Data storage in the cloud – is South African business ready?

February 3rd, 2015, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT

 

Are businesses in South Africa ready for storing their data in the cloud?   It is actually a redundant question, as in several recent security surveys respondents were asked if they would share sensitive company information in dropbox. The overwhelming response was yes!   While that indicates that the use of storage in the cloud is more pervasive than what is generally thought, it raises a number of other questions.

Warren Olivier, regional manager Africa South, VVeeam

Warren Olivier, regional manager Africa South, Veeam.

One gets the idea that people do not perceive that using dropbox or  other similar services is  not storing data in the cloud, which in fact it actually is. The second question it raises is security. Do companies believe that using dropbox is suitable for secure storage? Ok, dropbox is just used to share large files that cannot be sent via email with another person, perhaps a colleague working from home, so the storage is for just may be a day or two. But a lot can happen in two days.

South Africa has taken to the cloud. The hype is over and companies are taking cloud on board. According to IDC South Africa’s cloud-ased and hosted services are showing excellent growth. It was valued by the end of 2014 at $230-million.

In some instance companies are still playing it safe and adopt the hybrid cloud format. Keeping financial and business data in a private cloud and for internet and less sensitive information opt for the public cloud. Storing data may follow a similar pattern although with the secure and vendor neutral data centres many private clouds are outsourced.

According to Warren Olivier of Veeam, it is no surprise, storage in the cloud is a low cost solution that does not require high capital outlay and is low in operational cost. It is however important before signing a contract to buy storage in the cloud to discuss what your company requires from the cloud provider and how the provider will deliver on the requirements.  For example the method of encryption is important.  There are basically three conditions that should be looked at, encryption at source, during transport and at the storage point, according to Olivier.

Willem Conradie,  Principal BI Consultant PBT Group

Willem Conradie, principal BI consultant PBT Group.

Willem Conradie of PBT agrees. He says that the method of billing should be agreed and the method of access.  “Is the excess to the cloud provider secure? What authentication is in place to ensure that only authorised persons can excess and work with the stored data?”

Another question, says Conradie, is how often will data be backed up and how easy will it be to retrieve the back-up files should the main server fail or fall over?  Is the data stored locally in case the to-be-published regulations of the POPI Act require that personal data is only stored locally? It is important to get these issues agreed before signing a contract, according to Conradie. “You also want to make sure that the data remains your property and is not deleted after the contact period.”

Both Conradie and Olivier agree that security always remains a concern. It is generally agreed that established cloud providers are able to invest more into security that the average enterprise. They can have dedicated staff and keep ahead of the hacklers and other “organised outfits” that specialise in stealing data or hacking systems.  But this does not relieve the cloud providers’ clients of their responsibility. They need to make sure that encryption is carried out at source, something that is often neglected.

Many cloud providers will assist their customers to get everything a place to make sure the BYOD and other devices connected to a network have the required protection and encryption  facilities..

There is no doubt, and both Conradie and Olivier agree, that working in the cloud reduces cost, increases productivity and reduces the time to market for new products and services. Storage can be scaled as required without increasing capex while opex in cloud services is considerably lower than for in house systems. When it comes to services like dropbox make sure you encrypt your files.  The providers do their upmost to keep your files safe, but the ultimate responsibility remains yours.

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