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Office in the Cloud

There is a growing trend for businesses now to utilize Cloud based applications in order to lower cost on infrastructure and support personnel. This option is particularly attractive to small businesses and startup companies; however, there are several things to consider in order to provide applications for employees to use that do not hinder workflow, or create security risks. First we will touch on a few of the risks involved, and then we will offer some solutions that will help companies safely and effectively take advantage of the Cloud.


The most common deterrent to Cloud computing is the security risk. "Cloud" is a marketing term for a company storing your applications and/or data on their servers which you access via the Internet. Any time you send or receive data via the Internet, there is a risk that data will be intercepted by hackers (unwanted viewers, often with malicious intent).

The second most common deterrent, oddly enough, is cost. To discover the reason for the later, one need only ask why so many software companies so happy to push customers to the Cloud. Cloud based services are subscription based, and consumers never actually own the software they purchase. In the past, companies and individuals bought software and/or software licenses, and received a disk to install the software on a computer or computer network. The company then owned their copy of the software, and could use it perpetually. Software companies only made additional revenue from the consumer by selling support contracts, product upgrades or additional licenses. Cloud computing is much more advantageous to the software distributer because they receive a monthly fee to allow customers to use the software. Once the customer stops paying the fee, the software goes away.


Another consideration for Cloud computing is legal compliance. With SOX and HIPAA regulations, companies are responsible for protecting customer/patient/client information. Transmitting such information over the internet poses risks from hackers who intercept, and even unencrypt data. Also, having a database of customer data located in the Cloud means the data resides on servers owned and operated by the Cloud provider, often on redundant servers located around the world. Redundant servers insure reliable up time, but also mean data is transmitted via the Internet to multiple locations, each with potential security threats.


With so many potential threats to Cloud computing, what is a company to do to protect their data and their business? There are several steps that can be taken:

  1. Research and be sure to only use reputable application/Cloud providers
  2. Purchase, install and configure a hardware firewall.
    • This is a device to block out intruders (hackers, sniffers, malware, viruses, etc.), but can also be used to create secure VPN tunnels and scan incoming and outgoing network traffic.
    • Some firewalls even provide content filters, virus scanners and spam blocking software.
  3. Improve Internet Access Speed
    • One of the main considerations for Cloud based computing is bandwidth, both internal network speed and Internet speed. Slow network speeds will make Cloud based applications lag (everyone hates to watch the wheel spin waiting for a program to respond), and even appear to freeze.
    • This includes download and upload speed. Watching movies at home requires a fast download speed, but a relatively small upload rate. Depending on the use of a Cloud solution, upload speed is just as crucial, and in some cases, such as VoIP, it is even more crucial than download speed.
  4. Install Quality Network Equipment
    • Internal network speeds inherently run much faster than the Internet, can make a huge difference when passing data back and forth between internal computers. While even fast Internet speeds do not compare with internal network speeds, utilizing quality switches and wiring can benefit Internet bandwidth distribution as well. Managed switches can be configured to give bandwidth priority to certain applications, and to give the highest priority to VoIP traffic.
  5. Lastly, it may sound like nitpicking but companies should strongly consider banning or limiting employees from using steaming music, streaming video or any application or website that uses large chunks of bandwidth. Think of Internet (Cloud) bandwidth like you would a water pipe coming to a building. For each faucet running, the amount of water pressure available to other faucets decreases. The same is true with Internet bandwidth. For each user streaming music, watching a video or teleconferencing, the bandwidth available for everyone else, and all those Cloud based applications is decreased.


For a free evaluation of your company’s network, Cloud applications, security measures, backup routines and usage policy, call ComNaD today.

Written and Copyrighted by Computer Networks and Design, LLC. ©

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