Can multinationals trust the cloud with precious corporate data?

What if the cloud closes?

The cloud isn't forever, and multinationals should be aware of instances where cloud providers go bust. It's happened before, with 2e2 shutting down in 2013. "They asked customers for £1 million (around $1.6 million, or AU$2.1 million) if they wanted uninterrupted services and access to their data centre facilities," says Curran. "Of course, most wanted to access their data immediately so that they could migrate the data and applications to another service provider, but the company stated that the process could take up to 16 weeks."

The fee demands were planned to cover employee costs, utilities, carriers, rent, rates, administration and other central expenses, including legal costs and administrators' fees. "This may be unusual in that customers had to pay in order to get data out," says Curran. "In other cases where cloud providers were going out of business, customers were notified and given adequate time to transfer their data elsewhere."

Either way, multinationals who have a hard time trusting the cloud have only one option; keep a backup.

Dr Kevin Curran, Technical Expert at the IEEE

Dr Kevin Curran, Technical Expert at the IEEE

Always keep a backup

What the cloud is presumed to offer – permanence – and what cloud providers actually offer are somewhat different. In their terms and conditions, most cloud services state that the user is responsible for backing up their data, and that the provider isn't liable for any loss or corruption of data. "Your cloud backup is not the backup," says Curran. "In other words, you really should treat it like any other data location, which should be backed up elsewhere. It may be the host backup but should never be the only one."

Ask questions

Any multinational looking for cloud provision should ask questions. How long has the cloud service provider been in business? Do they provide backup services to companies that are similar in terms of vertical market, size and scope?

"Look for clauses that allow them to review your charges when they themselves are faced with a substantive change, such as if the government changes VAT rates," says Curran. "Other clauses may be related to increases due to energy prices rising." It's also worth detailing in a contract with a cloud provider that the user can review its position and leave with sufficient notice in the event of a change in the status of the provider, such as a buy-out.

Can multinationals protect confidential data in the cloud?

Can multinationals protect confidential data in the cloud? (Image: Facebook)

Data duplication and destruction

As well as avoiding accidental data breaches, deletions and other critical business issues, multinationals must remember that data can be backed up too much. "Multinationals will need to pay more attention to cloud security as legal repercussions creep in alongside the increase in big data," says Curran. "Multinationals with large data sets due to the multi-tenant nature of a cloud platform should pay extra attention to the data lifecycle phases, and ensure that aspects such as data destruction is provided, and auditable, as part of the service."

Any multinationals allowing confidential datasets to remain outside the company network should examine how they can robustly protect that data. "The answer can be simply a layered security strategy," says Curran. "The core principle to be followed here is the encryption of data."

Efficiency vs encryption

Cloud computing is now how business does business, and that's not going to change. "The cloud is to computing what the grid was to electricity generation in the 1920s and 1930s – soon, people won't recall the time when they didn't flick the switch to get access to computing as they do for power," says Kemp. "The cost benefits and efficiencies from 1,000,000 sq ft, 100,000+ server, billion-dollar investment data centres are unanswerable."

However, only with encryption and a robust yet nuanced policy towards different datasets can the cloud be truly trusted – and properly exploited – by multinationals.