this happens, you are actually paying for free storage for other people.

#6: Having a bad cloud day? (Good luck getting help). How many personal cloud services offer phone support? OK, stop laughing. If zero popped into mind, that would be about right. Many services offer online support, which may be ok for techies. If you are non-technical, you should befriend a techie or there is safety in numbers i.e. stick to popular services because if millions use something, it must work.

#7: We’re not mining your data (but we might tomorrow). Popular personal cloud services are legit, with privacy policies that prevent data from being mined without consent. That’s fine until they change. They can publish a revised policy with fine print that may relax privacy restrictions. How many people read the fine print? About the same as the number of providers offering phone support. So while, you enjoy the convenience of your personal cloud, treat confidential data with utmost care, by keeping it off-cloud.

In sum, these seven hidden truths may cause you to pause before using personal clouds. That wasn’t the intent of this article; it was to make people aware, so they know how far they can rely on personal clouds. As a final word of advice, personal clouds are here to stay; it’s best to make them your ally, which you can do by being aware of potential gotchas.

By Hal Steger,

hal-imageHal Steger is Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Business Development at Funambol. He has more than 20 years of marketing and business development experience. Steger co-founded and was VP Marketing of Rubric, where he positioned the company as the leader of the new category of Marketing Automation solutions. Rubric was acquired for $370M. Prior to Rubric, Hal held product management and product marketing positions at Oracle, Uniface/Compuware, and other high profile Silicon Valley companies. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan with a double major in Computer Science and Economics, and an M.S.I.A. (MBA) degree from Carnegie-Mellon’s Tepper School of Business (formerly GSIA).

Hybrid Cloud Is The Way Forward

Hybrid Cloud is the Way Forward

No one in the industry likes vendor lock-in but it is something which every enterprise has to live with, in fact, this is how the enterprise software and solutions market was originally designed to work. One of the promises of the Cloud was to break this vicious cycle of locking in with a vendor but with a plethora of Cloud offerings and service delivery models – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS etc. – and dearth of standards, there’s an acute need to federate the way in which different Cloud services talk to each other and learn to live within the same space.

Recent surveys have shown that enterprise – big and small – which have made their transition to the Cloud find it more appealing to maintain a portfolio of Cloud services from varied vendors instead of tying up with a single vendor. One reason of this trend may be the lack of turn-key solutions when it comes to SaaS offerings. For example, somewhere in the stack of a Cloud based ERP solution, you will find Amazon’s EC2 being utilized for compute but this is not the example of a hybrid Cloud deployment.

In comparison to the complexities of integrating multiple legacy and even some recent non-Cloud enterprise systems, integrating Cloud services from multiple vendors and public/private Cloud offerings to create the architecture right for your enterprise is not a nightmare, so to speak. However, the lack of standards in this space will only create diversions and roadblocks for new entrants to deal with.

Compatibility will be the key to increased Cloud adoption and further penetration into the enterprise. One possible route to achieve Cloud compatibility across the board is the Open route, which consists of five O’s

  • Open Source
  • Open Data
  • Open Cloud
  • Open APIs
  • Open Standards

Open Source is already very mature and has been a driving force for much of the enterprise software landscape however, open APIs and open data are two aspects which are still evolving. Open cloud, on the other hand, is key to delivering on the real value of the Cloud – ability to deliver service, anytime, anywhere, through any cloud.

Keeping in view the demand for bringing together and tying up different Cloud services and vendors into one coherent enterprise solution, there are now solutions which offer to remove the pain of data and application migration to the Cloud and then interaction between various Cloud services in a unified deployment scenario – hybrid cloud.

Perhaps one of the selling points for hybrid cloud is the mitigation, if not elimination, of risk. Business continuity and growth demands that sensitive and even non-sensitive business data be secured and when CIOs talk about migrating to the Cloud, one of the primary concerns is often cited as data security. With hybrid cloud deployments, the risk of data security can be isolated from the mix and addressed more effectively, resulting in improved confidence of the stakeholders.

By Salman UI Haq

Mobile Devices & BYOD – Bring Your Own Desktop?

Mobile Devices & BYOD – Bring Your Own Desktop?

Mobile Devices & BYOD – Bring Your Own Desktop?

The plethora of mobile devices with smartphones and tablets leading the wave of a new era of computing, CIOs and IT managers wake up to a nightmare i.e. mobile management. Mobile management spans both, the platform or the mobile devices and content which in the case of enterprises would be sensitive business data which an employee accesses and perhaps stores on the mobile device.

