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Someone else’s computer: Is cloud computing secure?

We see many retail experts who are afraid of “the cloud”. But in the end, it’s just someone else’s computer. In order to process big amounts of information, we need a well-performing computer system that is robust and resilient.
Someone else’s computer: Is cloud computing secure?

If you really think about it, you realize that big data is everywhere. And for most of us, data defines our everyday life. Whether it’s in our private life or on the job – without the use of data the world wouldn’t be as we know it today. Self-driving cars, social networks and weather forecasts are all an art of applied sciences. Or like Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn, said, “Data really powers everything that we do”.

Especially in the retail sector, data has become an essential ingredient for success. The days when questions like “What will the customer buy next” or “What is an acceptable sales price that will achieve our desired result?” were answered on the basis of experience and intuition are long gone. Today facts and figures matter. That’s why many retailers are looking for a solution that helps them turn their existing data into actual insights. When evaluating a technical solution, one thing that comes to mind is whether their data will be secured throughout the integration process. For many an absolute no-go: cloud-based solutions.

If we wanted to feed our algorithm with retail data, our first challenge would be to choose the right place to store and process this information. We could either buy computers, open a data center and upload the data there (on-premise hosting) or rely on an already established infrastructure from cloud providers.

We see many retail experts who are afraid of “the cloud”. But in the end, it’s just someone else’s computer. In order to process big amounts of information, we need a well-performing computer system that is robust and resilient. In this article we talk about why cloud-based tech is actually better than an on-premise solution.

Cloud computing is like renting a car

Yes, you read it right. Consumers want to be more flexible than ever or even just enjoy taking a ride in the latest model instead of buying a car that loses its value over the years while mainly standing in the parking garage  – and car renting services made that possible. In the same way, we can simply rent servers today – as many as we need – deploy our functions, execute them without further ado and easily iterate calculations until the desired result is achieved. And all of this on a computer that is more resilient, more robust and more secure – which is constantly up to date with the latest technical standards and requirements.

Hosting our solution on site would involve a complicated process that is long and cumbersome. Let’s get back to our car example – An on-premise solution can be compared to owning a car. When you buy a new car (the prices for new cars are horrendous by the way!), you must also take into account the time and cost of maintenance, repairs and seasonal tire changes to ensure your safety on the road at all times. You also have to accept that in a year or two there will be a new – a better – version of your car or that at some point your car will no longer satisfy your needs. This is also the case with on-premise solutions. Ensuring maximum security involves much more than just buying a computer.

Which one would you pick?

The Cloud Never Goes Down

The name of the game is cloud hosting. Professional companies such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer computing power along other services (storage, DNS, etc.) for companies and individuals to rent according to their needs. They build data centers all over the world and house them with well trained staff who monitor the server 24/7. Here’s another way to think about this: By using cloud technologies, people can focus on their core business and can stop worrying about the underlying computers and technical details. Above all else cloud computing rocket launches your projects to great flexibility, scalability, reliability, recoverability and serviceability.

For this reason, we have also decided on a cloud-based solution. Our team can maintain a highly scalable and reliable cloud infrastructure while focusing on our core business – our retail automation platform.  This can only be achieved because we rely on the years of experience provided by professional cloud hosting services.

In Cloud we Trust?

Now that we’ve learned about the concept of cloud hosting, many worry about the security in a cloud environment. The question is totally understandable: Your data is being uploaded to a remote machine and you do not have any physical control. This is a new and undiscovered scenario for many. However, in the following sections we’re going to see the beneficial effects of professional cloud services regarding the topic of data security.

In contrast to normal buildings, cloud data centers are designed to withstand various different catastrophes. The cooling, the power supply and the strengthened walls are especially designed for this subject. As if that is not enough, they are usually equipped with advanced security features such as security guards, intrusion detection or fencing. This will make physical robbery of your cloud-based data next to impossible and other kind of failures very unlikely.

Not convinced yet? The big players of cloud hosting have compiled a large list of certificates that they can show off. There are around 40 different programs worldwide – C5, CIS Benchmarks or CSA Start attestation to name a few – and all of them are designed to protect your data. These companies underlie strict regulatory compliances and prove their validity by undergoing due diligences on a regular basis.

The landscape of technology is evolving rapidly. This is accompanied by new methods for attackers to penetrate your system. At this pace, it is a massive challenge for on-premise hosting to keep up with cutting-edge tech stack. Imagine if you acquired 15 machines for your data center, all of which need important security updates, or you didn’t notice a gap in your network implementation. Yes, on-premise systems come with complete control. The truth is that this can only be valuable with a large team of experienced staff to handle such a mammoth task.

News flash: Cloud hosting significantly alleviates this (HR and technology) problem. There is a so-called shared responsibility model, and it guarantees you this: The provider makes sure that your machines and network behave exactly as you have configured them. This also means that by connecting to the cloud, your team gets a set of powerful tools. In the end, it will be a matter of integrating them into your concepts and processes. When you choose on-premise hosting, you need to have the capacity and expertise to build a similar set of functionality to achieve the same level of security as the cloud. Ultimately, the security implementation must be done by you, and by using a cloud provider, you have a significant advantage over new local teams. In other words, cloud hosting is no less secure than on-premise hosting! Gartnergoes beyond this point and estimates that through 2020, 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.

At aifora, our customers and their trust in our data security are important to us. That’s why we chose a trusted cloud provider that is secured by multiple layers of network security, data encryption and tight access controls. In addition, the cloud-based technology allows us to easily deliver our price and inventory management automation to retailers around the world with an onboarding process of 4 weeks.

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Patrick Brüns
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