The shift to cloud computing

IN the last five years, cloud computing has evolved from a buzz word to one of the biggest IT movements to transform the industry.  

When we consider that the manufacturing sector accounts for more than 10% of Australia’s economic output, it’s little surprise that these companies are investigating cloud computing as they look towards the next big thing to improve their IT infrastructure. 

So what is cloud computing exactly? Simply put, cloud computing is a shift that enables businesses to purchase IT as a service.  

Rather than managing their computing infrastructure in house, they can outsource this to an expert third party provider.  

This way data storage, applications (such as email) and software services (such as security) are hosted offsite rather than on physical machines in your company.  

In essence, computing becomes a service rather than a product that needs to be managed and maintained in house.  

Cloud computing offers numerous business benefits, including cost efficiency and predictability. Businesses no longer need to invest in hardware such as data storage infrastructure.  

They can also avoid purchasing and managing software such as email, office applications or security solutions. Instead they pay a set fee to a cloud provider who delivers these solutions.   

Cloud computing also frees up staff by removing the need for day-to-day management of IT reports, software updates, technical support and help desk assistance. These IT services are outsourced, allowing staff to focus on developing new processes and innovation.  

Despite the benefits, a move to the cloud requires confidence. Many organisations want to test the waters before they move their full IT infrastructure to the cloud.  

Therefore, it can be useful to take a staggered approach to the cloud and begin by adopting a cloud service. If we take a look at the issues facing the manufacturing industry, security is a good place to start. 

Manufacturing industry a target  

In November 2011, the manufacturing industry was found to be the third most frequently targeted industry for cybercrime.  

An average of 13.6 targeted attacks were blocked every day, making security a major issue for companies in this sector.  

Targeted attacks are specifically designed to provide cybercriminals with access to manufacturing networks, enabling them to access this confidential information, gather intelligence and, in some cases, disrupt operations. 2011 was home to two high profile attacks on the manufacturing and related sectors, dubbed Nitro and Duqu.  

These attacks were designed to collect intellectual property such as design documents, formulas and manufacturing processes at least 48 organisations.  

A cloud based security solution can be a major advantage for businesses in the manufacturing sector. Given the complexity and frequency of the threats targeting these organisations, manufacturing forms can achieve peace of mind by putting their security posture into the hands of industry experts.  

Cloud security providers have a real time view of the threat landscape enabling them to deliver superior protection against both established and emerging threats.   

They redirect email, web and Instant Messaging (IM) traffic through the service provider which enables security threats to be identified and blocked before they enter the organisation. And because prevention is better than cure, blocking threats before they enter will prevent businesses from losing money during system downtime.  

[Keith Buckley is Regional Director, Symantec.cloud, Australia and NZ.]