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Security Training: An Introduction to Cloud Computing

March 31, 2017

While it may often seem as if the cloud is everywhere and on every technology pundit's lips, that doesn't mean that everyone understands it—not just yet. In fact, you may have customers who haven't yet grasped the concept of the cloud or what it could mean for their business. Make conversations with those customers easier by remembering these key points about the cloud.

What is cloud computing?

The term "cloud computing" refers to any data storage or computing operations that take place not on a local device, but rather on remote infrastructure. For example, if you use Gmail, you are using cloud computing, because your emails are stored on Google data centers, and the Gmail browser client is displaying results that were computed on Google servers, rather than on your computer. 

What are the differences between public, private, and hybrid cloud? 

"Public cloud" refers to any cloud-based services that are provided by a third party, such as Microsoft or Google, rather than by internal IT resources. On the other side of the spectrum, "private cloud" refers to corporate-owned private infrastructure that provides cloud functionality. "Hybrid cloud" is an organization's deployment of both public and private cloud services as part of its overall IT offering.

What are the key benefits of the cloud? 

Public, private, and hybrid clouds all offer the benefit of increased data and application accessibility for information workers. Cloud computing enables employees to work with corporate data and files from any location and often any device, significantly boosting productivity. Public cloud deployments also greatly increase the flexibility, agility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of IT infrastructure: new servers and services can be provisioned on demand, rather than requiring weeks or months of preparation and costly equipment procurement.

What are the key cloud security concerns?

Security concerns will differ based on the type of cloud deployment being considered. Private clouds can be secured in the same way as any other private infrastructure within the corporate perimeter. Public clouds, on the other hand, present a challenge due to the inherent loss of control in public cloud adoption. Businesses must trust their cloud service providers (CSPs) to provide appropriate infrastructure security, as well as to enact strong access controls in multi-tenant environments. Hybrid cloud deployments can address some of these concerns: an organization can choose to keep its most sensitive or legally protected data in the private cloud while using the public cloud for less critical data and operations. 

What are the key cloud security technologies to know?

Public cloud computing shifts the focus from infrastructure security to data security. Businesses no longer have direct control over the servers on which their data resides or the firewalls and other security appliances that protect those servers. They can, however, harden protections on the data itself so that even if data is exposed while on a third party's infrastructure, it cannot be readable by unauthorized parties. Strong, persistent encryption looks set to be a critical component of cloud computing security. Additional data protection measures, such as cloud-based Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools, can also help to mitigate the risks of inappropriate data sharing.

The cloud may be daunting at first, but once a customer gains a basic understanding of its functions, benefits, and challenges, secure cloud deployment becomes a much more attainable—and attractive—goal. And make no mistake, the benefits of the cloud are significant enough to justify the risks. Communicate those benefits to your customers and make it clear that you are qualified to minimize the risks, and you and your customers will all reap the rewards.

What points do you make sure to cover while teaching customers about the cloud? Let us know in the comments below.