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Dealing with the Emerging Threats in the Cloud Computing Universe

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Those who move their ecommerce systems to cloud computing typically take that path for the cost efficiencies and the on-demand scalability. Moreover, the hype is deafening. It almost feels like there’s a party going on and you weren’t invited.

While there are certainly benefits to move to the “Cloud,” there are also threats to your cloud computing implementation. It’s helpful to consider those threats before you journey into the cloud.

Threat 1: You’re way over budget.

Recent analysts’ reports have pointed out that cloud computing can provide significant cost savings to some organizations, but can actually cost many organizations more than their traditional on-premise or third party-hosted systems. The reasons for this will vary, but in most instances the cost of migration to the cloud and the ongoing operational costs were much higher than expected.

Threat 2: You get arrested.

One would think that moving to cloud computing is a technical challenge versus a legal challenge, but in many instances there are very strict laws as to where the data can reside and how it’s secured. In the world of ecommerce, you need to consider the laws around customer data and financial data, which cannot reside outside of the country in some cases, and has to live up to a certain security standard. Same goes with systems that interact with government systems, health care systems, and many banking systems.

Threat 3: You are hacked.

Cloud computing often gets a bad rap when it comes to security. However, there are many more security threats that must be considered when moving to the cloud since cloud computing systems are going to be easy targets for hackers. This was best demonstrated with the recent Gmail attacks that came out of China, where some mailboxes where compromised. The reality of cloud computing is that many cloud providers don’t have the degree of security required to protect your data for the existing, and more importantly, emerging threats.

Threat 4: You are locked out.

In most cases, companies will not find that they are harmed by hackers, but harmed by the cloud computing providers themselves. Just as you’re at the mercy of your cell phone provider around service cancellation policies, your cloud computing provider could consider a missed payment, or a spike in processing load, as an excuse to cancel your service. You need to consider all policies going into a relationship with a cloud computing provider, including what can cause you to be locked out. Moreover, many cloud providers will have new owners in 2010. In many instances you could find your new cloud landlord has new rules and policies, and lockouts could be more commonplace.

While it’s not a good idea to become paranoid around the use of cloud computing for your ecommerce systems, it’s definitely a good idea to have a healthy understanding of the existing threats and how to circumnavigate them.

This post was contributed by guest columnist David Linthicum. David is a cloud computing and SOA expert and author of several books on Information Technology.

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David Linthicum
David S. Linthicum (Dave) knows cloud computing and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). He is an internationally recognized industry expert and thought leader, and the author and coauthor of 13 books on computing, including the best selling Enterprise Application Integration (Addison Wesley). Dave keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, Web 2.0, and enterprise architecture, and has appeared on a number of TV and radio shows as a computing expert. He is a blogger for InfoWorld, Intelligent Enterprise, and eBizq.net, covering SOA and enterprise computing topics. Dave also has columns in Government Computer News, Cloud Computing Journal, SOA Journal, Align Journal, and is the editor of Virtualization Journal. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including Enterprise Application Integration, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. For the last 10 years, Dave has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, and how to make cloud computing work for the modern enterprise. This includes work with several cloud computing startups. Dave’s industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University, and the University of Wisconsin.
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