PC sales are in slump while mobile devices have made their inroads, landing right into the hands of consumers around the globe and then strategically seeping into the enterprise. This has left CIOs scrambling to grasp the reality of the modern enterprise where mobile will eventually become the centerpiece in IT – not dedicated workstations, PCs or laptops.

Cloud’s deep penetration into the enterprise is a reality, serving enterprise applications directly from the Cloud has become a reality, delivering on the promises of increased productivity and cost reductions in IT operations. One of the primary implications of this paradigm shift has been the separation of “dedicated PC/laptop” from enterprise application/s of the enterprise employee. This would mean that organizations would no longer be able to have tighter controls on what devices they allow at workplace, probably due to popular demand and the fact that employees will, in any case bring their own mobile devices to work.

Desktop on the Cloud

Beyond these “enterprise applications”, there’s a shift of the whole workstation to the Cloud. With advances in desktop virtualization, there are now a range of new services and startups focusing on providing desktop virtualization solutions to consumer as well as enterprise users. From the perspective of an IT manager, serving the desktop through the Cloud to any mobile device which has a “thin client” app installed is a better position to be in, compared to apps, for example, CRM being accessed from a personal mobile device. When you serve the desktop through the Cloud, you give access to the processing power and a familiar (PC) experience to the users, not to mention the support for not-so-old (I’m not saying ‘legacy’ just yet) enterprise applications. Perhaps, cloud desktop could help transition to true mobile – enterprise applications served through the Cloud with frameworks and policies in place for data security.

Mobile Management –Device and Data

Mobile management spans both data and device and combines, it presents a formidable challenge, one which the industry has yet to respond to and with the market for enterprise mobile applications expected to grow to a $55BB market by 2016, the demand for managing the devices and the data they feed on will only surge. In terms of ensuring safe and secure access and usage of data living on the mobile devices, there will never be one-solution-fits-all option.

Mobile Management, Increased Productivity and Cost Reduction

The notion that the entire or significant part of the enterprise workplace going mobile, IT infrastructure costs will naturally decline may be true but only when you look at one side of the equation. When you factor in the increase in mobile management costs for example, the story of cost reductions does not hold true. This is evident in a survey by ComputerWorld which concluded that in 2011, there were 2.9 IT workers per 1,000 mobile devices. Last year this grew to 3.6 and this year, an estimated 4 dedicated IT workers will be needed for every 1,000 mobile devices. This reflects the growing need to manage mobile, both devices and data.

This post is brought to you by the Mobile Enterprise 360 Community and Citrix

By Robert Smith

BYOD And The Issues Surrounding Cloud Storage

BYOD And The Issues Surrounding Cloud Storage

BYOD And The Issues Surrounding Cloud Storage

As BYOD increases and employees increasingly use personal laptops, smartphones and mobile devices for work purposes, concerns over data security and data privacy remain the most significant barriers to cloud adoption, according to the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF). Corporate IT managers and CIOs are rightfully correct in their trepidation as they open their networks to  and data leakage plus lose control over data once it leaves the corporate confines. While employees benefit from the ability to work from anywhere by using the cloud services that provide BYOD support, they also risk the loss of privacy when they inadvertently open access to personal files. This potential loss of privacy is worrisome. byod-image

CIF’s June 2012 research found that 66 percent of respondents said the most significant concern about the adoption of cloud services within the business was data security; this is up from 62 percent in 2011. The issue of data privacy also saw a leap up from 55 percent in 2011 to 66 percent in 2012.

The problem however is not BYOD, but the cloud storage. Using file storage providers such as Dropbox or Google Drive offers convenience and simplicity that may not be available with corporate applications. These services fall into category of Shadow-IT—the case in which users decide that they need a service, one which the IT department will not, or cannot provide to them in a timely manner. In other words, the hardware or software adopted “lives in the shadows” as opposed to being sanctioned and supported by the CIO and corporate IT departments. In the past Shadow IT included smartphones, portable USB drives and tablet computers on the hardware side and applications such as Gmail, instant messaging services and Skype. Shadow-IT now encompasses cloud storage as well. Where data is stored and how securely within these applications, however, cannot always be verified. What is known is that once out of the enterprise IT environment, it becomes impossible for CIOs to know where company data is, or who has access to it. In fact when one signs up for these cloud storage services, one is also giving the service permission to use one’s data (users are advised to check the terms and conditions fine print).

