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OUTLOOK 2013 - ILLUSTRATION: Skip Sterling

Growing confidence in cloud security

Companies, schools, government chart course into cloud security

By , Network World
January 02, 2013 06:03 AM ET

Page 2 of 3

Of course, not everyone agrees on where the cloud security issues lie. Some organizations, for example, are more than happy to leave e-mail management to the cloud.

Bernie McCormick, director of technology at the Mary McDowell Friends School in Brooklyn, says the school migrated to Google Apps for Education in part so it would no longer have to maintain an e-mail server (which turned out to be an advantage when the superstorm Sandy hit the New York area). The cloud-based Backupify service also played a critical role in that decision.

The Backupify client software, which is used on the faculty's Apple iOS and Google Android personal mobile devices in a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) arrangement, gives the school's IT department the ability to wipe Google Apps folders if a smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen. McCormick, who says the school also uses the Barracuda Networks cloud-replication service for storage backup, foresees use of other cloud-based services in the future.

With security concerns abating, many others have turned that corner as well.

"We have strategically made a shift toward the cloud," says Osh O'Crowley, the CIO at AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA NCNU), the regional part of the AAA that offers roadside assistance, insurance and travel amenities to its members. The enthusiasm for the cloud is not so much because of cost savings as it is the speed of obtaining applications and the benefit of not needing an army of IT staff to support it all, he says.

Within the last 18 months the AAA NCNU adopted ServiceNow as well as for customer data and Workday for business-process applications. And it has also adopted Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based office apps Word and Excel for employees. AAA NCNU does retain a number of internal business applications, some mainframe-based.

To unify the authentication and provisioning process for both cloud and on premises applications, this AAA regional club is now going to move to the OneLogin cloud service. That way the 2,300 employees in its 100 offices can gain authorized single sign-on access to any of these applications, whether cloud or on premises. O'Crowley says he anticipates this shift to cloud-based single sign-on service being completed by April.

The way forward

Many other companies, as well as federal and local governments in the U.S. and around the world, are going through similar evaluations of secure, cloud-based computing options. In fact, according to Gartner, growth in cloud computing is the driving force that will shape 2013 security trends.

Gartner predicts that by 2015, 10% of overall IT security enterprise capabilities will be delivered in the cloud. While the focus today is clearly on messaging, Web security and remote vulnerability assessment, Gartner contends there will be more cloud-based security-focused services on the way, such as data-loss prevention, encryption, and authentication.

Gartner points out that the U.S. government will make progress in 2013 with its so-called FedRAMP Program that is defining security and compliance guidelines that are expected to drive adoption of cloud services by federal agencies.

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