Cloud servers are the newest hype, but debate rages over their security.

Since 2009, cloud computing has become the major trend in data management with good reason, and who doesn't want to be trendy?  However, it isn't the right fit for everyone.  The most common concern is security.  Can data be hacked?  What if the cloud server crashes?  Understanding the security differences between cloud computing and operating a local server is important when conducting a cost-benefit analysis.  The best place to start is by understanding how each protects your data.

Near or Far

Applications that do everything from facilitate collaboration, data-sharing, analysis, structure interfaces are just as important as the security system that protects them.  When considering the risks of a cloud server, we need to consider the risk of staying with a physical server.  Think of your data and network framework as money.  That would make your server the location in which you store and manage your money.  A physical local server is like a safe in your own home.  The end user purchases it for a one-time price and is then responsible for the use and maintenance of it.  You have full access to your data regardless of the status of external networks (or bankers hours).  Any updates in security or maintenance would require you to hire someone full time to work on it, or (more likely) you hire a contractor on a very limited basis to fix problems as they arise.  The up-front costs are relatively high, but the long-term upkeep is minimal and you don't have to worry about replacing it unless your storage requirements change.  This is generally a great way for smaller businesses to build their initial IT framework.

Along came the cloud server.  If a physical server is like a safe, then a cloud server is like a vault in a bank.  You don't have to buy the server to use it.  The IT company (bank) owns the server (vault) and employs a full-time professional staff to operate it and safeguard it.  The actual hardware for the cloud server is top of the line, but it is also shared with everyone else using it.  The rate at which you can send or receive your data (money deposits or withdrawals) can be restricted by the number of clients (customers) conducting business at a given moment.  The staff is also available for you to contact with general or technical questions, often on a 24/7 basis.  They develop unique features that allow remote access, advanced applications, and generally take all responsibility for maintenance and operation.  Additionally, the cloud server has the ability to scale its services to meet your requirements.  However, this convenience and expertise comes with a cost.  This cost is typically associated with the number of accounts or users and can add up very quickly.

A typical data server rack setup.

If a physical server (vault) or cloud server (bank) is not sufficient for the high volume or high value of your data, you can build your own cutting-edge, dedicated server with a full staff. However, unless your business is on the Forbes 500 list, you likely cannot afford this option.  Similarly, IT companies have a higher end option for businesses to rent a dedicated cloud server, where the client pays for the exclusive use of one of these top-of-the-line servers and is generally neither financially feasible nor necessary for a small business.  

In the next article, we'll be diving into the security risks faced by cloud computing and what they mean for the future of businesses and individuals alike.

Next Article in Series: The New Data Management Risks (Part 2)

 

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