The challenge for cloud providers will be convincing customers that the risks of the cloud do not outweigh the benefits – and those risks include the exposure of data through security incidents. The March 2013 Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attacks on Spamhaus flooded Spamhaus servers blocking traffic and making the servers unreachable. For users storing files in services that use Spamhaus networks, their files were slow to access or in some cases, inaccessible. Other potential threats to documents stored in clouds include caching of information on mobile devices, and stored passwords. Companies may also risk issues with compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), HCFA (Health Care Financing Administration), FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) and SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002).

When IT departments choose cloud services to enable BYOD support, they are quite right to consider security and compliance as well as issues such as price and convenience. The CIF research also found that security concerns had risen in 2012 most noticeably in the private sector, increasing from 59 percent to 67 percent. Conversely, in the public sector concern had narrowly dropped from 69 percent to 66 percent. Both the private and public sector have experienced data attacks and the European Union (EU) have called on both corporations and governments to be more transparent when they suffer data breaches.

In sum, it behooves both cloud storage providers and corporate IT decision makers to focus on security. The clouds have a responsibility to users to protect the data stored from attack and to protect the privacy of documents stored. Moreover, IT departments must acknowledge the growing use of clouds that are brought in by users and realize that the department is never going to be able to compete with the simplicity and ease of use of clouds Consequently, IT must change its own worldview and figure out how to implement needed protection and guidelines to assure the security of data once it leaves the corporate network for the cloud. Such paradigm shifts will not be an easy process for many organizations. The trick will be to have both sticks and carrots—firm and enforceable data control policies and a never-ending search for the best cloud storage to meet changing demands.

By Simon Bain,

Simon Bain is the company founder, CTO and chief architect of Simplexo Ltd’s software solutions.

Towards A Cloud Common Market: UK Administration Has G-Cloud In Tow

Towards a Cloud Common market: UK Administration has G-Cloud in Tow

While many states seek to establish a framework, guiding mechanisms, and caveats that should govern their Information Technology, if not cloud computing, markets, some countries go ahead to endorse the cloud as a market of choice. The United Kingdom has joined a select few countries of the globe that now take IT and server-based storage seriously. Next to the Aussie and American demonstration of the cloud as a national issue, via appropriating policies and security protocols, the British have gone a step further by instituting the sector. Through the G-Cloud, as they are calling this integration that cuts across a wide market spectrum, both governmental and independent, all companies are on board.

What is G-Cloud?

It is a structure that evolves polices for the British cloud and appends major entities to support with applications and data facilities. While admittedly selective in its kind of services, from certain major labels, the G-Cloud dispensation, nevertheless, enjoys a great vendor outreach. Current data of the final week of May reveals that within a click of a button, any department, public or private, in this cloud network, can acquire apps, or rather services, numbering up to 7000. Where do they emanate from? They are the applications, in an Infrastructure as a Service, Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Security as a Service, connotations, from giants and newcomers in the cloud computing niche.

The upshot of this new institutional framework is that it is already getting in vogue with characteristic vibrancy. One of the latest appendages of progress is that there is a CloudStore from where all kinds of apps and services are accessible. The major players, currently, are already increasing the reach of the store, the latter being primarily for stocking SaaS products, by improving on the IaaS framework. This means that in a few months time, major IT companies will be operating gigantic data facilities, especially for administrative storage purposes.

Word is out in the street that, by monetary sense, the CloudStore is not doing badly either, even when still a greenhorn. 14 million Sterling Pounds had already changed hands, at the beginning of 2013, which only hints of the great extent that figure may have hiked to, by now. This is despite the fact that there are no boundaries of buying. A department need not buy from this store in order to stay afloat, cloud-wise. It can also transact directly with vendors, thus bringing a competitive edge, for the store in question, at improving its offerings from within.

Is it popular? G-Cloud has since become a label of some sort in public Information Technology departments. These are taking advantage of the very premise of the project, commodity-pooling. This is where the cloud amasses a number of products and services from diverse providers and developers in one pool. This means that the departments are thereby shopping in one centralized outlet that has the proud fact of having countenancing by the UK authorities.

How is it a Common Market?

