Georgia Tech Research Institute spacer Agricultural Technology Research Program

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Should You Move to the Cloud?

By Tushar jaiswal

which came first, the chicken or the egg

Cloud computing today has become a popular buzzword. With new cloud computing services coming into existence every day, universities and businesses alike are contemplating if they should move to the cloud. There are several benefits of using cloud computing, which is why its use is becoming increasingly common. But, cloud services have a number of associated risks, especially for research institutions and companies. The production, transmission, or storage of proprietary data by cloud services could place the organization’s data at risk. It is imperative that these risks be considered before making a decision to use any cloud service.

Before we discuss the pros and cons of using cloud services, it is important to define the term “cloud services.” In an effort to formulate a Cloud Security Policy for the Georgia Institute of Technology, I participated on a panel that defined cloud services as “Hardware, software, or storage resources used without direct ownership of the underlying architecture that provide these services. Additionally, maintenance and physical access restrictions are non-enforceable or otherwise outside the ability of the user to perform or audit.” So, web services such as email clients (Gmail, Hotmail), document repositories (Google Docs, Dropbox), remote system access (PC Anywhere, Go To My PC), chat (Skype, Google talk), cloud computing platforms (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure), etc., are all cloud services.

Cloud services offer several benefits, which make them an attractive option:

Although cloud services provide a host of benefits as discussed, their use entails several risks, too:

So, what should you do? Most importantly, you should ensure that the cloud service provider does not claim ownership of the data you create, store, and transmit with them. You should conduct regular audits of the cloud service provider to ascertain what assurance they provide, the level of support offered, and to ensure that their terms of service do not put your data at risk. The best way to approach this would be to see if your company or university maintains a cloud computing policy and to follow it. You should also contact your IT department, as this would not only help you avoid unnecessary risks, but they can help recommend the cloud service provider that best suits your needs. You should also try to use your organization’s cloud service offerings. Hopefully, you will be able to realize the benefits of cloud computing while avoiding the associated risks.

 

Sim Harbert

Tushar Jaiswal recently completed a graduate research assistantship in GTRI’s Food Processing Technology Division. He received a Master’s degree in Information Security from Georgia Tech on May 3, 2013.