Cloud computing -- is it safe?
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Cloud computing -- is it safe?

There are reports ( that Apple wants to get into "cloud computing" and eliminate the hard drive when it comes to storing music and movies. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but I'm not totally convinced that I want most of my data in the clouds.

There are those who say it's perfectly safe. Cloud Computing can save companies money without putting business information at risk, according to "Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing, a new book by cybersecurity expert Kevin T. McDonald, senior critical infrastructure protection (CIP) and cybersecurity analyst for ICF International (, a provider of consulting services and technology solutions to government and commercial clients.

Through cloud computing, a company’s information technology (IT) functions are moved to an external, shared service provider and accessed over the Internet. Data is no longer stored in-house and the company no longer owns software applications. McDonald challenges the misconception that cloud computing must necessarily offer weaker data protection than an in-house server. In fact, he argues that cloud computing can help to defend an organization from IT security threats such as denial-of-service attacks, viruses, and worms.

McDonald says the concept of "outsourcing to the cloud" is proving increasingly attractive to companies seeking to save money. “The cost is falling dramatically, which means it is no longer rare for a company to consider cloud computing," he says.

A company is charged for the use of software applications and for data storage just like being charged for electricity. By only paying for the resources used, operating costs can be reduced. McDonald says in-house data centers typically leave up to 90% of available capacity idle.

Cloud computing can lead to energy savings, too, he says. Running a data center normally requires heavy investment in generators and uninterruptable power supplies. Cloud computing removes that burden from individual companies and consolidates workloads on high-performance processors.

What's more, outsourcing rarely needed IT tasks and functions allows IT staff to focus on core work, according to McDonald. Equally, rather than having an IT team spend valuable time monitoring the market for new products, and then facing the challenges of integrating those products into an organization, cloud computing means that up-to-date software suites are painlessly introduced across a company "from above’" by the service provider, he adds.

All good points, but I, for one, will never want to depend entirely on having my data "in the cloud," whether it's my songs or documents for my work. I want physical copies -- or at least digital copies on a hard drive (or, preferably two, in different locations).

After all, security expert Bruce Schneier said this to say to "The Guardian" ( "You don't want your critical data to be on some cloud computer that abruptly disappears because its owner goes bankrupt. You don't want the company you're using to be sold to your direct competitor. You don't want the company to cut corners, without warning, because times are tight. Or raise its prices and then refuse to let you have your data back. These things can happen with software vendors, but the results aren't as drastic."

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