Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

What Possible Computer Disasters Can Be Associated With "Cloud Computing"?


Published on

Published in: Business, Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

What Possible Computer Disasters Can Be Associated With "Cloud Computing"?

  1. 1. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? Zack Whittaker th This was originally submitted as an essay to the University of Kent exam board on the 20 November 2008, and is covered by UK intellectual copyright laws. Although now in the public domain, this paper cannot be reproduced, copied, edited or submitted by anybody without prior consent from the author. As an academic article, all copyright and rights were passed from the author to the University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom on submission. Page 1 of 7
  2. 2. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? “Cloud computing” is a difficult term to explain to most; even stored in the cloud isn’t actuall y stored in the cloud; rather a to technologists and IT professionals, the concept of datacenter housing hundreds of servers and thousands of computing in the cloud is a wide, generic term for many networking cables, physical disasters are one of the greater specific areas within online environment. The “cloud” is threats to the cloud. defined as the Internet surrounding every part of our daily lives, similar to the clouds in the sky. However many new As physical disasters go, some will affect the entire cloud, or enterprise related buzzwords have evolved from the original entire datacenter if you think geologically or physically, and “computing in the cloud” concept; “software-as-a-service”, some will affect portions or individual sections. Natural “software + services” (Foley, 2008, pp. 55) which has evolved disasters are a great concern to those who run and use cloud as a more Microsoft related term, and “social media” which is computing services (Togio, 2002). As many natural disasters a cornerstone in social networking and development. are unpredictable, from floods to earth tremors, volcanoes and tsunamis, recovering from these disasters are often With this ever developing cloud concept, more and more impossible. problems are arising from this “golden solution” in the enterprise arena. This paper will highlight several computing Preventing disasters from affecting the cloud itself is the only disasters associated with cloud computing, including natural realistic thing the staff, management and planners can disasters and human errors, as well as those not always foresee. Nobody would build a datacenter; let alone any business venture, government building, school or hospital, or necessary connected, but still impact the cloud. Cloud Applications and Solutions Networking Storage Datacenter IT Staff Cloud Infrastructure Services Computing power Networking power The Cloud Global Foundation Services Software providing services End user 1 DNS End user 2 [Fig. 1: A generic cloud supporting two end users] Whilst a common misconception for cloud computing is any building or structure of importance in a geographic mer ely storage space on the Internet, the cloud offers many location where an active or dormant volcano lies, for example. services, infrastructure benefits and scalability which may not In cases of cloud downtime or event which causes the cloud to be possible within ordinary local -area enterprise networks fail, a backup solution is often used in an alternate location. (Whittaker, 2008). When cloud storage is used as the primary This ensures a constant stream of data being backed up to an location of files and documents, a certain trust is left in the alternate datacenter, away from any potential natural hands of the storage provider to ensure certain steps are disaster, but keeping data secure and maximising authorised taken to prevent data loss and maintain the integrity of the accessibility (Beard, 2008). file system (Weiss, 2007); enabling maximum uptime, reducing downtime and sustain the highest levels of physical With the current sociological climate in this day and age with protection and data security. increasing political pressures from all corners of the globe, terrorism is something to be considered in affecting cloud When something affects cloud storage, things can go services. From two perspectives, terrorists could target disastrously wrong for many end users. Whilst data which is datacenters which hold information (IT Business Edge, 2006) Page 2 of 7
  3. 3. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? and hinder efforts of those who cause acts of terror, whilst on as ‘they may not to have effect on any other code-of-conduct the other hand target ordinary, civilian owned datacenters in abiding user’, with little regard for the user who may well be efforts to financially ruin a company, and cause massive unaware of the initial cause. repercussions for those who hold data there. Many of the world leading companies, those which can afford For those who rely on cloud storage to hold backup data, or to build and maintain datacenters, such as Cisco, Microsoft, essential files, by breaking the services’ code of conduct or Google and IBM, all strive towards the best physical security terms of usage, knowingly or unknowingly, can have massive possible. Because of the security involved, repercussions for the end user. When an end user ranging from entry gateways with biometrics, smart cards and [Fig. 2: Account shutdown notice p rovided by Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive service] suddenly discovers the content of their cloud storage has been keycode entry schemes, to surveillance and location destroyed, this not only causes the user to become angry and monitoring devices and high encryption passwords ; it’s very potentially confused, and this could also deepen into a public- difficult to either br eak into a datacenter or to do any damage relations disaster; if for example the person who rec eived – unless you work there (Security Focus, 2008). such a message happens to be a notoriously critical journalist on a leading technology website. If the cloud storage had only A physical assault into the datacenter is almost impossible; backup data, this wouldn’t be such a disaster for the user. But however a number of virtual attacks are possible