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IT Security: Can You Really Rest Upon a Cloud?

20/09/2013 12:15 BST | Updated 19/11/2013 10:12 GMT

In the pre-internet era, data security was essentially endless files filled with thousands of documents. It is hard to believe that there was a pre-internet way of doing business securely at all, or that any business that operated during those times is still going today. It must have been a head spinner to adapt to new technologies.

Cloud computing has its origins as far back as the 1950's, when large main-frame computers started to come into use in schools and universities. They were used mostly for communication between a few terminals, so it certainly makes you stop and wonder just how far we've come since those early days 60 years ago.

In truth, technology has only really started making giant leaps in terms of the cloud and the storage of data since the 90's and early 2000's, when Amazon really pushed the boundaries of what had come before and started adding the features that would later become AWS (Amazon Web Services) in 2006. Add IBM into the mix and you start to see how popular and integral the cloud became around the turn of the millennium and beyond.

What the cloud offers is the ability to outsource your IT services and manage your most important resources, time and money, more efficiently. The word "outsource" makes some businesses nervous, but even the likes of Google have the majority of their IT on the cloud. It cuts time, space, power and cost. This might not be a huge deal for Google, but it's a huge advantage for a small business operating in the midst of a recession.

For all its advantages, there are still businesses that worry that the cloud is not entirely secure, and that outsourcing their IT only highlights the issue even more: our data in somebody else's hands. Some businesses need reassurances that they are not going to lose data or have it stolen, either online or physically through damage of the servers. The cloud can back-up your IT and data, but that isn't the point. If it isn't safe in the first place, why invest? It's important to look at the safety aspect of the cloud.

Don't Give Hackers an Easy Days Work

Hackers are damn smart. Once something new comes into place to better secure your data, it's like a red rag to a bull for hackers. They relish in these kind of challenges: to be the one that manages to break the code. It's the kind of thing you'd read in a spy novel, but it isn't far from the truth. Ignore the scaremongering; it is important for businesses to get with the times and get on the cloud. It's pretty safe up there compared to the old school approach to storage, which is easier for hackers to crack.

That said, you can make catastrophic mistakes that can make your cloud as useful for safe storage as a real one up in the sky. Passwords, for example, should be difficult and not welcome mats for hackers. You won't get very far with Password1 or Hello1 as your password these days, and your cats name probably isn't a good bet either. Choose a password that nobody will guess or discover but you. That's the point.

The next step is to keep your cards close to your chest. Don't let just anybody have access to your information. Have people who you trust in charge of the data and nobody else. If this means outsourcing to an established company like Qubole, then so be it. Just always look at the credentials first. Qubole was founded by former managers of Facebook's Big Data team. They're a managed big data service to help companies prepare, integrate and explore their data.

Overall, you need to be sure that the cloud is the right choice for you, both financially and for the IT needs of your business. But as technology advances and more businesses head online to operate, the cloud becomes more attractive and beneficial, and it's only going to get bigger. With bigger, there's a good chance that there will be safeguards in place to ensure that it's safer too.