Cloud computing represents a significant shift in how we use information technology. Storage space for digital files, processing power and services and software are abstracted away from the user's own computing device to servers accessed through the Internet. Google's online office software, the new Amazon cloud player, and photo gallery tools such as Flickr are examples of cloud services. Users can work with and use their data on multiple devices and networks from almost any location either for free or by paying a service provider for access.
Researchers Kashif Kifayat, Madjid Merabti and Qi Shi of the Liverpool John Moores University, UK, point out that cloud computing has many advantages, including a high degree of redundancy at both the hardware and software levels and also geographic independence. Cloud services can also cope with user individual increases in user demand without the user having to upgrade their system. However, there are concerns regarding security and other risks. After all, users must trust the service provider with potentially sensitive data as well as having to cope with the possibility of system outages that might disrupt their workflow significantly.
The team cites International Data Corporation who analysed the worldwide forecast for cloud service in 2009 as being of the order of $17.4bn and estimating revenues for 2013 as potentially amounting to $44.2bn; the European market range from $971m in 2008 to $6,005m in 2013. In terms of blue skies thinking, the future is almost certainly cloudy. With this in mind, availability, manageability and monitoring, data protection, scalability and adaptability, privacy and security are all issues that must be addressed urgently. The current security and privacy models based on the networked desktop paradigm as opposed to cloud-connected "dumb" computers
"As sensitive and regulated data move into the cloud, the specific security issues that follow include authentication, access controls, encryption, data leakage protections, virtualisation technologies and regulatory reporting across multiple geographic boundaries," the team explains. "It is understandable that the future of cloud computing will raise the complexity and scalability level which will trigger the increase in security issues."
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