Every cloud has a silicon lining | Part 3

In this F2MKE.co.uk blog series I explore cloud computing.  What is it?  What are the advantages versus risks?  What must businesses and schools check before putting their heads in the Cloud?  Does Cloud make sense in these times of austerity?

To read parts 1, 2a and 2b of Every cloud has a silicon lining head for:






Cloud Computing : Top 5 checks

1)   Does your cloud provider offer security appropriate to the service?  For example, ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security and CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks where access to data about children is concerned. Where does the service operate from and is it covered by Data Protection Act (DPA)?  This is crucial where personal data is sent outside of the European Economic Area (EEA)!  Safe Harbor is an alternative safeguard http://www.export.gov/safeharbor/.

Remember the 8 key DPA principles are:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –
    (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and
    (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.

2)   What are the stated availability targets for the service and against what timeframes are these measured?  How quickly will the service be recovered in the event of a major incident, or even disaster?  What penalties, or credits, are in place if Service Level Agreement (SLA) targets are not met?

3)   Do you have enough bandwidth capacity?  Remember, you, your colleagues and your customers may be accessing multiple services from differing bandwidths with varying contention ratios.  Whilst most web traffic is efficient over HTTP and HTTPS (ports 80 and 443), other methods for accessing services such as Citrix, or Terminal Services, can be less efficient – even when encapsulated within HTTP/S.

4)   What options are available for offline productivity?  Gears is Google’s way of offering access to some online files offline by adding additional features to your web browser.  However, Google’s strategy is shifting from Gears to online storage and development ceased in February 2010.

Features available in HTML5 offer equivalent alternatives to Gears and can clearly be taken advantage of by all web service providers.  Unfortunately, HTML5 as a ratified World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard is some way off!  However, parts of HTML5 are already implemented in browsers including Web Storage and DOM Storage (Document Object Model) – web application software methods and protocols used for storing data in a web browser.

5)   And finally portability!  How easy will it be to move, or share, your data?  Look for open standards for data migration and interoperability.  In the education marketplace the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is your best bet!  You may also consider options to improve your customer experience through standards for Single Sign-on such as OpenID or Shibboleth (SAML 2.0). This will allow you to provide many cloud services from many different providers, whilst maintaining a single set of access credentials with one-time login and increased security.

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