Cloud Computing: Privacy Concerns

Over at Ars Technica, there is an article about privacy issues with cloud computing.

Of particular note, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bringing up the need to work together to protect the American consumer during the development of the Broadband plan. The FTC has an entire section of their web site dedicated to Internet Privacy and Security, as well as other areas.

Government access to cloud-based documents can be much easier than getting it from the source; it is all up to the cloud service provider whether to turn your data over or not.

The provider might not even be in the United States, which means a whole new set of rules would apply. The government might have continual monitoring already in place, such as in New Zealand for example.

No matter where the provider is, it is really the location of the data – which servers it lives on – that matters. This could change over time; the data could be in the United States today and in China tomorrow. Thus the laws pertaining to data privacy and protection could change without notice.

The World Privacy Forum has a nice detailed whitepaper titled Privacy in the Clouds that makes for interesting reading. Every business considering moving data to the cloud should read this paper.

There is a nice article on Viodi based on a presentation from Nicole Ozler of the ACLU of Northern California (titled ACLU Northern CA: Cloud Computing – Storm Warning for Privacy?) which describes some of the legal aspects of cloud privacy (in the United States).

A recent article in the MIT Technology Review describes privacy and security in the cloud as well. The article suggests that encryption is one answer, but more sophisticated encryption than we have now: straight encryption removes the ability to work with data online (such as searching), and prevents others from looking at the data (in the case of shared data). The article also suggests that data could be limited to a particular area by the provider (such as being hosted solely within the United States).

Saving Money on the Used Market

When purchasing items for corporate IT, one can use the same resources as you would for yourself. Ebay, in particular, lists just about anything you might need for a variety of IT supplies.

Recently, we discussed the HP Superdome: on Ebay, there are a lot of Superdome parts and products available.

There’s also HP Integrity servers available, as well as parts.

What are the dangers in this? Double-check your service agreement and make sure that you can still service your machines as you expect. Service contracts will often allow you to use some third-party and used parts without losing your contract, but then if anything points towards the third-party part the technician stops and you are on your own.

Used parts might be able to be put under a service contract, but you should check with the vendor first before you buy. This will vary from vendor to vendor and even from product to product, so check first.

Another danger: you must be sure that you know what you need, and that you are getting what you think you are. In buying parts, it helps to have the exact manufacturer’s part number and to make sure that that is the part you are buying: ask the vendor if there is any question at all.

If you are buying a complete system on eBay – make sure that it really is complete. Many (most?) are not: parts may have been removed (though usually these are noted). Parts missing often include memory, hard disk, other drives, even CPUs – parts can often be sold for more separately than together in a system.

Check the reputation of the vendor and the length of time they have been active on eBay; this will help you avoid unscrupulous vendors.

Also, be ready to buy: if you win an auction, you will be called upon to purchase the item. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it: this should go without saying, but people seem to miss it.

I’ve purchased Sun workstations on eBay myself; there’s a nice collection of Sunfire equipment available. The used market on eBay is tremendous, and you can get some excellent deals if you are careful.

How Public is Your Life?

There was a very interesting article by the ever interesting Chris Matyszczyk on his blog Technically Incorrect on the CNET Blog Network.

He references Facebook and Twitter in the headline and article and asks why people online today seem to put anything and everything online and then seem shocked when millions of people read it.

It is also interesting as I don’t have a Facebook account nor a Twitter account just for those reasons – and I don’t foresee having one anytime soon.

Data Centers: Weta Digital, New Zealand

Weta Digital, the special effects company behind Lord of the Rings, King Kong (2005), X-Men, and Avatar is in the news again.

Data Center Knowledge has an article about their data center, as well as another one about it last year.

Information Management also had an article about it, as well as a blog post by Jim Ericson.

HP even has a video about their use of HP blades in their cluster.

Some of the more interesting things about their data center include:

  • The use of water-cooling throughout.
  • Using external heat exchangers to release heat.
  • Using blades in a clustered configuration.

This is just the beginning. While this data center is not as radical as the others discussed here recently, the data center is more in the realm of current possibilities. There are photographs in the current Data Center Knowledge article as well.

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