Cloud data comes back down to earth

Agency AKQA has adopted a file-sharing system meant to keep its clients’ data safe by keeping it out of the ‘cloud’, as marketers grow more suspicious of the security of online storage. Expect more brands to demand the same.

Michael

It could be argued that the press release that dropped into my inbox last week – sent on behalf of Egnyte, whose Storage Connect platform AKQA is trialling – is just an example of smart product positioning designed to play on sensationalist warnings about the cloud’s vulnerability. Or it could be an indication of a wider trend that is starting to gather momentum.

That’s certainly what I have been predicting since the NSA spying story broke in June. AKQA’s decision to adopt a strategy that allows access to files across a business, but behind a firewall, is apparently a direct consequence of newspaper accusations that US intelligence services have a ‘back door’ into the servers of companies such as Microsoft and Google. Reports also claim that spies are actively trying to break the encryption the technology industry uses to keep hackers and intruders away from sensitive information.

My feeling from the many conversations I have on the subject of data sharing between businesses is that marketers were already nervous about the idea of handing over their proprietary data to service providers in any situation, even before these stories hit the headlines. Brands know how much value their business and customer data now has, and especially how much it might have if it were made available to competitors or misused by third parties.

Now, there are more incentives than ever to further strengthen this lock-down on the most sensitive data. Workforces are becoming more and more mobile, and the growing number of connected devices being used in a business context means a greater number of potential weaknesses that hackers can exploit.

According to a survey by IDG Enterprise published in August, two-thirds of IT professionals cite security as a doubt that hinders their adoption of cloud computing. What’s more, a pretty substantial 42 per cent of cloud projects are eventually brought back in-house, with security again being the key reason.

And you can add to this the estimate by a US think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, that cloud computing companies could miss out on $35bn (£22bn) in revenue in the next three years because of the ongoing scandal.

The reality of how robust data security is in the cloud is obviously something I can’t tell you. But what is increasingly clear is that this is an industry and a business practice that has to face up to a looming crisis. Unless there is a real effort to restore client confidence, many marketers are likely to take the most risk-averse option available.

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