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Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by agkm800, Aug 6, 2009.
Can anyone explain it in simple and plain English? Thank you.
Great links. The idea of software applications and data that are stored in "the ether" may seem like a great concept, but consider:
1) How secure is your data?
2) What is the lifespan of the applications?
3) Are there compatability issues and what are my exit strategy options for my data if I stop using the applications?
It's a way of having your apps and files stored on a server somewhere - rather than you being in possession of them yourself.
Pretty much, all your files, apps, programs, etc are stored on the cloud server.
Whenever you need them, first it trys to find the local cache, then it connects to that server and finds the thing you're looking for.
Basically, you need about 4GB Hard Drive space for Cloud Computing, no more.
It's a marketing term.
All it means is that your 'stuff' --- your documents/work, calendar info, contact details, and some applications --- are stored on the internet rather than your harddrive (locally).
'The Cloud' sounds better to consumers than the more appropriate name for it.
Remember, clouds close to the ground is called fog....
First of all, just a note: Cloud comes from network diagrams, where the Internet or another outside network is represented by a cloud.
1) Fairly secure. Most reputable companies use industry standard encryption for your data. Unless they get your key, they can't get your data.
2) It depends on the company. Small companies may not be around in ten years. Something like Microsoft may not be going away any time soon, but they may just decide to cancel their Skydrive service, for example.
3) Again, it depends on the company. Most bigger companies will probably make transfer of data/services fairly easy.
Who owns the data stored in the cloud after a company goes belly up?
Who owns the data during transmission?
Who is liable if the information is corrupted, stolen, modified, during or after transmission?
What happens if you need to change data storage vendors?
What happens if your company is bought, will the contract be able to handle moving to new ownership?
What happens if you store financial data, private data, medical data and it's compromised?
Does the storage vendor have the right to sift through your data for trends and then create new business ventures?
SO many potential problems.
Those are correct answers and the key reasons why cloud computing poses substantial problems for IT professionals at the moment.
While wp, spreadsheet and calendar apps like those on Google are nice and convenient, particularly if you're dealing with a device like a smartphone, netbook or MBA on a casual basis, it's got it's risks as well.
Most online firms, at least online data storage firms I have dealt with, use end-to-end encryption, so the data is protected during transmission. This will protect it from snooping. I haven't dealt with any cloud services like hosted email, though. I can only assume they use similar techniques. As for the business side, such as companies being bought, going out of business...that is another problem entirely. The tech side is pretty locked down. Business models, on the other hand, may not be.
I'll just relate one experience with cloud computing. I was working for a consulting firm, and one of our fairly new clients was a publishing company. They had one server with around 500GB worth of data on it. Their previous tech person had set them up with an online backup service, even though the server had a tape drive in it. The server died had a massive failure one day, and corrupted their RAID array. After getting it back up and running, I attempted to restore their data from said company. I had no luck, and they kept telling me the encryption key was wrong. After fighting with them a while, they figured out the problem. (Somebody had entered the wrong key in their account info). I fired up the download and let it go overnight. Sometime during the night, it had died. It seems the publishing company's ISP cut them off after seeing the massive data transfer. I tried it at our office, and had similar results. The backup company had a policy to send data on external HDDs, but they kept balking when we asked them to do that. Finally, after a week of going round and round with them, and the owner of the publishing company threatening them with legal action, they overnighted an external drive with the data on it.
I've been wary of such services since.
On encryption, my concern is more that there are so many vendors jumping on this, that people just assume that everything is encrypted. I wanted to just put it in writing to keep people thinking about it.
The cloud storage thing is great as long as nobody has to test the recovery portion as you said. I have a customer begging for damn near free online backups. They're nuts. I'll be bringing in a Barracuda demo unit to show what onsite/offsite can do, but the purely software ones I just don't trust.
I think most companies would offer it, if for no other reason than fear of being sued/arrested. But, potential customers should always check the encryption used.
For a business, I would be wary of such a service. I prefer something like tape backups taken offsite. Or even better, a full blown COOP site far away from your main server room. For personal use, I don't have a problem with the software based services. I've been comparing different vendors, but I still haven't decided on one. I looked at Carbonite, but they don't backup network or external drives, which means I can't backup my NAS. Several other services have this same limitation.
I work with a lot of small businesses, and they're all clamoring for offsite online backups instead of using tape. I'm trying to show them the error of their ways, but the customer's always right. The 4 days of downtime or more that can result from a server failure doesn't seem to bother them.
As far as personal backups, on my Mac, I'm using Time Machine, but it certainly doesn't offer an offsite solution yet. I need to work on this more now that I have my new Mini and am using it as my full time PC now.
For Windows, I'm evaluating Backup Exec System Recovery. So far it seems too good to be true. I ran the backup to USB drive as well as my NAS. It supports dumping it to an FTP location. So that's something I'd like to see if I could pull off. Put a piece of crap Linux box (or even my G4 Mini, hmm...) at my folks' place open up FTP from my IP address only, and have it set to receive the offsite backup copies.
Cloud computing is a way for big companies like IBM to sell new server hardware.
Its a combination of traditional data centres and web applications (google mail, .Mac etc). They sell their hardware for building the new data centres, in theory its a cheaper solution, in reality no profitable blue chip company is going to outsource their application and data management...it would be like giving the keys for your Porsche to the neighbours teenage kid and then expecting that your Porsche will somehow be ok.
It's the user-friendly version of grid computing.
Google already has your browsing history, facebook already has your pictures, but no one has your documents yet! That's why this cloud stuff is hyped at the moment, someone needs to get your documents.
This is why I won't be using Cloud computing beyond sending my iPhone pics to other devices, and even then it's a nice but (for me) unnecessary feature.
The only person I trust with my documents is me, and those who have signed NDAs.
You mean like how sony stored its information?
I don't think a blanket statement of "fairly secure" really makes people feel good when we read about various hacker intrusions. I mean if defense contractors are getting hacked and they have some extremely sensitive data, how can I feel secure especially when companies like sony thought storing passwords, credit card # and userids in plain text were a good idea.
I should have said "as secure as anything else you'll find on the Internet".
Sony (and others) were just stupid for not encrypting their databases with customer info. It's not really related to cloud computing. In fact, I believe the Sony systems that got hacked were internal, though these days it is hard to tell. I'll never understand why these companies don't encrypt customer info.
In the case of the RSA/Lockheed Martin hack (oops, I mean "major defense contractor"), it is a bit different. RSA got hacked because of end-user stupidity. A user opened an email from someone they didn't know (from their spam folder, no less) and then proceeded to click on an Excel attachment that contained a Flash exploit.
My point is this: Even internal data is as vulnerable. Depending on who is running the show, cloud services can be just as secure or as vulnerable as internal data. Heck, the DOD classified network has been exploited many times and it's not even connected to the Internet. Bradley Manning managed to get data off the classified network to Wikileaks the old fashioned way.
Cloud computing? It means nothing more than storing stuff on servers. But instead of saying "store it on the server" the companies say "store it on the cloud" because it sounds cuter. When you upload a file to dropbox, you store it on the "cloud". Hell, even uploading a photo to macrumors can be considered cloud storage, since the photo lives on the macrumors servers.