What Might Go Wrong With Cloud Hosting

Cloud computing has become one of the most popular and important elements of the internet. It has tremendous growth potential for businesses that desire to use the preponderance of internet-based services that can be found in the cloud to host their websites and network resources.

Cloud services include three main areas that are typically offered by most cloud service providers: infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS). IaaS provides access to computers and virtual machines for use by clients. PaaS offers access to client to various operating platforms and systems. SaaS offers access to applications and programs that can be run virtually by the customer.

Our subject of discussion, Cloud Hosting, is one of the many utilizations of cloud computing technology.

Generally, a cloud-hosted website is operating on multiple connected servers. Instead of limited to a single server like what we have in traditional hosting services (ie. VPS hosting), the website now has the access to multiple servers. Virtually, the processing power is unlimited as you can always add a new server and scale up.

While cloud hosting offers many companies and users a number of benefits that include cost savings, expandability, access to the latest technology and accessibility, there are a number of things that can go wrong when using cloud hosting. This article describes some of the risks and things that might go wrong.

Security

Cloud Hosting Security Problem

Security is a prime area where things could go wrong with cloud hosting.

When critical data is placed in the hands of a third-party, the question of security inevitably comes up. Businesses that are considering using cloud hosting services will want to be assured that their data will be well-protected and free from the threats of hackers and viruses. While many service providers are well-equipped to handle the security of the data that they host, this is still an area where things can go wrong.

Finding a well-established cloud hosting firm is vital to minimizing the problems that can occur due to security threats. The type of cloud service that is being used – IaaS, PaaS or SaaS will help determine where the focus on the security risks should be directed. The use of virtualization, which is a key component of cloud computing, may add additional problems related to security. The software that allows virtualization to occur should be secured and robust enough to handle outside threats from hackers and malicious software.

Another aspect of data security is how the data is backed up by the cloud hosting provider. If a cloud hosting provider’s servers go down and adequate backup is not in place, this can be problematic for clients that may face the loss of critical data. Many providers use redundant backup systems that are located in different physical locations to protect the hosted data from loss or interruption. These backup servers can be easily restored in the event that the primary server goes down. With adequate software and processes in place, the switch over to the redundant server occurs without any downtime to the customer. Nonetheless, this is an area of cloud computing that might go wrong if a dependable cloud hosting provider is not used.

Privacy

Another significant area of concern for businesses using cloud services is the issue of privacy. Companies want assurances from their providers that their data will not be subject to access from unauthorized sources. The unauthorized sources could be in the form of hackers or from a governmental agency that may access the data without advance warning. Providers that can demonstrate how they will protect their client’s data should be the desired provider of choice.

Since the physical location of where data is stored may not be known by businesses when they use a cloud computing provider, businesses should be sure that they are working with a reputable provider. Unlike traditional web hosting company, cloud hosting providers may be based in a foreign or offshore company where the laws governing privacy may not be as stringent as they are in the United States. Companies should take the extra steps to determine if the provider falls under the jurisdiction of the laws of the United States or are they governed by the laws and regulations of the country that the provider is located.

In other cases, hosting companies located in countries with strict censorship laws may prevent other ways that something can co wrong if they country seizes the hosting company’s server for undisclosed reasons. A business may not have much recourse in these situations as they may have in other countries that have safeguards against unwarranted seizure.

Political and economic instability in foreign countries add another layer of problems and uncertainty for customers using cloud hosting services that are based in foreign countries. As each country grapples with how they deal with the internet and privacy issues, cloud hosting users should keep a close eye on changing laws and political viewpoints.

Even the hosting companies that are located in the U.S. may still be subject to the provisions of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 which is better known as the USA Patriot Act. The Act gives the federal government the authority to seize and intercept electronic communications, data and information that may be stored or in the possession of internet providers where a possible threat to the nation may be determined.

The provisions of the USA Patriot Act that allow data and information to be accessed and seized without a warrant are troubling to many businesses and entities. These businesses feel that their data is private and should not be subject to scrutiny, prying and confiscation of the federal government. Even if the government has evidence that their data or information may be of importance in the security of the nation.

Another point to consider about data privacy is what happens to a client’s data that is stored on a shared server that is confiscated by the government. A recent case that has made world wide headlines involved a major file sharing service that was seized by the government. They have been accused of allowing the facilitating of illegal software and criminal activities. The legitimate files of other users that resided on the seized servers are currently in limbo and inaccessible to the rightful users. There is the possibility that their data could be destroyed along with the illegal data. The courts are presently deciding how to handle this situation.

A business has less control of their data and information when using cloud computing than they would if it was housed on their own servers. This should be considered when contemplating the use of third party cloud hosting services.

Accessibility

While the virtual nature of cloud computing is one of the significant benefits of storing data on cloud servers, accessibility is a two-edged sword when problems occur. Data that is stored in a cloud environment may be useless if a business cannot gain access to that data when they need it most. The inability by a customer to reach their data due to a network outage and other problems that prevent access should be a major concern when selecting a service.

Interruptions in service can be a serious impact to a business that relies on zero downtime and continuous access to their data. Since cloud computing relies heavily on the quality of the internet connection, it is vital that the cloud hosting company maintain their access to their customers. Customers in areas where internet service is spotty may want to carefully consider whether to rely on cloud hosting services. Frequent periods of downtime can render a business helpless especially if they don’t have a backup plan or other means to access their data. Customers should select cloud service providers that guarantee uptime as close to 100 percent of the time as possible.

Ownership

The issue of data ownership is another area that could present problems for customers using cloud hosting. A major concern is what happens to the data if a provider goes out of business. Or what happens if the agreement is terminated. Does the data ownership remain with the client while other aspects of the provider – the hardware, software, applications and operating system remain the property of the provider? Assuring that data that is hosted by a cloud service provider will be returned to the customer once the hosting agreement is terminated is something that should be investigated and agreed upon before an agreement is signed.

If a company goes out of business and their assets are liquidated, the ownership of and accessibility to the data that is stored on the servers may present problems for the customer. This potential problem is discussed earlier in this article under the privacy heading for cases where the provider is no longer in control of the data stored on their servers for a variety of reasons. Data ownership will probably be an area that will be tested in court or through legislation.

Portability

While most businesses may feel that once they find a great cloud hosting provider, they will use them forever, portability is another thing to consider before signing on with them. They should determine whether the database and applications that they may utilize with one cloud provider is portable and can be moved to another provider if they decide to change providers. It may become very costly to the business to change cloud vendors without major adjustments to their data and applications if they are not easily portable. Many cloud providers may make it more difficult for their customers to move their data without added expense and unnecessary hassles. Businesses should consider this when selecting a cloud hosting service.

These are just some of the things that can go wrong with a cloud hosting service. As with all new and emerging technologies, the buyer should research the cloud hosting services carefully to make a wise decision that may have long-term impacts.

There’s another good article on WHSR that talks about the threat and flaws of cloud computing/hosting (that it sparks me to further study on this issue), have a look: 15 Reasons To Fear Cloud Computing.