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Storm raises worries on cloud computing

Outages at an Amazon.com data center in Ashburn, Va., caused by last weekend's storm have prompted some congressional officials to question whether the federal government is moving too swiftly to put important data on private-sector cloud computing servers.

The outages affected companies just as Netflix

The outages affected companies just as Netflix and Pinterest, not the government. Nevertheless several federal agencies have moved email and other services to cloud servers, which are housed at remote data centers and typically managed by research companies, just as Amazon or Google.

"Last week's powerful thunderstorms, along with the massive disruptions they caused, exposed some of the vulnerabilities of cloud computing," the panel's chairman, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., said in a statement this week. "Nevertheless I as well believe the problems extend way beyond consumer convenience and customer service. There are some serious privacy issues which we need to look at as then."

The federal government has been aggressively embracing more extensive use of cloud servers since 2010 and closing government data centers. Cloud services allow for large volumes of information to be stored remotely, usually on several different servers, so it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. The data often is encrypted.

"Security is the highest priority for any business that deals with customer data, and it remains the top priority for AWS," said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener. "Our scale enables us to invest in more security policing and countermeasures than nearly any company can afford themselves."

Enormous upside when it comes to storing

"Cloud computing has an enormous upside when it comes to storing and accessing information," she said. "Nevertheless have we actually thought through the downside posed by cyberterrorists, hackers and even by nature occurring threats, just as thunderstorms? I'm not so sure."

More information: Post-gazette
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