Stories by Thomas J. Trappler

NASA's cloud audit holds value for all

NASA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently audited and evaluated the efficacy of the space agency's efforts to adopt cloud-computing technologies. The resulting report, "NASA's Progress in Adopting Cloud-Computing Technologies," includes six recommendations "to strengthen NASA's IT governance practices with respect to cloud computing, mitigate business and IT security risks and improve contractor oversight." While the recommendations are specific to NASA, their underlying concepts can be leveraged by any organization that wants to more effectively adopt cloud-computing services.

Does your cloud vendor protect your rights?

From time to time, organizations are asked to provide access to data for legal reasons. Those requests can be more complicated when the data is in the cloud. But a new report sheds some light on one critical aspect of such requests.

Software licensing in the cloud

Someone at my seminar in Los Angeles last month asked about challenges that the cloud poses for software licensing. That's such a broad and complex topic that it could warrant an entire seminar of its own. But this column can at least provide an overview of the issues.

For credit card handlers, cloud computing guidelines just got clearer

The fact that regulations evolve at a much slower pace than cloud computing technologies can lead to confusion regarding how to meet regulatory requirements in the cloud. If a client moves a regulated function to the cloud and later falls out of compliance due to a shortcoming on the cloud vendor's part, the client remains accountable. So it's essential to have as much clarity on these issues as possible. Recognizing this challenge with regards to the handling of credit card data, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council has recently issued guidance on how to apply PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) in the cloud.

Cloud adviser: Contract for functionality, not a brand

Before buying a cloud computing service, you evaluate it, test it, see it in action, so you know what it's supposed to accomplish for you, right? Well, a description of that functionality belongs in the contract. You'd be amazed at how many contracts simply state the cloud service's name without specifying what that service is supposed to do.

Your cloud contract needs to look beyond renewal time

So you've done all the right things in selecting your new cloud vendor. You went through a competitive bidding process, evaluated the bells and whistles offered by each vendor, identified the service that best meets your needs, got a great price for the first year, trained your staff on the new service, and mothballed your old in-house solution. A whole lot of work, wasn't it? Don't want to go through that again soon, do you? Well, if your contract doesn't effectively address the terms under which you can continue to use the service, then the cloud vendor may have you over a barrel at renewal time.

In the Cloud, a data breach is only as bad as your contract

Loss of control is one of the main things that gives people pause when they think about putting their data in the cloud. We've all seen how painful a data breach can be, and it can seem almost like asking for trouble to put your data in the hands of someone else. It's hard enough to prepare for a breach when you're in control. How do you do it when you put someone else in charge?

When your data's in the cloud, is it still your data?

When your data resides on a cloud provider's infrastructure, your ownership rights could be compromised. For example, what's to prevent the cloud provider from deciding to access your data and use it for its own purposes? That's why any contract for cloud services should include language clearly affirming your ownership of your data.

Making sure your Cloud provider can protect your data as promised

At the end of my Cloud Expo West presentation last week, I was asked, "How can we verify that a Cloud provider actually has all of these infrastructure and security mechanisms in place?" It's a great question, one that deserves a fuller answer than I was able to give in the time available.

Where there are clouds, there's lightning (and other cloud disaster tips)

They say that lightning doesn't strike twice, but apparently a single bolt of lightning can take out two cloud provider data centers at once. At least that's what initial reports cited as the cause of <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9218970/Lightning_strike_in_Dublin_downs_Amazon_Microsoft_clouds">concurrent outages</a> at the Dublin data centers that serve as Microsoft's and Amazon's major cloud computing hubs for Europe. These reports serve as a good reminder of why it's a good idea to consider disaster recovery and business continuity when contracting with a <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/topic/158/Cloud+Computing">cloud</a> computing provider.

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