Wozniak Off-Base With Cloud Computing Concerns

By | Aug 8, 2012

The cloud seems to be becoming a polarizing force within the technology industry. Its proponents are lauding its virtues while its detractors lament the loss of the way things were and warn of dangerous times ahead. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recently wandered into the discussion about cloud computing, expressing concern about data ownership and the loss of control. While his comments may have some merit, overall the fears about data control are severely overblown.

Wozniak on the Cloud

After a recent performance of Mike Daisey's "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," Steve Wozniak took some questions, and the conversation eventually steered toward the cloud. As reported in Channelnomics, the Apple co-founder expressed some concern at people moving their data and applications onto remote public servers.

"With the cloud, you don't own anything, you already signed it away," said Wozniak. He then expressed concern at the lack of control that people have when they move data onto the cloud and predicted that there would be a lot of "horrible" problems in the next five years, calling the potential situation "horrendous."

While one could raise some questions regarding these statements and Apple's current set of service offerings, Wozniak hasn't really been involved in Apple's business decisions in a while, so that comparison would be unfair. The reality is that Wozniak's comments are just one of many as people speak out about the dangers inherent in cloud computing, but just because something is dangerous doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

The Realities of Cloud Computing

Steve Wozniak's comments could be looked at as a question of cloud security, and he would be far from the only person to question it. Moving storage and application data out of a dedicated data center and into the hands of a service provider means that an individual IT manager has significantly less control over the security protocols surrounding that data. The question now is, is this really a bad thing?

For an effective IT manager who remains up-to-date on risks, enforces strict password controls, and continuously reinvests in security software, their data will certainly be less secure in the cloud than it would be on their servers. However, this doesn't describe very many IT managers.

Whether through lack of funding, lack of time, lack of people, or just a lack of knowledge, most internal systems remain ridiculously unsecure. This is especially true in many midsize businesses, where resource commitment remains a significant barrier to full system control.

In situations like these, the security of a cloud provider may be a step up instead of a step down. Reputable cloud providers will have teams of people making sure that all the latest patches are in place, that the newest risks are known, and, most importantly, that the employees with wide system access have been properly trained in security measures.

While small amounts of mission-critical information may still be safer on locked-down internal systems, the main chunk of day-to-day information for many midsize businesses may really be more secure on outside systems, creating a cloud solution without any real drawbacks.

Now, Wozniak's comments may also be referring to the actual ownership of the data, claiming that cloud computing contracts really move data ownership to the cloud provider, or, at least, that the control of the data is a reflection of ownership. The industry is still small enough to be self-policing in this regard, as any mishandling or intentional misappropriation of a company's data would spell the end for the cloud provider and wrap its leaders into court battles for years.

Data security in the online world has always been a balancing act between security and availability. In the early years of the cloud, availability won out, since this was a large part of the allure of the cloud to begin with. As time progressed and cloud adoption rates have to run into a wall of security fears, cloud providers have taken several steps to increase data security and provide IT managers with piece of mind.

The reality is that the benefits of the cloud currently far outweigh the risks. Midsize businesses who continue to internalize all their IT operations run the risk of being left behind by competitors taking advantage of the scalability and big data capabilities in cloud solutions. Yes, there are always risks when handing over your data to a third party, but is a truly "horrendous" situation just on the horizon. No.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

IBM Solution Cloud Computing

Cloud computing can help midsize businesses transform their operations and technology by establishing a flexible, adaptable IT environment to quickly meet changing requirements.

Learn More »

More on This Topic