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My first involvement with tech occurred in the early 80s. I recall the days of modems, time division multiplexors, acoustic couplers, and dipswitches.  Most people don’t realize it, but cloud based file sharing existed in the 80s, but required an account with a major X.25 “cloud” service provider, such as Tymnet or Telenet.

At the risk of sounding nostalgic, back in the day, only people who had a keen interest in electronics (mainly, those of us under 30) were exposed to these esoteric products.  Neither my grandmother nor my mother understood technology and, frankly, I never tried to explain it to them.  It was a language that only a privileged few could understand. That has certainly changed.

Today, grandma owns an iPad, has a Twitter account, does her banking online, and knows what megapixels are. She texts, tweets, and takes pictures…lots of pictures.  She happily uses the modern cloud to post pictures on Dropbox so her niece—who is going to school for archeology in the Middle East—can see the scarf grandma is knitting her for Christmas.

So, if grandma can use Dropbox, WHY…CAN’T…I?

That’s a question that business areas are asking IT professionals on a daily basis.

In order to answer the question, we need to examine why grandma is using Dropbox.  Simply speaking – it’s easy to use.  Grandma logs in with her username and password, drags and drops her scarf photo, and voila, her niece can download and view the picture almost instantly.

Unlike previous X.25 cloud services like Tymnet and Telnet, current cloud-based file sharing services, including Dropbox, have done a fantastic job adhering to the mantra – “Simplicity as a Design Goal.”  Many other consumer-oriented services and products also have gained widespread adoption following the same blueprint – e.g., the iPod.

So, when the person who runs the HR Department comes to you and tells you that she’ll be using Dropbox to share employee information with a vendor (just as easily as she shares her family photos), what do you tell her?  And, more importantly, what alternative can you provide her for sharing sensitive information with third parties?

Here’s a list of 5 tactics you can use:

1. Explain that consumer-oriented web sites don’t provide the same level of protection as modern enterprise IT systems.

2. Explain that while protecting pictures of a scarf with a username and password may be appropriate, protecting data which contains an employee’s social security number, home address, and medical information deserve more than password protection.

3. Explain that data breaches occur on a regular basis on cloud based services and losing data can cause irreparable harm to a corporation.

4. Explain that regulatory requirements force many companies to review entitlement on an ongoing basis, to verify access by auditing data use, and to encrypt certain types of data. Most cloud-based file sharing services do not allow for these types of controls.

5. Explain that there are alternatives! Specifically, there are products that can provide similar functionality, that are easy to use, that can be used to share both employee records and pictures of a scarf, without sacrificing security.

Interestingly enough, according to a 2010 report, the fastest growth on social networking sites came from internet users 74 and older.  Enough said.  Now please excuse me while I go play Pong.

Image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Televideo925Terminal.jpg

  1. I wouldn’t say that ‘enterprise’ is much more secure than the cloud, there are numerous examples of data breaches within organisations, and the greatest threat to security in an organisation is the assumption that inside the firewall all is safe. Most malicious breaches of security are done by staff themselves! The cloud is only as secure as your authentication policy, all other technical breaches are equally possible inside or outside the organisation.

    Bob H

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