and highly many in this day and age with multiple computers, mobile likely, depending on many variables such as ease of attack, the devices and Internet access practically everywhere, many company who runs the datacenter and whether the stored store the most treasured, important and valuable data in the data is of any monetary value. Cisco Systems (2008) point out cloud; to enable them to access it anywhere, and also s how one of their main challenges: “ others images or other media content which they are proud of Many datacenters, especially those assembled (Perlow, 2008). quickly during the economic boom of the 1990s, Depending on the kind of company you claim your portion of were rarely built with an emphasis on security. The the cloud from, as well as the legal background they may have resulting application and storage “islands” are often to cover themselves, many will not recover your data for you vulnerable to attack and compromise. ” “ Page 3 of 7
  4. 4. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? As mentioned, an attack on the datacenter can only be or revenue directly relating to the service to uphold costs, the initiated viably from within the security inner-sanctum. With service will fail. Having your secure data or valuable detailed knowledge of the systems and the security measures, documents stored in a datacenter where the company an outside party could launch a specific distributed denial-of- providing the service falls into financial difficulty can have service (DDoS) attack against the datacenter ; flooding the massive repercussions for the end users. network with unnecessary data and causing the infrastructure to collapse, breaking the connection between the outside A recent case pointed out by Wainewright (2008) in the Digital world and end user, and the datacenter. Railroad financial collapse. The company provided a cloud [Fig. 3: Typical security structure of a cloud service da tacen ter. Source: Pandela] One of the most likely security breaches which could occur, photograph archiving to over 1,500 users and late October and have massive repercussions on the end user, is malicious 2008 shut down without warning, due the company’s collapse. and unauthorised access to the users storage or cloud When a company cannot find a suitable partner to take on the services. An end user’s finances or income could depend on a business, it is left to the company to make every effort that cloud application to provide services for others; another end data stored within the datacenter is distributed back to the user may store sensitive financial data in cloud storage for owners. However, as Wainewright states, the bandwidth ‘anywhere and everywher e’ access. By accessing their cloud needed to provide users with the service to download stor ed without authorisation using credentials without their data can exceed supply. knowledge, is not only fraud and could result in criminal charges being brought, it could also have a severe negative Case study 1 – Te chnical failures in form of network downtime in the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) impact on the end users, and those of which the end user relies on. The Amazon S3 service is a multi -protocol cloud storage solution designed for developers , intended for high-scale The last computing disaster explained in this paper, is the distribution and uses a unique geographical object and financial failing of a company which owns or runs a location bucket storage filling system (Amazon, 2008). Proving datacenter. Datacenters can cost in excess of $400 million popular with hundreds of thousands of users, offering simple (Harris, 2008) and ongoing costs of maintenance, staffing costs hosting at extraordinarily cheap costs, many people relied on and security upgrades, not to mention the power this services’ uptime and availability. consumption costs; these can all have a massive impact on the revenue of a company. If a company cannot afford post-short- However in early February 2008, the entire datacenter s’ term to maintain the costs of a datacenter, without an income network froze up, leaving the majority of users to the cloud Page 4 of 7
  5. 5. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? service denied access for around four hours (LaMonica, 2008). view of the document workspace as well as the home An automated set of processes should have kick-started the document listing” (Lowensohn, 2008). This, again, is a cloud service again, but this system also failed. As LaMonica technical error which much too many misconceptions, simply (2007) notes in another article, this isn’t the first time Amazon do happen out of the blue. The brunt of the downtime for has had difficulties with its cloud storage system, when just both products were enterprise customers and partners; those over a year ago the entire service suffered multiple faults who use the service to provide a service themselves were hit, which caused many to reconsider the offerings of the and were found to be ‘in the dark’ for the duration of the technology giant. collective downtime. Whilst some may declare this to be human error, as humans Just before the Gmail incident, Krigsman (2008) made a point are ultimately responsible for the running and maintenance of of highlighting the issue surrounding Google’s policy in data the machines involved, this was due to technical difficulties handling, and our sometimes unknowing willingness to when networking difficulties resulted in the datacenter provide the software with our data. He wrote: ‘appearing invisible’; accurate information on the cause of the outage is still disputed as Amazon’s lack of transparency have angers many users (Modine, 2008). “ We blindly give Google our data - email, calendar, bookmarks, search history, and so on. What happens when Google r efuses to give it back? Case study 2 – Google’s cloud services and applications suffer a series of technical difficulties Angst. He proceeds on to explain that the loss of data is entirely ” “ Google is world renowned for its search engine, but have unacceptable, whether Google intervenes on somebody’s taken their market share dominance into other areas of account for security reasons or not. In the case of both Gmail “Enterprise 2.0” (Whittaker, 2008) applications, such as Gmail and Google Docs failing, this is not a fault of