Lead Image © Oksana Stepanenko, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Oksana Stepanenko, 123RF.com

Risky Business

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Article from ADMIN 71/2022
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For all the fear, uncertainty, and doubt still surrounding cloud technologies, you must take a level of acceptable risk to move forward.

I find it infinitely frustrating to hear a technology person complain about cloud computing. They usually state security as the biggest hurdle to their adoption. I agree that security is a major problem with cloud technologies, but it's no more of a problem than with any Internet-exposed service. Every service that "faces" the Internet is less secure, but you must accept certain risks to be able to function and move forward in business and your personal life. The cloud is a tool and an asset, but many of you probably disagree.

The cloud, for me, is a means of getting things done no matter where I am or which device I'm using. Cloud applications allow me to work on any device, even a borrowed one, without having to reset my entire environment or get used to someone else's configurations and settings. Before having cloud applications to manage my passwords, infrastructure, backups, contacts, mobile applications, and creative application suite, I had to carry around a fully loaded laptop computer with a local password manager or text file full of credentials rather than a small netbook or Chromebook containing little more than an operating system.

A few years ago, my wife bought me a Chromebook. Being an experimental type of person, I decided to use only that Chromebook, and nothing else, for one month to see if someone could truly be 100 percent reliant on it and the cloud for everything. I'm happy to report that it worked. I edited documents and created and edited images, podcasts, and video files on the Chromebook with web-based and cloud-based applications. I also had the peace of mind of knowing that if I lost the laptop, my information would be safe. The opposite would be true with a standard laptop. I prefer to "travel light," and web-based and cloud-based applications allow me to do so with confidence.

Sure, one of the downsides of operating purely in the cloud means you must make some sacrifices, such as having limited email-only access to support or giving up control to remote support technicians who may or may not have a native grasp of the English language. However, these limitations are something you learn to accept. A friend of mine referred to these constraints as "trade-offs." The trade-offs for convenience are lackluster support and a lack of local control. An additional potential downside, some claim, is that my data is less secure in the cloud than if it were behind a corporate firewall or saved locally on my laptop. Yes, some cloud services have been compromised. Still, if you take precautions, such as selecting providers that encrypt your data and enabling multifactor authentication, you have less to worry about. I'm not telling you that cloud-based services are fireproof because of encryption and multifactor authentication; however, they're big steps toward theft prevention that I might not enjoy otherwise. A virtual private network (VPN) is a good thing. Encryption is a good thing. Multi-factor authentication is a good thing. Firewalls are good things. Unique, complex passwords are good things. Nothing is perfect, but using multiple layers of security means you're less likely to be affected by a negative event such as a data breach.

Cloud applications aren't for everyone. I get that. Sensitive government information, trade secrets, and medical records might not be cloud-ready, but for almost everything else, it's time to migrate to the cloud. Have backups and geographically diverse disaster recovery available in the rare case that your cloud provider goes offline or experiences a breach. In theory, a failure should never happen, but, as you know, it does. Remember that you keep flashlights, candles, and spare tires to soften the blow of failures, and you should do the same whether you're a cloud convert or not. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even old Ben Franklin knew that backups were a good idea, but Ben also knew that to do anything requires accepting some risk. Think of how he proved the electrical nature of lighting – by flying his kite in the clouds.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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