The above dissection of how there is commoditization and mass exodus by IT departments of public institutions into the new provision, clearly indicates it is the new name of the game, in the cloud market. The term, common market, as it applies here, stems from the fact that Britain is seeking to harmonize the scalable potentialities of the cloud into its policy framework. This means that it will be formulating matters, concerning which, depending on the sector’s current stage of development. Furthermore, the UK government’s website clearly reveals the intention to scale public ‘economies of scale.’ In short, the entrepreneurial uptime that emanates from the cost-effective platform that is compute infrastructure and pay-as-you-use framework that is software as a service will yet become a public possession.

Ultimately, G-Cloud envisages the government’s intention to reduce the carbon footprint. Because data centers use sustainable energy and are in remote locales, the government and private sectors will, henceforth, do away with huge hardware networks and reduce the ecological disaster that stems from this electronic clutter. Finally, there will be a procurement advantage in the sense that the state will be studying the market changes and appropriating a buyer and vendor equilibrium where none fails the other. When the vendor is there, it is with the apps that the state wants and when the buyer is present, it is for the apps that the vendor has.

By John Omwamba

Keeping Your Data Safe

Keeping Your Data Safe

Keeping Your Data Safe

Cloud storage has revolutionized the way we keep our files and because most of the established cloud storage providers use the best security and encryption technology available, most of us tend to forget that we have our own part to do in ensuring the safety of our own files. While cloud storage can free us from such worries as having malicious programs sneak into our computer system, there are still practices that we have to observe to keep our data safe in the cloud. If you’re already taking advantage of online storage or plan to move your digital luggage online, here are some tips that can help prevent data loss and unauthorized access to your files.

Use a Unique Password for Your Cloud Storage Account

You may have already read this before but here it is anyway: use a different username and password for each and every site and online service that you use. Again, we reiterate the importance of using a unique username and password for your cloud storage account. Choose a unique password that’s difficult to guess and preferably, consists of a combination of letters and numbers. Doing so can help prevent unauthorized access of your account in case your credentials on other sites and web services get compromised.

Do not Use Easy to Guess Answers to Security Questions

Most cloud storage providers give you a layer of protection in case you accidentally forget your login details. This often comes in the form of security questions. Scammers and hackers, however, can easily bypass this security check if you use answers that are found online. Hackers, for instance, can easily guess your mother’s maiden name by checking your online profile. The smart way to go about this is to answer security questions with fictional answers. If the security question is where you were born, you can answer with a nonexistent “hotel 358”. Do not Share Your Credentials with Anyone

You may be observing best practices to protect your data in the cloud but if you entrust your credentials to someone who does not know anything about safe computing and internet browsing, you may put your data at risk. Avoid sharing your cloud service account username and password with anyone. If you have reason to believe that your account information is compromised, change your login details as soon as possible. You may also contact your cloud vendor’s business phone number to ask them for help and let them know that something is amiss.

Encrypt Your Data

As much as possible, encrypt your data before uploading them online. This can help protect your files in case somebody manages to get your login details. There is a number of encryption software such as Truecrypt that you can use to ensure that only authorized people get to view you online files. File compression programs also give you the ability to password-protect your zipped folders.

Backup Your Files

To protect your data from loss in case your cloud storage provider gets hacked or closes down, it is best to have backups of your data on a physical drive. This may sound ironic because most users use the cloud to back up their files and get rid of physical drives. Just think of it this way: your personal copy may come handy in case you lose your data online. Never, ever keep just one copy of your files.

Use Security Software

You may compromise your cloud data’s security if your own computer system has security issues. Password sniffing malware, for example, may allow hackers to get your cloud account credentials and put your data at risk. Always keep your computer clean and free from viruses and malware by using reliable and updated antivirus software.

By Michelle Simplson

Michelle is a full-time professional editor that focuses on online writing services, specialized in the field of technology like RingCentral cloud phone, business and current trends in the industry.

Startup Brings Wine To The Cloud Cellar

Startup Brings wine to the Cloud Cellar

They say that wine gets better with age. This is only true, however, when it is under slow fermentation in a cellar, and at that, a cloud-based dungeon, if the following news-making transition by a US company is anything to go by. The startup has already transferred all sales, marketing and distribution constituents of its brewery to the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) framework. One only has to make a request, and voila, the bottle is at the table, abroad.

