Storing data in the cloud

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Could computing is the latest stage in the development of computing technology which is some ways can be visualised as a reiteration of the early computing models of the 1960s and 1970s when at the heart of a computing system was a mainframe computer that was accessed via dumb servers. While some organisations, particularly academic ones, maintained their own mainframe computers, many others accessed mainframe computers that were owned and maintained by third party providers. Essentially clients rented access to the mainframe and were charged either for the number of users and the access or CPU time.

The main application of cloud computing today is email and online data storage and management. Generally this is termed as cloud storage and refers to the situation where business data is stored in the users’ computers and also in virtualised data repositories owned by third party suppliers. Such repositories may be distributed amongst many servers and are accessed via web browser applications, cloud storage gateways, or web based APIs.

Being highly virtualised, cloud storage consists of many resources which are widely distributed but from the point of view of the user act as a single resource. They use a large amount of redundancy and this, combined with the way in which they are distributed, means that they are highly fault tolerant

The cost model is particularly attractive for enterprises. Rather than having to invest in expensive servers and the like enterprises pay only for the amount of cloud storage they use. Some enterprises prefer a hybrid model in which they employ both on-premises storage and cloud storage. For instance they might use the cloud for email storage while internally managing online file storage.

As all of the storage functions such as data replication and backup are handled by the provider there is a considerable overhead costs reduction for the user. Cloud service providers are continually upgrading their hardware, to the client benefits from access to the latest technologies without having to upgrade their own assets.

Cloud vendors would not be in business if they were unable to provide essentially perfect data security to their clients. Certainly there are potential vulnerabilities, but these have been and are continually being addressed.

Such vulnerabilities include the risk of unauthorised data access by vendor personnel and eavesdropping while the data is in transit. Encryption is the first stage solution, but even the latest quantum encryption techniques have potential vulnerabilities. There are also concerns that relate to uncertainties in the physical location of the data and potential changes to the local jurisdictions which could compromise the laws on data ownership.

Many of these concerns can be laid to rest by due diligence, and today over half of the medium to large enterprises use some form of cloud storage. To read about a cloud storage model that has been demonstrated to be 100 percent secure please visit the Mimecast website.

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