Google’s, yet the and Google Apps, two leading cloud services on the web. responsibility it still held by the company. In the same article, Wainewright (2008), an influential cloud computing Over the course of a few months, Google had been hit by professional, perfectly sums up the state of cloud computing numerous different outages, which caused a ruckus in the today: online social media scene, such as Twitter (Needleman, “ 2008a). Although some of the outages had only lasted One point the story highlights is a hard lesson for approximately 45 minutes, the simple fact of an essential users: Don’t trust the cloud at this early stage in its service to many had been partly offline caused enough disruption for many to be angry about. evolution. This seems to be quite a trend amongst those in the ” “ Gmail, a rival email service to Microsoft’s Windows Live technology industry, as Thompson (2008) states that the more Hotmail and Yahoo!’s Mail, also suffered downtime a month we r ely on applications and services in the cloud, the more later, due to a technical error which caused an automated problems that are likely. For those using social media error message to be displayed. Because of the nature of these applications such as Twitter, the problems seem less severe two products, there was never any 100% downtime; many than those who use Enterprise 2.0 applications for different aspects of the services worked just as well as they spreadsheets, databasing and document management. Not did before the technical issue (Needleman, 2008b), but some only that, certain acts of law as pointed out by Thompson, areas of service were affected. such as the US Patriot Act, allow any content hosted on any device, regardless of sovereign state; which for those who Google in its effort to be as open and honest about the issue hold files and documents in the cloud, make their job of caused some r elief however. Google Docs, which should be “snooping” much easier than a home invasion of personnel noted is still in beta testing stage, had been partially offline to brandishing warrants and suchlike. some for less than an hour due to the “servers that control the In conclusion, natural or physical disaster to the datacenter which houses the clou d in hardware form would be the main matter of concern to the company or those involved in the running of the datacenter (IsecT, 2004). On the other hand, r egardless of company size or volume and magnitude of the cloud, from the findings discussed within this paper, network or computing downtime is the most detrimental effect to have on the end user. If you have no connectivity to the Internet or from the Internet to the datacenter where the cloud is hosted, you cannot access what you need to and the entire cloud concept is therefore made r edundant. Page 5 of 7
  6. 6. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? Bibliography Amazon W eb Services LLC., 2008. Amazon Simple Storage S ervices (A mazon S3). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10th November 2008] Beard, H., 2008. Cloud Computing Best Practices for Managing and Measu ring Processes for On -Demand Computing, Applica tions and Data Centers in the Cloud with SLA’s. Emer eo. Cisco Systems, 2008. Securing the Da ta Center. [E-book]. Available at: [Accessed 8th November 2008] Foley, M., J., 2008. Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Ga tes Era. Indianapolis: Wiley. Harris, R., 2008. StorageMojo » Building a 1.8 exabyte data center. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 9th November 2008] IsecT Ltd., 2004. No ticeBored technical briefing: securing physical a ccess and environ mental services fo r data centers. [E-book] Available at: _security_SAMPLE.pdf [Accessed 9th November 2008] IT Business Edge, 2006. What Communications Retention Will Mean to ISPs. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 7th November 2008] Krigsman, M., 2008. Don’t trust Google with your data | IT Project Failu res | . [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10th November 2008] Kurt, G.,, 2008. RE: SRX1083937461ID - Windows Live SkyDrive. [E-mail]. Message to Z. Whittaker. Sent 7 November 2008, 13:06. Available at: [Accessed 8th November 2008] LaMonica, M., 2008. Amazon storage 'cloud' service goes dark, ruffles Web 2.0 feathers | Web ware - CNET. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10th November 2008] Lowensohn, J., 2008. Google Do cs goes do wn, user data does not [Updated] | Webwa re - CNET. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 8th November 2008] Modine, A., 2008. Web startups crumble under A mazon S3 outage - The Register. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10th November 2008] Needleman, R., 2008. Gmail is down, Twitter sizzling with the n ews | W ebwa re - CNET. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6th November 2008] Pandella LLC., 2007. About Pandela Team and Project. [Electronic print] Available at: [Accessed 9th November 2008] Perlow, J., 2008. Preparing for a Flickr Apocalypse (Updated, with Yahoo response) | Tech Broiler | ZDNet. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 8th November 2008] Page 6 of 7
  7. 7. Zack Whittaker What possible computer disasters can be associated with "cloud computing"? Security Focus, 2008. Rogue admin blocks San Francisco network. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 8th November 2008] Thompson, B., 2008. BBC NEWS | Technology | Sto rm warning for cloud co mputing. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 7th November 2008] Togio, J., W., 2002. Disaster Recovery Planning: Preparing for the Unthinkable. 3rd ed. New York: Pr entice Hall. Wainewright, P., 2008. Back up your online data. No w. | Software as Services | [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10th November 2008] Wainewright, P., 2008. When Google disowns you | Softwa re as Services | [Online] Available at: [Accessed 11th November 2008] Weiss, A., 2007. Computing in the clouds, netWorker, 11(4), pp. 16-25 Whittaker, Z., 2008. Egnyte: using and sustaining Enterp rise 2.0 | Enterp rise Alley | ZDNet. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 6th November 2008] Whittaker, Z., 2008. Explaining the buzzwords which students will need to know| iGeneration | ZDNet. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 9th November 2008] Page 7 of 7