Does the cloud compute?

Cloud computing - artist in doing nothing

Cloud computing is all the rage but not everyone understands just what it is and its implications. Essentially it describes the delivery of hosted services via the internet to remotely process, share and store digital data.

As the de facto currency of the information economy, secure management of digital data is of vital importance, with ‘cloud’ storage described as the bank vaults of the 21st century.

Trouble is, governance of this sector is ramshackle compared to the quite rigid framework of regulation governing the financial services sector.

Government is now racing to catch up to technological innovation and faces severe regulatory challenge in respect of content, services and infrastructure.

Not that Australia is the only nation facing these challenges.

One of the keys to a viable regulatory framework is to secure, as much as possible, agreement on globalised standards. As we have seen with other innovations, however, such as VHS and Beta digital recording formats, technology frequently races ahead of government regulatory capability. Bureaucrats do try hard but they are not noted – anywhere in the world – for being the speediest creatures on the planet.

Security measures are a paramount priority with a primary focus on data protection, both in situ and during transfer.

To project its credentials in this field, the Australian government recently released a National Cloud Computing Strategy

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is a key player and seeks to balance the interests of consumers with those of the regulators.

ACMA research shows 71 per cent of Australians are now using a cloud service to share digital information online. Unfortunately, 52% have a low level of confidence in the privacy settings of online providers. Interestingly 35% would not supply personal details to sites not based in Australia.

An ACMA occasional paper, The cloud: services, computing and digital data—Emerging issues in media and communications, Occasional paper 3 (Word | PDF), provides a wealth of valuable information around these issues.