MAGAZINE

Virtual Roundtable: CONTENT IN THE CLOUD
Aug 9, 2011

This is a Virtual Roundtable that discusses the Roundtable Theme of Cloud Content, one of the key topics that will be discussed at transmitCHINA 2011 presented by BlackBerry in Beijing from September 14-17, 2011.

 

Roundtable Participants:

Mark Montgomery (USA) - Founder of FLO{a thinkery} and Co-founder of echomusic

James Eron (China) - CEO of ChinaNetCloud

Ben Perreau (UK) - Director of Digital Content of Global Radio

 

Security and reliability of the cloud has been widely discussed in recent months with critics saying that the current technology is not advanced enough to keep data save. Can we not trust the cloud? 

Mark Montgomery: Of course we cannot fully trust the cloud.  The reality is when they built the first bridge, or the first plane, or the first anything, you couldn't trust it.  Pioneers usually have arrows in their backs, but they blaze the trail for the settlers.  Failing is the key to success, without early failures, there would be no success, no innovation.

James Eron: It is human nature to be concerned about things we don't fully comprehend. IT professionals understand physical "box" servers as we grew up with them. The cloud is new(er) and less well understood. When thinking about keeping data safe in physical servers vs. the cloud, it is important to consider each specific category of risk that one is trying to mitigate, and the relative magnitude of potential risk per category.

Ben Perreau: I can't profess to be an expert in technology security and you should ask encryption experts and hackers before you listen to tech bloggers and loudmouths, but my view is that the cloud is likely to be more secure as your home or office - though it depends on your circumstances. Think about it: companies like Google and Amazon have huge data warehouses which are of great commercial importance to them, they are highly motivated and well funded to protect these assets from fire, flood, hackers and such - itwould make sense that you should be afforded a similar level of security, especially whilst cloud storage is a marginal business for them. Alternatively, data stored locally is on your laptop or office LAN, now unless you work for MI5 then you're unlikely to have an office LAN as secure as a cloud facility. Use good, strong passwords and be careful with your settings.

James Eron: In most cases, the largest risk [concerning the cloud] comes from a weak password or poor network security and default or unsecureserver configurations - having nothing to do with a physical vs. cloud server. There is also the issue of private data being subpoenaed. For the most part, data security is not a technology question, but a technology implementationquestion.

 

Law enforcement within the decentralized nature of the internet has always been a big issue. With data being stored across borders, does the cloud need to be regulated? Or should it be a self-regulated space without laws?

James Eron: The question of regulation is meaningless without considering the specific threats that you want to control or regulate. Many countries have enacted specific regulations regarding internet usage, illegal content, and right to subpoena content. I think regulation for certain purposes is prudent, but because the internet is a global phenomenon, attempting to restrain content within borders is typically not realistic.

Ben Perreau: It probably would be good to set some standards and expectations around privacy and data in the cloud. Often on the English-language web, US law pervades, not least because most of the data centres are in the US. This is fine, but if that is the case then we need to understand the precedents which have been set by the cloud service provider. Some international standards might be a good idea, especially if the cloud is going to be truly 'in the cloud' - think about local CDNs etc.

Mark Montgomery: Typically, more regulation equals less innovation.  As businesses mature there is a greater need for regulations to prevent abuse, but early on, these businesses will face enough challenges without uninformed public policy wonks "helping grow" these companies.  Certainly if there are blatant abuses of IP law, fraud, etc., there is a need to regulate.

 

If devices can restrict access to certain cloud content (for example by restricting availability of certain apps), do they become new gatekeepers of the content industries?

Mark Montgomery: This is a complicated question.  The way I see it, having fewer gatekeepers between the creators and their respective audiences - whether you are authoring Angry Birds or "Stairway to Heaven" - is a great thing.  Apple and its other competitors clearly have a position of great power, but seem to generally be neutral and "unpurchaseable". Remember the old record biz where you could buy positioning and effectively eliminate everyone without big dollars to throw at end caps? So generally, I think we are headed in the right direction.  Bottom line, someone is powering the plumbing of all this and it’s not realistic to think that all gatekeepers will be eliminated.  

Ben Perreau: It will become more competitive to offer more open access to the cloud and the internet will find a way to let you store the information how you want it and where you want it. I wouldn't worry about this issue as consumer demand is so powerful on the web - more powerful it turns out, than any conglomerate/cartel of Copyright owners or Creative Industries.

James Eron: Certain governments restrict access to sites like YouTube and Google Apps, but that is not considered gate keeping. The more likely scenario is that some companies, specifically some news organizations, have erected "Pay Walls" to make users pay for content.

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