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How to Manage and Secure Big Data

Several developments are coming together in cloud computing that are creating shockwaves throughout society and in the economy.

Over the last five years we have seen the debate about cloud computing hotting up. There was the hype around the new development at the same time as warnings regarding security and privacy, and for a while the market seemed subdued about the new development.

However the economic reality of cloud computing meant that enterprises and government bureaucracies had little choice but to move ahead with cloud computing for the simple reason that this could save them, in some cases, up to 80% of their IT costs. There are plenty of other reasons but I will restrict myself to the financial issue in this analysis.

With budget cuts in both government and business sectors, plus an increase in competition from those who had already moved to the cloud and as a consequence were able to severely undercut the traditional business models, there was no way to go but into the cloud. While small and medium-sized businesses still largely have to start on the road to cloud computing close to 90% of larger businesses have already embraced it. Few people realise the enormous impact that cloud computing is already making.

That was all fine until PRISM hit the market. Concern was already being expressed about security and privacy but the PRISM really brought that message home—if friendly spy agencies do this others will almost certainly be doing it too. The PRISM uproar generated major awareness about security. Also businesses generally do not trust governments, and they are worried that they can apparently have unfettered access to whatever data they want.

As technology is making things so easy there is no reason to believe that this situation will change. On the contrary, more technology will mean more potential for spying. That being the case, organisations will have to consider counter-attacking this threat.

At the same time, while the big data that is floating around somewhere in clouds is becoming increasingly critical to business operations, very few companies have a good understanding of where their data is at any given time. As well as this, the enormous amount of data that is now collected is placing a real strain on the tools that are used to analyse that data. There clearly have to be more intelligent ways to manage the data.

Both in relation to security and to the amount of data that is now becoming available within organisations and their broader ecosystems, a further complicating factor is the fact that data is flowing all around the world. There are different regulations in different countries for different aspects of data use and the question is what are the legal issues of having your data at any given time at any given place; again, very few organisation will have a good grasp of this.

This all requires a far more sophisticated approach to the actual flow of data, and organisations will need to check what their legal obligations are in relation to knowing what information is where. New tools such as those developed by Gigamon can assist, but also more sophisticated routing patterns need to be developed, as well as (possibly linked to that) unscrambling data technologies and intelligent sampling solutions that allow for different aspects of that data to follow different traffic paths. This is important for the management/avoidance of possible security breaches such as interception, and also for a far more intelligent use of the data.

In relation to the law, I want to stress once more that certain requirements re access to certain data are essential for the national security. But these processes need to be overseen by democratic systems; and they need to be transparent so that organisations and individual people know, at least on a high level, what is used and why.

But once again the same technologies, systems and processes available to NSA are also available to other less friendly neighbours, as well as to criminal organisations that have their own agendas.

Perhaps Edward Snowdon was needed to give everybody that wake-up call to seriously address the implications of cloud computing, data centres and big data.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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