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Office 365 Offers Enhanced Protection for Sensitive Data in the Cloud

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September 24, 2012

Office 365 Offers Enhanced Protection for Sensitive Data in the Cloud

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

While cloud computing is gaining ground in terms of adoption, security was probably the prime suspect keeping many from considering making the move with their sensitive data. Most cloud solutions have eased those fears enough to attract a good percentage of holdouts. And many companies have compliance practices that strictly forbid any type of third-party interaction, however, which leaves the cloud option completely out of the question, at least until a compliant solution comes along.

According to this Tech Target (News - Alert) report, the introduction of Office 365 for Government is helping to change the way companies and government agencies with strict compliance regulations think about the cloud. Office 365 segregates data in the public cloud where multi-tenancy is the norm, providing the necessary added level of protection. 

An additional Office 365 product called ITAR is designed to support the Federal Information Security Management Act in a platform known as a “caged data center environment.” As an example of how Office 365 is affecting the industry, the FAA recently unveiled its plan to offer Office 365 to around 80,000 employees.

Some security experts believe that in order for these agencies to make more headway in moving toward cloud-based computing, and enjoy the proposed benefits, the methods by which data is accessed must be addressed. A group of industry leaders working in a consortium could make positive changes in how the public cloud is accessed. If a larger group can come together instead of one company/agency at a time, more could be done in granting access to the cloud.

Many cloud companies and mobile device providers aren’t privy to the needs of the various agencies that have compliance issues. An alliance made up of such companies that will focus on presenting their needs to the cloud providers and mobile device providers could result in more acceptable practices that will make cloud computing far less off putting to these companies and agencies.

Some in the industry are already working on a “single sign on” platform with insurance providers in the cloud. With insurance agents operating under one umbrella, the thought is that it will make operating in the cloud easier as an industry. One analyst said that while the idea works in theory, it hasn’t always been a successful approach in the past. 

The insurance industry has banded together in previous attempts to develop standards, but has failed. The biggest reason for the failure is that every company is different and once one company tries to tweak the platform, it all comes crashing down due mostly to competition. Until competing companies can really work together for the betterment of them all, they will continue to struggle to enjoy the promised benefits of cloud computing. 

Office 365 is bringing some change to the industry, and some ease in bringing more agencies to the cloud that couldn’t have considered it before, but there are still issues to be worked out before the cloud is a possibility for everyone. The fact that every company is different and therefore has different needs remains a truth throughout multiple industries. Fortunately, that also means there’s more time for the cloud to continue to evolve to offer more solutions that can meet the needs of more companies.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein

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