Cloud computing is one of the biggest trends in IT right now because it has proven potential for reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Although businesses both large and small are using the cloud for their software and infrastructure, every experience is not perfect.

The cloud faces serious threats which must be acknowledged and planned for if the cloud experience is to be one that can be counted on.

  1.  Service Disruptions

Even when a service level agreement is in place, some cloud hosting services will fail. Just ask Amazon, the provider whose April 2011 outage downed hundreds of websites, some of them well known.

Even if a service provider compensates customers for outages, most customers would prefer to have their servers and services up and running all the time. Also, as was the case of the Amazon outage, existing data can be lost if redundant storage systems fail.

Service outages can cost incalculable harm to a business. Every time a potential customer visits a website that doesn’t work, that person goes back to his or her search engine results and tries the next company. That customer might never re-visit that first site again.

Cloud hosting outages can sometimes be much more difficult to survive than a simple website failure. When businesses draw their computing power from the cloud, the entire company can be paralysed until service is restored. In house services that rely on cloud servers are lost, employees lose access to their applications and all corporate data becomes inaccessible.

  1.  Security

Businesses and individual must trust a third-party provider to maintain adequate security practices. This means that even when secure connections are established, cloud customers do not know if the service provider’s servers and software are adequately hardened. Also, staffers working for a service provider can be exposed to proprietary and confidential information during the course of business.

The malicious insider threat should never be overlooked. Cloud-based Interfaces and APIs are often criticised for giving hackers new ways into networks that can result in data breaches that can damage businesses that operate from the cloud.

  1.  Terminology

Many people have heard talk of the cloud and of cloud computing, but don’t know what it is. Some people recognize Web-based email as cloud computing, but have trouble grasping how virtual private servers, platforms and infrastructures can be delivered as services through a high-speed data pipeline.

Right now, a certain amount of time must be spent in conversation establishing exactly what a person means by cloud computing before discussing concepts and solutions.

  1.  Abuse

In the past, cloud-based servers have been used to launch Internet attacks and distribute malicious software programs. Although cloud service providers are working to tighten registration processes, some cloud critics suggest that buying cloud services is still easier than it should be.

  1.  Virtualised Environments

Virtualised environments can combine the resources of many physical services into a large virtualised pool used by cloud customers to build their servers, mount their platforms and run their software. When businesses use virtual private servers, their servers could reside in a resource pool shared by other VPS customers of the same service provider.

Whether intentional or accidental, many cloud critics say the threat that resources could overlap and expose customer data to other customers of the same service provider. This could lead to theft of services and identities without any effective way to trace culpable parties.

Nothing New

Although these and other threats to cloud computing are real, they really aren’t anything new. Software has always been hacked, dishonest workers have always existed, and platform failure has always cost businesses customers and lost productivity. An awareness of the cloud’s vulnerabilities, however, can facilitate business planning. With the proper contingencies in place, users can use the cloud with confidence.