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Cloud Concerns: Security and Reliability

Despite all the apparent advantages of adopting the cloud computing model, some significant concerns could prevent an enterprise from moving into the cloud. Perhaps the biggest perceived disadvantage of cloud computing is the same one that plagues all web-based applications: Is it secure?

With cloud computing, all your data is stored on the cloud. How secure is the cloud? How easy is it for unauthorized sources to gain access to your company's confidential data?

Web-based applications have long been considered potential security risks. For this reason, many businesses prefer to keep their applications, data, and IT operations under their own control. Fewer entry points mean increased security.

That said, there have been few instances to date of data loss with cloud-hosted applications and storage. It could even be argued that a large cloud hosting operation is likely to have better data security and redundancy tools than in the average enterprise. However, the perceived security danger from hosting critical data and services offsite still might discourage some companies from going this route.

Another potential disadvantage is what happens if the cloud computing host goes offline. Although most companies say that this isn't possible, it has happened. In the most publicized example, Amazon's EC2 service suffered a massive outage on February 15, 2008, wiping out some customer application data. (The outage was caused by a software deployment that erroneously terminated an unknown number of user instances.) For clients expecting a safe and secure platform, having that platform go down and data disappear is a somewhat rude awakening. If a company relies on a third-party cloud platform to host all of its data with no other physical backup, that data can be at risk.

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