GUEST COLUMN: The Achilles' heel of cloud computing

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By Rodolfo Lomascolo, VP of business development for STS Group

Only recently have we been able to log on to the internet from anywhere, from any country or any corner of the world. This situation has had a positive effect on the development of a new technological paradigm, cloud computing, which has enabled both companies and individual users to access a number of applications from anywhere, using a variety of devices such as tablets and smartphones, in addition to computers. For companies, this has meant their employees having immediate and easy access to office documents and applications.

As with any technological product or service, the cloud has advantages and disadvantages that have to be kept in mind when it comes time to choosing a solution and the level of protection that service providers offer. True, security measures have increased, but so have cyber attacks, such as when the Anonymous group attacked the websites of Chile's education ministry and police force in what they said was a response to the "repression of Chilean students." All of this is happening in an intangible environment outside our physical reach, fostering insecurity and incredulousness among many because, as St Thomas the Apostle would say, "seeing is believing."

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Cloud computing has limited users' freedom in a sense, making them dependent on internet service providers since, without a connection or when the servers crash, it's impossible to access the applications and documents.

Criticized by some and supported by others, data security has always been a topic of discussion due to the range of legal issues that could come into play for cloud computing. Clearly, it is necessary to realize that information will travel through different channels before reaching its final destination, which creates uncertainty for the company, especially if you consider the possibility that data could be mishandled or lost due to either piracy or fraudulent use of software.

These are risks that have to be taken into account if you consider that the cloud is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives and that surfing the internet is an everyday activity. Using Google, watching videos on YouTube, logging on to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, or just checking email is enough to put our data at risk.

It's worth asking: Are the documents of a company that has opted for cloud computing protected? The problem is that many companies have taken a relaxed approach in this regard and have not replicated the logical precautions and protocols that they would on paper. Do we not keep employees' confidential documents - such as medical reports, job evaluations, and others - in a locked storage facility that only one person has access to? Why don't we do the same in the digital world, since we know that it is, in fact, possible?

Today, cloud computing allows us to select different models with varying levels of security. Among these, the public cloud is available to the general public without limits, the private cloud has infrastructure designed to serve a single organization, and finally the semi-public or hybrid cloud is a union of the public and private models, which are combined through standard technology to facilitate the portability of data and applications. As a company, we can analyze the three models to choose the best option when establishing the security policy for digital documents. This analysis should consider the contract, the informational safeguards that will be available and the different levels of security required by each document, since this decision, along with good management, will be what determine whether your company has a positive experience with cloud computing, as well as if it gives you a competitive market advantage or, on the contrary, puts your company secrets out there for anyone to access.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this piece is entirely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Business News Americas. We encourage Guest Column pieces, and those interested in submitting one for possible publication should contact the editor at