Risks of Cloud Computing
Most companies have pondered making a transition (partially or fully) toward cloud-based computing for their data storage and computing needs. The benefits of cloud-based computing are attractive, ranging from cost savings and lower capital investment, to faster and more efficient data sharing. However, there are also perils that arise when making the move to the cloud. This article outlines the risks of cloud computing.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is an on-demand service that offers data storage and operations processes on a third-party platform online. Shifting your operations and information onto the cloud allows quick and easy access to the data by all persons given authorization, no matter where their physical location. The cloud removes the burden of overloading internal networks, which can slow operations and cause delays. It also outsources the responsibility of security onto cloud services providers.
Risks of Cloud Computing
- Overloaded Resources
- Performance of Service Providers
- Insider Threats
- Availability Risks
- Staff Inexperience
- Non-Compliance with Industry Regulations
Despite all the efficiencies that cloud computing affords businesses, there are some disadvantages that should be considered.
Security is the number one issue that companies face when it comes to IT and the security risks of cloud computing should be examined. Cloud servers provide an attractive target for hackers. A successful hack could give them access to hundreds of different companies.
With cloud computing, the risk of security breaches is highest during implementation and initial management. Once you have transitioned your operations to a secure, well-respected cloud services provider like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or Amazon Web Services, the dangers of security breaches greatly diminish. However, during the transition, your network may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. It is important to work with an IT professional or IT services firm during this process to make the transition as speedy, seamless and secure as possible.
2. Overloaded Resources
As more companies and people are moving towards the cloud to meet their storage needs, cloud resources are getting squeezed. This is a problem that differs from provider to provider. It is up to the customer to find the right cloud services provider and to ensure that they have the resources available to meet all their customers' demands.
3. Performance of Service Providers
Putting your company's data in the hands of a third-party services company is a risky proposition. It requires a lot of trust in the level of professionalism and efficiency of the provider. Putting that amount of trust into a third party is not everyone's cup of tea. If the provider's cloud is overloaded or goes down, so does your company. There are other risks related to relinquishing control of your data:
- What happens if features change?
- Who actually owns the data?
- What happens if the cloud services vendor goes bankrupt?
- What happens if you miss a monthly payment?
All of these are reasonable questions. Being dependent on a third-party source can be stressful, so once again, make sure that you entrust your services to a reputable cloud services provider and make sure that you are comfortable in relinquishing complete control of your data.
4. Insider Threats
There are other security risks to cloud computing. One major risk can arise from the environment within the cloud services team. Your reputation no longer depends upon your own integrity but now also upon the integrity of the cloud services provider. Once a person has access to the cloud platform, they also have access to much of the company's operations. This can increase the risk of insider threats. Prior to moving your data to the cloud, be sure to ask the following questions:
- How does the cloud vendor vet their own team?
- What kind of access will cloud vendor's team have to your data?
This risk can be mitigated by segmenting levels of access to data but the risk can never be completely eliminated.
When you rely on a cloud service for a business-critical tasks, you are putting your business in the hands of two services: the cloud vendor and your Internet service provider.
5. Availability Risks
No service can or will guarantee 100% uptime. When you rely on a cloud service for business-critical tasks, you are making your business dependant upon two separate external services: the cloud vendor and your Internet service provider. If your Internet access goes down, then it will take your vendor's cloud service with it. What happens if the cloud vendor goes down? Anything from bad weather, system failure, or DDoS attacks (distributed denial-of-service attacks, which are are malicious attempts to disrupt normal traffic to a website) can render a service unresponsive. Even a 99% guarantee means that there is a 1% risk, which could amount to a few days.
6. Staff Inexperience
According to a recent report, the top barrier to stopping data loss in the cloud is a lack of skilled security professionals. It is easy for untrained users to expose their organizations to significant direct risks. As with any new technology or software, it takes time to get staff on board with the changes in operations. This requires time and patience because the transition to the cloud requires a new set of skills. It is important to have all staff well-equipped and ready to make the change. This should entail educating and training them on the basics of cloud computing and ensuring that all employees are comfortable with new processes.
7. Non-Compliance with Industry Regulations
Many industries are legally bound to meet certain industry regulations and standards. Therefore, your cloud services provider must be in compliance with any industry standards that may exist. Standards apply to such industries as healthcare, banking, or anyone who accepts a credit card. Will your patients' information be protected? Will your customers' credit card information remain secure? There will also be privacy standards to consider now that your data is accessible to your team and also the cloud services team.
A full 61.2% of companies see data regulation compliance as a major barrier to cloud adoption. Make sure that your cloud services vendor complies with any mandatory data security regulations. Any failure to comply might expose you to liability in the event of a breach.
Cloud computing certainly has benefits but there are serious risks inherent in surrendering control of your data. Make sure you ask "what are the security risks of cloud computing" and get answers you are comfortable with before making a decision to move to the cloud.
If you are debating whether your organization should use cloud computing, get in touch with CITI. We can put together a cloud migration strategy and options, including Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services.