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Cloud Computing Users Are Losing Data, Symantec Finds

Cloud computing is a ticket to losing data for two in five companies, a new study finds.

"It's really kind of astounding," said Dave Elliott, a cloud marketing manager at storage and security company Symantec (SYMC). The company polled more than 3,200 organizations to gauge hidden costs of the cloud and ways to mitigate problems.

"Forty-three percent of respondents have lost data in the cloud and have had to recover from backups," Elliott said. And the recovery process has failed at least once for most.

Internet cloud and cloud computing these days means most any services obtained over the Internet or obtained from potentially remote data centers, instead of the old-fashioned kind of on-premises computing where you knew exactly what machine your data were on.

The issues Symantec's cloud study pinpointed are arising as more companies gravitate to using the cloud for cost savings and arguably easier computing. The survey results suggest that more than 90% of companies and other organizations are at least discussing cloud computing, vs. 75% a year ago.

Problems encountered in cloud computing run a gamut.

"It's not just that your cloud service provider had a fire or a rack fell over and they destroyed your data," Elliott said. "That's a part of the problem and the other is management. Can you go to your cloud service provider and find it? Say someone deletes it or moves it to the wrong folder and there's terrible search functionality.

Symantec's study identified several hidden costs of moving to cloud use. One is the risk of rogue cloud use in a company, where staffers are using services without the information technology department in the loop.

"A classic example IT has seen now for years is cloud file sharing — somebody wants to move a very large file and signs up for a public cloud file sharing service," Elliott said. It could be anything like Dropbox, Box, YouSendIt or other popular services. Or even in the IT department, he says, somebody might spin up an instance of Amazon's (AMZN) EC2 to get a server up and running.

"The survey showed this is a significant issue — 77% saw it in the last 12 months, and many don't think it's going to get better," Elliott said. Of those who saw a rogue deployment, Symantec's survey notes that 40% said they suffered exposure of confidential information in some way.

The other issues identified by Symantec are faulty cloud backup — that's the one tied to the data loss statistic — inefficient use of the amount of cloud storage purchased, not toeing the line with corporate regulatory compliance requirements and issues with data in transit, such as managing the SSL certificates used to verify an organization's identity.