Online Storage Facilities: Are They Secure Enough?

Background

Ever since the last century, generations of people have witnessed many astonishing inventions. There was the steam engine, and then came the electric motor, and afterwards the television set. But no invention has ever had an instant worldwide impact on the lives of people than the World Wide Web. From its inception by Tim Berners-Lee a couple of decades ago, it has overtaken all the biggest libraries in the world in terms of breadth of knowledge and reliability to store online information (Auchard, 2009). Currently, it is estimated that over 50 billion hosts transmits over four pages of information to over one billion users globally (Webactive Staff, 2008). This is a great deal of information that has been stored online.

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With this invention entered online storage facilities. Important private and public files are increasingly being stored via the online storage facilities as this market segment continues to evolve at a much faster speed. Some of these facilities are using complicated web 2.0 features to cut a market niche for themselves as they are able to soundly price their clients while offering them free unlimited storage, and the ability to read or write directly to the stored files using regular computer applications such as Office. Examples include Omdrive, AllMyData, Streamload, and Xdrive (Arrington, 2006).

Businesses worldwide are increasingly using these facilities to store huge volumes of data. However, there are various challenges that come with these facilities, and need to be addressed for them to be viable. First and foremost is for the organizations to decide whether they want to adapt online storage facilities as an overall business strategy (Mathews, 2009). No one can ever possibly deny that these facilities offer very cost-effective charges considering the hassles that business operators puts up with when purchasing expensive storage facilities in the form of computer hard drives for their companies. The costs charged by the online storage facilities are also labor-effective in the light of the personnel used to man and repair such local facilities. But the decision of whether to trust an outside service with vital and sometimes secret company information is also a hard one to make for many business operators. Many financial institutions including insurance and mortgage groups fall under this group as they require huge storage facilities yet they may fear to disclose vital client information to outside operators. It therefore boils down to a question of cost-and labor-effectiveness versus security and confidentiality of information.

On deciding whether to go for online storage facilities, company managers must also deliberate on whether they will effectively be able to utilize the purchased local capacity or if indeed it will be underutilized. A research commissioned by Sun Microsystems revealed that more than 70 percent of local storage capacity for its customers usually goes to waste (Mathews, 2009). Many online storage facility operators share the same view. Indeed, it could be more economical for enterprises that use less than 30 percent of their available local storage capacity to consider outside storage as a viable option. However, Security and confidentiality of information will be paramount in deciding whether such an option is viable at all. Business is all about withholding trade secrets from your competitors and therefore crucial proprietary information regarding services, products, and business processes must be upheld at all costs (Oracle, 2007).

Power and cooling costs may also be factored in when considering going for online storage facilities (Mathews, 2009). Computers, UPS, and servers all consume power and thus they can cause a huge burden to companies operating in countries with high electricity tariffs. Such companies may want to consider going for outside services as power bills can be particularly exorbitant. But then again, this boils down to confidentiality of information concerns as companies may choose to risk going at a loss to purchase these gadgets instead of risking information to online storage facilities.

Another important factor that companies need to consider when going for online storage facilities is office space. As companies grow, their data areas expand too (Mathews, 2009). This can seriously hamper operations as it can limit available physical space especially when there is no corresponding growth in such physical space. There are times when purchasing new office blocks to correspond with the expanding company may not be cost-effective. In such instances, virtualization may prove useful. The cost involved in subscribing for an online data facility may be way below the cost involved in purchasing new office blocks or relocating to bigger officers due to space consumed by the data center. But organizations are unable to make such critical decisions that may indeed prove to be useful in the long run due to security of information concerns.

Research Objectives

The study sets out to establish if the online storage facilities are secure enough to be delegated the responsibility of being custodians of vital and secret company information. Specific objectives include:

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  • Explore if online storage facilities are really effective in helping companies lower their labor and operational costs
  • Explore how online storage facilities have been received in the business world
  • Explore which measures are being taken by the online storage operators to help secure the confidentiality of crucial information bestowed upon them by individuals and organizations.

Research Questions

The study will be guided by the following research questions:

  1. Is Security of vital company information more important for business managers than the need to keep operational and labor costs down in relation to subscribing to an online storage operator?
  2. How do companies utilize their local storage space and other operational accessories and related costs in relation to their profit projections?
  3. How do companies secure the information stored in their own local storage space from possible Corruption, theft, or deletion?

Methods Section

Research Design

The broad aim for this study is to establish whether the online storage facilities are safe enough to sustain the secrecy and confidentiality of vital information bestowed on them by business organizations. The study also sets out to establish how company operators view and rate the online storage facilities in relation to their ability to protect vital information regarding the operations of organizations. In this respect, the study will utilize both quantitative and qualitative research designs in its attempt to generate answers to the above study objectives. According to Hopkins (2000), the aim of quantitative research is to determine the association between one item (independent variable) and another (outcome or dependent variable). Here, the independent variable would be the online storage facilities whereas dependent variables would be all the statistics, fact sheets, and quantitative responses that would be sought to answer to queries about usage, value, and perception of these facilities in the business field. Marshal (2003) argues that qualitative research design is an outstanding way of concluding results of a study and proving or disproving the research questions as its structure has remained unchanged for many centuries across many scientific disciplines. Qualitative research design will be used to seek perceptions, attitudes, and values that major stakeholders hold regarding the facilities and their abilities to provide confidentiality.

