Its meteorological namesake is often an unwelcome sight, but the cloud has been a blessing for the world of digital technology, writes Ashley Sterland, Communications Director at The Change Organisation, the market-leading UK independent distributor of computer hardware and IT. Like a globe-encompassing, cyber-dwelling filing cabinet, the techno-nimbus can store a world of documents and data to help link businesses and personnel anytime, anywhere.
The cloud is leaving us free to roam whilst remaining plugged into the computer network. This invisible resource is an efficient cost-effective solution to our growing technological needs. So, why the creeping sense of unease regarding the use and capability of our shapeless flexible friend? Could it be the cloud’s biggest USP – unrestricted e-connectivity to the entire world – is also its potential Achilles heel? Think about it. Finances, medical matters, not to mention innumerable personal feelings and x-rated utterances, have been left to the care of a source whose security is still in question. Casting highly-sensitive information to the cloud is akin to handing the keys of your house to a stranger – albeit one who seems trustworthy enough, but whose reliability is to be fully-proven.
Most reputable cloud providers insist their system is safe – but there can be no such thing as a fail-safe cloud system. It stands to reason…a system’s vulnerability to breaches increases with the more information it stores. And be under no illusion, as ever-more convoluted security systems are devised to combat cyber criminals, you can bet said hackers are drawing-up even greater cunning plans to bypass defences. Proof that criminals are keeping pace, and in some cases, staying one step ahead of IT security measures, is borne out by statistics which show cyber-attacks increased by 22% in the past year, resulting in more than £1bn in losses to UK business. This kind of digital susceptibility led to UK Chancellor Philip Hammond announcing in December a £1.9bn package to boost Britain’s defences against a growing online threat, which he said invaded personal privacy and put national security at risk.
It isn’t just hack-happy opportunists we need to be wary of. Other forces, which may appear to be less nefarious, are just as liable to rummage around storage to see “what’s, what” with our data. Governments are known to pry – especially in the interests of national security – at the information floating, seemingly unguarded, about the techno-stratosphere. As defenders of our omnipresent CCTV surveillance cameras might argue: “if you’re doing nothing wrong, what have you to worry about?” But it’s a little disquieting to consider we’re powerless to prevent powers-that-be poking – for whatever or without reason – about our business.
“Is there a doctor in the house”? A panicked call associated with theatreland whenever an actor has fallen ill on stage. It’s a cry which echoes the sense of helplessness we feel when the cloud renders our digital services useless. Some providers offer excellent customer service in response to a sudden cloud burst – but others are not as accommodating. In such cases, the bereft end user is left mouthing a host of apologies to his or her colleagues before the start of a monthly finance meeting, whilst desperately scanning their mobile device for a non-existent cloud surgeon. It’s always best to ask the question: “Who watches your cloud?” before committing to any IT service provider.
Currently, there is no better way to store the ever-increasing amount of global data generated from multiplying digital devices, but the cloud is not the dream solution…yet.