Cloud computing offers a greater degree of freedom for accessing data — a huge plus, but not one without its minuses.
The “cloud” — the current buzzword describing the provision of IT services over the internet — is transforming where data is stored and how easy it is to access it. Cloud data may be easier to back up and tap in case of an outage at one location, as access to the cloud requires only a connected browser. The cloud also brings other benefits, such as lower server and electricity costs. But cloud-based systems are also more vulnerable to hacker attacks.
If that storm hit us 10 years ago, we would have been 100 percent down for a week.
The technology is leading to more virtualization, allowing users to access their data from anywhere on any device. And it lets employees use their own personal devices for work, an emerging trend that launched the new acronym BYOD (bring your own device).
Associations are seeing the access and data-backup advantages of the cloud. But because associations can’t afford to put critical systems entirely in the hands of others—such as membership data and other confidential information that has to be securely stored and protected from hackers—most use a mixture of systems and storage solutions, says Sogueco.
SAF keeps about 95 percent of its data in the cloud. When the Washington, DC, area experienced a widespread and days-long power outage because of a massive storm on June 29, most SAF data was still accessible because it was stored in cloud infrastructure. “If that storm hit us 10 years ago, we would have been 100 percent down for a week,” Sogueco says.
But reports of major data breaches by hackers in recent years—targeting corporate giants like Sony and Citigroup—underscore the risks of cloud-based computing. Sogueco has repeatedly trained members and staff to adopt strong passwords that include numbers, letters, symbols, and capital letters. Users are also asked to create passwords for their phones.