Research Confirms Benefits and Dangers Await in the Cloud
Insurance Experts' Forum, April 12, 2011
Cloud computing, one of the hottest topics right now in insurance IT, is a two-edged sword, according to research cited in a recent issue of ScienceDaily, an online news source.
Cloud computing has many advantages, including a high degree of redundancy at both the hardware and software levels and also geographic independence, say researchers Kashif Kifayat, Madjid Merabti and Qi Shi of the Liverpool John Moores University, UK, in the report. Cloud services also can cope with individual increases in user demand without the user having to upgrade their system.
For those in the insurance and financial services world, this means greater mobility, more flexibility and savings on in-house systems. However, the report notes, there are concerns regarding security and other risks. “After all, users must trust the service provider with potentially sensitive data as well as having to cope with the possibility of system outages that might disrupt their workflow significantly.”
Certainly, recent revelations from the Epsilon breach and the security problem at The Hartford point to the danger to our customers’ sensitive data, to say nothing of the information about our own companies. Citing widespread forecasts for growth in cloud computing, the article adds that availability, manageability and monitoring, data protection, scalability and adaptability, privacy and security are all issues that must be addressed urgently.
In some ways, it is the very popularity of cloud computing that will make it more difficult to secure that environment to the point that security-conscious business users will fully trust it—just as the wild success of social networking has encouraged cyber-criminals to focus more attention on that channel. And it is no exaggeration to say that insurance professionals are among the most risk-conscious individuals on the planet.
In the end, we must decide whether or not we trust an outside entity to hold and secure information by which our companies will live or die. The decision at this point is not easy, since the technology is relatively new. Insurers and others in our industry would be wise, however, to allow the security and privacy aspects of these technologies to fully develop before we adopt them full bore.
As the researchers note, “As sensitive and regulated data move into the cloud, the specific security issues that follow include authentication, access controls, encryption, data leakage protections, virtualisation technologies and regulatory reporting across multiple geographic boundaries. It is understandable that the future of cloud computing will raise the complexity and scalability level which will trigger the increase in security issues.”
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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