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Don Tapscott
Don Tapscott is the author of 14 books, including (with Anthony D. Williams) Macrowikinomics:
Rebooting Business and the World.
He is an Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
Twitter: @dtapscott


Cloud computing is all about trusting the integrity of the provider.”
Prof. Don Tapscott,

How will cloud services become truly trusted?

Throughout the 20th century, economic activity, government operations and all wealth creation and social development was based on an industrial-age infrastructure that included the electrical power grid, the roads and primitive analog networks like the telephone.
Cloud Services
Now there is a new piece of infrastructure – the Internet and its cloud. It speeds up economic metabolism and enables innovation based on previously unimagined levels of collaboration. But evidence that many cloud services are rock solid, reliable and secure has not convinced all of us to trust the cloud.
It turns out that there is more to trust than the provision of stable hardware, network and software services. Rather, to be trusted, cloud services providers need to evidence integrity. From the perspective of cloud users – whether they are business partners, shareholders, customers, employees or the broader public – these enterprises are expected to be exemplary corporate citizens. They need to foster trust and integrity. They need to prove that they will be honest, considerate, accountable and transparent.
Consider Facebook. Facebook is arguably one of the largest cloud service providers, and as a pioneering social media company, it is often in uncharted waters. On one level, it is trusted by hundreds of millions of users and is a reliable platform for social networking that is rich in functionality and constantly innovating to improve its users’ experience. But at the same time, many users regard the company with suspicion. They question whether Facebook is being fully honest when it says it will protect users’ data. Sometimes Facebook does not appear considerate of its users’ interests, for example, by making sweeping arbitrary changes to its interface or by encouraging people to share more and more of their personal information.
Facebook has not been completely trustworthy in the B2C world, and such behavior is unacceptable for companies offering cloud services to other companies. When it comes to mission-critical data and business applications, enterprises demand 100 percent assurance that their data is in trustworthy hands at all times.
Trust is the expectation that a provider will behave according to the four values of integrity. To establish trust, institutions must be accountable – they must make clear commitments and abide by them. Customers aren’t interested in 99.999 percent uptime if their data is not being properly safeguarded. Cloud providers need to move up the food chain from simply providing secure and reliable services.
Courtesy of the Internet, we are in an age of hyper-transparency, and all organizations need integrity as part of their DNA – not just to secure a healthy business environment, but for their own sustainability and competitive advantage. And any provider of cloud services should do so as well. Society will be increasingly
alerted to the deception of individuals and organizations that cultivate an aura of responsibility but whose business practices don’t measure up in reality. In everything from motivating employees, negotiating with partners, disclosing financial information, or explaining the environmental impact of a new factory, companies and other organizations must tell the truth, be considerate of the interests of others, and be willing to be held accountable for delivering on their commitments.
This is the climate in which businesses are promoting the concept of cloud computing. The benefits of the cloud are clear. It speeds up a company’s metabolism, increases flexibility, reduces costs and drives innovation through increased opportunities for collaboration.
But many companies and governments are still hesitant to use the cloud for critical information and communications activities. The cloud industry as a whole is harmed when a data storage service allows its servers to be hacked and exposes millions of financial or medical records to online scrutiny. Or when providers don’t abide by their privacy commitments.
Incidents such as these make it a daunting prospect for a company to place the heart of its operations in the hands of a cloud provider. Will you be held to ransom down the line? Will you become powerless and beholden to a service provider? There are myriad legitimate concerns. The hardware and software elements of cloud computing are advancing at breakneck speed, but the largest challenge to the industry’s growth is showing that integrity is part of corporate DNA, and that cloud providers can be truly trusted.
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