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Cloud Computing

Metaphors of the Graphically Challenged

If you’ve ever seen a network diagram then you’ve probably noticed that somewhere in the picture is a little storm cloud labeled “Internet.”  Typically, IT guys are not very artistic so drawing a cloud to represent the Internet is something that even the most graphically challenged geek can accomplish.  Truth is, the Internet is a very big place that exists as an intellectual abstract of an otherwise boring ether of electronic signals.  So depicting it as a cloud is just as effective as say, a muffin or a bowl of noodles.  So when application developers introduced a new way of using the Internet to process our data they decided to call it “Cloud Computing.”  Catchy, huh?

Internet, yes.  Computer, no.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is the term used for the aspect of using the Internet browser (whether on a computer or a phone) to do the work of an application (such as MS Word).  So now, you don’t need to worry about “having the software.” Instead, the only real requirement (other than a device) is a connection to the Internet.  How convenient!

Convenience vs. Trust

Just so you know, security guys are almost never impressed with things that are convenient (e.g. unlocked doors, ATMs, online banking, leaving your keys in the ignition, etc.).  Convenience is usually the enemy of security.  And there’s the rub: the convenience of Cloud Computing requires trusting what is fundamentally referred to as an “untrusted network.”

In the past, we’ve stored the software and the data on the computer right in front of us and it’s hard enough to secure even that situation.  What ability do we have to safeguard the information being stored and processed on an anonymous and unseen Internet server?

Opaque solutions for clear problems.

Certainly Cloud Computing offers some seductive benefits.  For example, we could avoid the high cost of storage arrays by simply dumping all of our corporate data into the cloud.  Not only would it be there forever, but it would solve our document retention problems overnight. Unfortunately, we might be out of business when we woke up the next day to read how that cloud provider has been hacked or unexpectedly gone out of business.