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February 6, 2014 | Industry | Posted by Craig Baldwin Craig Baldwin

7 Things About the Cloud Your Boss Wants to Know

1) Where are the files going?


Simple answer, a web server that is probably nowhere near your office. Companies like Microsoft have over 1 million servers of their own. Google is estimated to have 900,000 servers, and hosting companies like Amazon (approximately 450,000) and RackSpace (just over 94,000) have quite a few themselves. Odds are, if you’re using a web application from a company other than Google or Microsoft, it’s probably hosted with Amazon.

2) Is it secure?


Let’s take Amazon, who owns about 35% of the IaaS industry and 17% of the PaaS industry (just 1% behind Heroku). Amazon holds servers in Northern Virginia, Oregon, Northern California, and various global locations. Servers are protected on site with 24/7 surveillance and security guards. The servers undergo routine SOC 1, SOC 2, & SOC 3 audits, as well as a litany of other tests.

Amazon has been engaged in contracts with Netflix, to the CIA, to Nasdaq. The important thing to remember is that while companies like Amazon protect the underlying infrastructure, it doesn’t mean applications built upon those servers are secure. Make sure any application you or your firm  uses has thorough reporting on security and encryption standards. For example, do they use an SSL to protect the data they collect from you? Make sure the company who built the application you are using can produce security standards on the servers they utilize, internal or external.

[blockquote source=”Jim Reavis, Director of the Cloud Security Alliance“]From everything I’ve seen, cloud tends to be a security upgrade for small and medium enterprise because the providers are able to actually invest in security practices. And small businesses are often doing very minimal, outdated, inappropriate actions. That’s why small businesses are flocking to the cloud. They realize it’s actually an upgrade to their general IT.[/blockquote]

Jim Reavis, Director of the Cloud Security Alliance.

While “hacker networks” exist, so do things like “terror networks” “gangsters” and “cavities.” No piece of information your company holds will ever be 100% secure, be it in the cloud or in a file cabinet. The real question is “What does it take for your company to feel comfortable with the amount of security taking place?”

3) How much will it cost?


Typically the answer is “less” and sometimes “a lot less” than handling your own IT infrastructure. Outsourcing responsibilities for onsite security, data encryption, and application development means that you’ve handed the financial burden over to one or many groups of companies that focus on those specific areas of expertise. That’s the beauty of the SaaS world, bringing disparate parts together to form one cohesive solution.

Not only do the diminishing costs of cloud storage mean that applications become cheaper to run, but in many cases the value propositions of cloud applications lead to increased revenue at a reduced cost. This MYOB survey reported that businesses which adopted the cloud saw a revenue increase of 33% compared to only 16% of those who didn’t.

The answer to “How much will it cost?” is a simple cost benefit calculation for most firms. How much are you currently spending on apps, server costs, and IT staff and maintenance in comparison to the suite of cloud-based apps you’re looking to purchase?

4) Will we ever lose the data?


This is always a possibility in the cloud. The largest outsourced server providers in the world have detailed protocols for handling your data in case of natural disaster, threats, or outages at the server locations. How often did you lose data from your computer after it abruptly shut off while typing that important memo? Or how often did you lose that small thumb drive with your thesis paper on it? The reality is data loss is an issue inside and outside of the cloud, which is why proper data back-up protocols are a must for all firms.

5) What’s the difference between SaaS, PaaS, IaaS?


SaaS – Software as a Service. In simpler terms this translates to most applications you buy and use over the internet. SaaS is the opposite of the old model where you purchased a CD at the store and installed it on your desktop (referred to as software as a product.) With SaaS users only “rent” or “borrow” products for as long as they choose to pay or use it. Examples include Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365.

PaaS – Platform as a Service. PaaS allows application builders and developers with the tools to get up and running and manage their application. It’s probably the system your favorite app is utilizing in order to deliver the application to you and thousands of others. Examples include Heroku and Google App Engine.

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service. These are typically the literal hardware infrastructures or virtual machines utilized to house data and put it to work. Continuing on the server discussion, examples include RackSpace, Amazon EC2, and Windows Azure.

Put these all together and you get cloud computing stack, ta-dah!

6) What’s our flexibility?


Flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of cloud computing. With the SaaS model, you can pay for what you need, be it users, storage, or features. Cloud computing has changed the world of large, long-term contracts, hours of training and maintenance, and limited accessibility. Have an electronic device that can access the internet? Then you can access your cloud based app. This same flexibility is why people like Drew Houston started companies like Dropbox almost 10 years ago. If your computer dies and you can’t access a file, just find another device that’s connected to the internet.

7) What does “bring your own device” (BYOD) mean in today’s world?


Perhaps the largest headache for the IT departments and administrators. The revolution of BYOD means a need to make sure these devices are being provisioned properly and used securely. This a varied and complex issue that most businesses have to correctly answer on their own. Like the expansion of personal computers in the late 80’s and early 90’s, IT managers will have to get used to employees working outside the office. The difference is this time it’s on any number of devices or even consumer apps with their own security standards.

While many corporations have blacklisted apps and devices, there’s no doubt it’s a trend that will eventually take over the enterprise world. A 2012 survey from Good Technology customers showed that 72% of their enterprise clients supported BYOD in 2011 and rose to 76% in 2012. It’s a fact that each company will have to deal with on their own terms as it becomes more prevalent in the working world.

There you have it, 7 things your boss is going to ask about the cloud. Have experience with cloud-based questions from your boss? Comment below, we’d love to hear what they are and how you answered them!

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