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Are you cloud savvy?


The ‘Cloud’ is the most popular, least understood technology trend. If promises are to be believed, it will save your business millions, make your life infinitely more convenient, and make you look like a star. But what do you know about it? Take the quiz below and see.

1. The ‘Cloud’ is:
a. A mystical place in the sky where data can live forever.
b. A cheap place to store data.
c. Any IT solution that involves storing electronic data off-site so that it can only be accessed through an Internet connection.
d. I have no idea.

2. I put business data in the ‘Cloud’:
a. Never.
b. Only for my gmail, yahoo, hotmail, Flickr, Snapfish, Google Docs, DropBox, Picasa, Facebook, Mozy, iCloud or iDrive accounts.
c. For regular data backup.
d. For some or all of my daily business services, such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite and OfficeBooks.

3. I trust my cloud provider is secure because:
a. My IT security expert reviewed their security policies and protocols, security audit results and data breach history and procedures.
b. It’s Google (or Amazon or Microsoft), come on!
c. Their website says so.
d. I have no idea.

4. The most common cause of data breaches is:
a. Failure to use end-to-end encryption.
b. Employee error or theft.
c. Hacking.
d. Bad passwords.

5. The best reason to use the ‘Cloud’ in my business is because:
a. It’s cheap.
b. It’s more secure than my old system.
c. It helps me meet customer, legal, financial or other business requirements.
d. It’s convenient and allows me to better do my job.

OK, this is not one of those quizzes where you always want to answer a. The correct answer to question #1 is c, but b or d may be true. The Cloud should be a cheap place to store data, but it depends upon what data you are putting there and what else the cloud provider is doing with it. And cheap is a relative term. Is it cheaper than your current solution? Is it cheap (or free) because it has limited security and reliability?

If your first instinct on question #2 was to answer ‘Never’ but then you changed your mind, you’re not alone. Online email and data storage is so common that many users don’t realize that they are using the Cloud. Whether that’s important depends upon the type of data being stored there, its mission criticality or other sensitivity and then the cloud vendor itself. Most users never read the terms and conditions regarding their use of the types of services listed in b. If you depend upon these services for regular business needs, it’s important to know whether the vendor can shut you down or disclose your data at any time. The reason many of these services are free is because they don’t promise much.

Cloud security. The web is full of information on this, most of it marketing. The truth is that you don’t know how secure your vendor’s systems are without doing your own in depth investigation. Data security breaches have become so common that we don’t even react much to them anymore. But a data security breach can cost your business real cash unless you’ve transferred the risk of the breach to the vendor. What were those terms and conditions again?

The most common cause of data breaches is employee error or theft. All the great policies in the world cannot keep employees from losing or sharing their passwords, laptops and other mobile devices. A recent survey of hospitals (2012 HIMSS Analytics Report: Security of Patient Data) reported that 27 percent had experienced a data breach in 2011, up from 19 percent in 2010. Fifty-six percent reported that the breach was the result of unauthorized access to information by employees. Can the cloud help to eliminate this problem? Possibly, but remember that the cloud is just a business, run by employees and contractors, that runs servers and applications outside of your control. Do you trust your cloud vendor’s employees more than your own?

The answer to question #5 is any of them but a. Saving money is one thing, but you should have a better business reason to move to the Cloud. There can be significant business disruptions when changing IT solutions. The Cloud may expose your business’ sensitive information to unprecedented risk of disclosure. Make sure that your move to the Cloud adds value your business, not just your bottom line.

The Cloud is a maturing industry, not a mature one. Cloud providers come in many stages of maturity and can be used for many levels of data. Go there for the right reasons and with the right level of trust.

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Cindy Wolf

 Cindy Wolf is a Colorado lawyer with more than 25 years experience representing large and small domestic and multinational companies. Her expertise is in corporate law and commercial contracting, with an emphasis on international issues, technology licensing and the Internet. She can be reached at cindy@cindywolf.com  or visit her blog at www.cindywolf.com

This publication is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. There is no implicit guarantee that this information is correct, complete, or up to date. This publication is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the author.

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