There are some worthy additions, however, that make this more than mere email marketing or even traditional commodity shipping. The automated sales platform of the company is tracking down its growing list of prime tasters, now numbering 100, by suggesting improvements to their cellars. Market information shows that it can construe persuasive marketing to such personal quips as, one’s store is half full and it needs a refill, or one’s stock of the foregoing week remains untouched, despite having changed hands, and maybe the wine connoisseur needs a new brand from the same company.

The move to the cloud by this company by man and wife, who come from different fields, one in vintage wine and the other finance, has attracted rave press on the web. The primary point of lauding is the revolution they are making to customer relationship. It is now even possible to orientate the pricing to much cheaper value than that of a physical store. The upshot of this is that a bottle can go for as little as $130, a difference that halves the price of the same quantity, the previous year. The reason for this is simple: the cloud has a centralized and commodity-savvy system that reduces expenses of equipment. Storage is pay-as-you-use and the applications are at throw away prices, should one make the necessity of availing them.

There are already big names in the celebrity rooster that have joined the century-odd prime wine tasters, for the US startup. These include the cinema star, Harrison Ford, who is apparently enjoying the break from the conventional location-based wine shop.

The startup also vaunts a consortium of bright lights in their fields that are helping the husband-and-wife team to run the company on the public cloud. One of these is a partner with a tech establishment, while the other works with the World Economic Forum. This gives but a hint of how business and finance go hand-in-hand with technology.

Apparently, the company whose physical offices are in St. Helena says that its appellation, Soutirage, derives from a French word that means culling of lees at the bottom of the drink, from pure wine. Thus, it may look, from the outset, like a pure offering for the elite through the cloud computing conduit.

In denouement, it suffices to say that these wine revolutionists are not using cloud computing in the traditional way to reach consumers. Albeit, they approach digital marketing as gentlemen who do not lure their clients by a fusillade of email lists. There are no Press Releases, either. Rather, they use individual quips to poke the ribs of each of the prime clients and thus have them take another bottle off the soft rack. There is also the appendage of advisory communiqués on what wine in the market, currently lifts one’s spirit best. To do this work, the team passes the information to the select customers on a regular basis, via, as one may have guessed, technological outlets. To this end, the consumers have the luck of getting microscopic updates about their latest wine bottles, in their cloud ‘cellars.’

By John Omwamba

The Reality Of Government Intrusion Risks For Cloud Businesses

The Reality of Government Intrusion Risks for Cloud Businesses

The concerns around government intrusion in cloud stored data, especially to reveal user sensitive information are amongst the most discussed topics within the cloud community. Although the concerns are often exaggerated, there is some truth in these concerns and sooner or later a cloud service provider may receive request from government authorities to reveal information or processes that are considered private and sometimes regarded as secrets, both in personal and organizational capacities. A more serious issue is that of unwarranted snooping into data residing in cloud and several incidents of data breach from both government and private authorities are in fact unlawful.

After the passage of Patriot Act, security agencies have issued several thousand NSLs (National Security Letters) to companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon etc. to obtain information and private data of hundreds of users without their knowledge or consent. Some other laws, such the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applies directly to foreign nationals who have stored data in servers or cloud services residing in the U.S. and the law allows the Government to have unrestricted access to their data. The agencies have also deployed specialized infrastructure to eavesdrop on network traffic in order to obtain intelligence rendering most unprotected data vulnerable to leakage, even with the knowledge of service provider.

Hence data privacy breach from Government is a unique case of data protection which requires special measures to protect user privacy. After all, the adaptability of a cloud service by users will rely upon their confidence in the service provider for protecting their data to the same level as they would obtain for in-house storage. In fact, many users are reluctant to use cloud services because of the security breach concerns and the threat of losing control over the data. Additionally, some cautious administrators believe that if the government can spy on their data, so can criminals, making it crucial to add protection layers.  Hence, it is important to make any intercepted data useless for hackers and robust data monitoring and threat detection techniques are needed to be deployed as part of an effective security framework.

Primarily, all data should be encrypted before it leaves client premises and the encryption keys must be maintained in a separate server, ideally placed in-house. A similar technique is employed by Dropbox and Google Drive services which help them secure data against network intrusions. For those requiring extra security, a local service can be used on top of cloud service application that can encrypt and maintain keys locally using cryptographic algorithms such as AES and SHA. Some software already provides such functionality such as gKrypt and SafeMonk that can ensure users against intrusion from service providers or unwarranted government involvement. However new security architectures may be required that balances information security without compromising legitimate access by government to detect malicious information.

By Salam UI Haq

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