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10 Security Concerns for Cloud Computing

March 11, 2010
Michael Gregg


The flexibility, reduced cost, and mobility of cloud computing have made the concept a hot topic. Before implementing this method of computing, however, it is important to consider the security of the "cloud." In this white paper, you will learn some of the risks and benefits of cloud computing to be sure it is the right solution for you.



Cloud computing gets its name from the drawings typically used to describe the Internet. Cloud computing is a new consumption and delivery model for IT services. The concept of cloud computing represents a shift in thought, in that end users need not know the details of a specific technology. The service is fully managed by the provider. Users can consume services at a rate that is set by their particular needs. This ondemand service can be provided at any time.

Cloud Computing Models

Cloud computing models can be broken into three basic designs, which are shown here and described below.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) - As the name implies, you are buying infrastructure. You own the software and are purchasing virtual power to execute as needed. This is much like running a virtual server on your own equipment, except you are now running a virtual server on a virtual disk. This model is similar to a utility company model, as you pay for what you use. An example is Amazon Web Services at http://aws.
 Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) - In this model of cloud computing, the provider provides a platform for your use. Services provided by this model include all phases of the system development life cycle (SDLC) and can use application program interfaces (APIs), website portals, or gateway software. Buyers do need to look closely at specific solutions, because some providers do not allow software created by their customers to be moved off the provider's platform. An example of PaaS is GoogleApps.
 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) - This model is designed to provide everything and simply rent out the software to the user. The service is usually provided through some type of front end or web portal. While the end user is free to use the service from anywhere, the company pays a per use fee. offers this type of service.

Cloud Computing Providers

Gartner predicts that cloud computing will surge to 150 billion dollars by 2013. Below is a partial list of companies that provide cloud computing services:

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Citrix
  • IBM
  • Mozyhome
  • Sun
  • cohensiveFT
  • Icloud
  • Nivanix
  • VMware
  • Flexscale
  • Joyent
  • Rackspace
  • 3tera

Benefits of Cloud Computing

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), "The proliferation of devices, compliance, improved systems performance, online commerce and increased replication to secondary or backup sites is contributing to an annual doubling of the amount of information transmitted over the Internet." The cost of dealing with this amount of data is something that companies must address. In today's economy, companies are looking at any costsaving measures, and the bottom line is that cloud computing provides much greater flexibility than previous computing models.

The benefits of cloud computing are many. One is reduced cost, since you pay as you go. Other benefits are the portability of the application is that users can work from home, work, or at client locations. This increased mobility means employees can access information anywhere they are. There is also the ability of cloud computing to free-up IT workers who may have been occupied performing updates, installing patches, or providing application support.

Security Concerns of Cloud Computing

While cost and ease of use are two great benefits of cloud computing, there are significant security concerns that need to be addressed when considering moving critical applications and sensitive data to public and shared cloud environments. To address these concerns, the cloud provider must develop sufficient controls to provide the same or a greater level of security than the organization would have if the cloud were not used. Listed here are ten items to review when considering cloud computing.

1. Where's the data? Different countries have different requirements and controls placed on access. Because your data is in the cloud, you may not realize that the data must reside in a physical location. Your cloud provider should agree in writing to provide the level of security required for your customers.

2. Who has access? Access control is a key concern, because insider attacks are a huge risk. A potential hacker is someone who has been entrusted with approved access to the cloud. If anyone doubts this, consider that in early 2009 an insider was accused of planting a logic bomb on Fanny Mae servers that, if launched, would have caused massive damage. Anyone considering using the cloud needs to look at who is managing their data and what types of controls are applied to these individuals.

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