Target Population

The target population will include organizational operators of both the online storage facilities and companies that will be selected to take part in the study. Employees who are averse to the operations of these organizations may also be selected to respond to the data collection tools depending on the availability of senior personnel.

Sampling

This baseline study will be based on a purposive sample. Respondents will be selected on the basis of falling within known categories of individuals included in the study population. In the case of the employees who are knowledgeable with the operations of the organizations selected, simple random sampling technique may be employed in the targeted organizations to come up with the selected number.

Methods of Data Collection

The study will utilize both primary and secondary methods of data collection. Primary data will collected through the use of personal-administered semi-structured questionnaires as well as key informant schedules. The 50 questionnaires will be targeted at managers, supervisors, or senior employees of companies taking part in the study. According to TMR Network (2007), semi-structured interview schedules are particularly significant for studies done with the intention of attaining a meaningful subsequent intervention for the group under study. The key informant interviews are intended for the 10 managers operating online storage facilities or their key employees. These are intended to capture key attitudes, values, costs, and perceptions about the industry, especially in relation to business organizations.

Data will be collected within a time frame of two months which will entail traveling to selected organizations to book for interviews with the senior personnel and the actual interview process itself. This is perceived as reasonable time depending on the intensity of the booking process and any other legal or administrative requirements that may be necessary to gain access to the study area. According to Zhang (2006), shorter time-frames always leads to minimal response rates while long time-frames may drain limited resources unnecessarily. Secondary data will be obtained from the review of related literature, financial projections, and facts sheets expected to be generated from the targeted study groups.

Discussion

Feasibility strategies to address the problem successfully

For online storage facilities to be able to attract more companies, and therefore more business, they must ensure all the required fundamental data security requirements. They must ensure the confidentiality of data that has been stored with them (Oracle, 2007). Individuals must only be permitted to view the information that concerns them. Businesses hold much confidential information, which may entail proprietary information regarding products and services, trade secrets, and marketing and sales arrangements. It is therefore imperative to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of such information. Authentication measures must therefore be strictly undertaken by the online storage operators to control the individuals and businesses that have a right to view the stored data. Such operators must exercise Granular Access Control, or the capability to cordon off segments of the database they hold for particular businesses from users who may still be employees of such businesses (Oracle). For example, a messenger in the HR department may be given access to the EMP table but must never gain access to salary information of other employees. In line with that, online storage operators must always ensure that information stored with them is made available to clients on demand without any delay whatsoever. The data must also be protected from corruption or deletion to maintain its integrity.

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Exposition of how objective will be met

The large portion towards meeting the main study objective is on the hands of the online storage facilities. Operators in this industry must prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are able to safely, securely, and confidentially handle information left under their custody by all clients. This study sets out to explore just that – what measures have they put in place; what the views and attitudes of business operators are towards these emerging market segment; and what are the possible benefits that can be accrued from use of these services. When the study findings are out, all industry players can sit down and review the possible benefits in relation to potential losses in the form of lost, misplaced, misused, or corrupted information in the hands of online storage operators. If the outside operators can successfully meet their part of the bargain by ensuring security, it leaves no doubt that many businesses can opt to bank their crucial information with them due to the many potential benefits. But that remains to be proved – at least until the conclusion of the study.

Gantt Chart of Activities for Online Storage Facilities Survey

Task Duration Wk
1
Wk
2
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3
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4
W
5
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6
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7
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8
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9
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10
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11
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12
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13
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14
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15
Wk
16
Meeting with mentor to discuss Research topic 1 day
1stwk
Research for topic 3 days
2ndwk
Developing research methodology 2 days
3rdwk
Presentation of methodology for review 1day
3rdwk
Drafting questionnaire sets 2 days
5thwk
Drafting Key informant sets 1 day
5thwk
booking for interviews with respondents 2days
6, 7, 8thwk
Final presentation of data sets for review to instructor 1 day
7thwk
Follow up bookings of interviews 2days
8th, 9thwk
Quantitative Data collection commences (questionnaires) 5 days
10,11,12thwk
Qualitative data collection
Commences (key informant)
3 days
13 wk
Data cleaning and analysis 4 days
13, 14thwk
Report writing 4 days
15thwk
Presentatatation of report, vote of thanks, Rewinding, AOB 4 days
16 wk
Budget for Online Storage Facilities Study
Travel 2 days to book for [email protected] £50 per trip £100
5 days to field work for questionnaire administration @ £50 per trip £250
4 days to field work for key informant [email protected] £50 per trip £200
Subtotal, Travel £ 550
Communications Telephone £50 £50
Subtotal
Stationeries Printing and duplicating £100
Pencils £ 30
Envelops & Folders £ 40
Report binding £ 30
Miscellaneous- Stationeries £ 50
Subtotal- Stationeries £ 250
TOTAL £800

References

  1. Achard, E. “The Black Hole: How the Web Devours History.” Reuters. 2009.
  2. Arrington, M. The Online Storage Gang. 2006. Web.
  3. Marshall, T. Quantitative Research Design. 2008.
  4. Oracle 9i Security Overview Release. Data Security Challenges in the Internet Age. 2007.
  5. TMR Network Project. The Use of Semi-structured Interviews and Quantitative Methods for the Study of Peer Bullying.
  6. Webactive Staff. History of the Internet: Origins of the Web. 2008.
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