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Data security the central concern separating private and public cloud

by Andrew Starc •
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A move to embrace cloud computing by public sector ICT will see agencies facing issues of information security, data ownership and system flexibility according to a white paper published by IT multinational NEC.    The white paper, part of an independent study conducted by NEC, weighs up the major differences posed by implementing a public or private cloud computing infrastructure, illuminating future decision points for the public sector as mainstream ICT begins to increasingly embrace the platform. Data security poses as the central concern separating private and public cloud computing.  The report explains that public platforms – such as those provided by Google and Microsoft – can leave sensitive data vulnerable to cyber attack and unauthorised access by third parties.    "Any service delivered via the internet is exposed to the inherent risks of a public connection. This includes viruses and denial of service attacks.  For many organisations, this is the sticking point that outweighs all other benefits, and why a private cloud solution often proves to be a more viable solution,” the report states. Despite NEC's recommendation that larger organisations look to the private platform to ensure security, an IDC survey cited in the report reveals that opinion on which platform is more suitable was roughly split down the middle, with 55 per cent of IT executives surveyed found to prefer the private cloud. Another downside more often associated with the public platform is the question of where data is stored and whether providers retain ownership of intellectual property.         "Always ask a vendor where information is stored, how it can be accessed, and who owns it. Some providers will retain ownership over intellectual property.  Anyone looking to implement a cloud-based email solution should consider this point carefully as some providers will mine emails for information. If having information onshore or offshore is important, then ensure the question is asked," advises the report. While the report cites the advantages of the public platform as being "cheaper" and "quicker to deploy," its reported downsides more than overshadow these redeeming factors, among them the increased security vulnerabilities, compliance issues and the question of how to manage recovery from significant IT failures. The case for the private platform within government ICT is further bolstered by the inherent benefits of economies of scale as well as access to high-powered hardware, faster processing and denser storage than what is offered by the public platform.   "Large banks, government departments, and many other large enterprises, are big enough to run their own networks and high-grade IT Infrastructure," states the report. "Simply put, medium-to-large size businesses are the ideal candidates for a private cloud, enabling them to punch well above their weight without significant investment in on-site facilities, infrastructure or personnel." Cloud flexibility poses as another key consideration that is the ability to meet changes in processing and storage requirements as well as organisational outcomes – system agility that can only be guaranteed by a private provider on call to administer changes. "If business needs change, organisations should ensure systems and services can be upgraded, downgraded or exited with minimum impact on operations, data and corporate assets," states the report. While the public platform may be cheap and more user friendly, the report reminds us that with clouds you get what you pay for. "The public market is saturated by consumer-grade applications with consumer-size price tags. At the other end of the scale, the private cloud is brimming with corporate-grade offerings at corporate prices.”

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