Fear of the Cloud

J-GMP Fear of the Cloud

If you mention cloud-based GMP software solutions in the presence of Quality Assurance people you can hear the sharp intake of breath. It’s like asking a plumber for an estimate, or asking a car mechanic how long it’ll take…

So, is this a rational fear? Is it just aversion to change? Should we be scared?

If we look at it logically what are the main differences between having your software and data in the cloud, or on a server at your site? Well, I hear you say, when it’s on our server we know where it is. We know where it is and therefore we can protect it. If it’s in the cloud we don’t know where it is and therefore we can’t protect it.

Jon Mudd, Managing Director and Lead Consultant of J-GMP Consultancy (UK) Ltd, and Jordan Appleson CEO of HarkSys Ltd discuss the fear of cloud-based storage within the pharmaceutical industry.

Jon – OK, let’s run with this thought for a moment or two. If you have the data on a local server, you know where it is. Go on then – where is it? In general terms, yes, you do indeed know where it is – but probably you have the data protected through some form of RAID system? So in reality, you know it is ‘somewhere’ in your server system. What are the chances of a security breach? You may have physical and logical barriers, but are they really better than a data warehouse would provide?

Let’s take a radical view – suppose I want your critical data, and you store it locally on a server. I can target a physical attack very easily, and the hacking route would be fairly straightforward too; I recently asked a client to track attempted log-ins to their system – it was thousands per hour.

Now let’s consider cloud storage – with my QA hat on I’d say not knowing the whereabouts of your data was a bad thing, but is it really? If you don’t know where it is, then the physical security is surely stronger? And the hacking route? Well, when data centres are the size of football fields, and are full of servers across which the data may be spread, I feel fairly happy with that.

Jordan adds – It’s not just about security breaches, you also have to think about disaster recovery and geo-redundancy. There have been countless stories where labs, storage facilities and production facilities have suffered loss of data because of fire, or weather events or explosions. And the more volatile the substances you work with, the higher the risk of disaster. When static onsite servers are victim to such disaster, and data is lost, the ramifications can be catastrophic.

Geo-redundancy (the physical separation of data centres between geographic locations) doesn’t just mean that your data is stored out of harm’s way (i.e. out of your facility). It also means that it’s backed up at different data centres all over the world. Take Microsoft Azure for example, the cloud computing platform our company uses, with their data centres in Asia, Europe and the Americas – even if an event of catastrophic proportions should strike in one location, your data would still be backed up in two other locations.

Jordan continues – Use of the cloud also means you can access your data from anywhere in the world. This not only means that you can pull reports and information on the move, it also means that you can start to run a streamlined operation of global scale. Multi-site management is made easy by allowing you access to all of your company’s facilities in real-time, making decision making a far quicker process.

Not forgetting the fact that cloud-based systems, such as we at Hark provide, ensure that all of your data is unalterable. This means that reports and statistics cannot be changed or moved and your data integrity is enhanced. The last thing you want is for someone on the inside to have access to the raw data in your server and change results and records.

So – is Fear of the Cloud rational? Are there reasons to be careful? Or is this the way forward within the pharmaceutical industry? Will we look back in years to come and wonder what the problem was? One thing is for certain – it isn’t going to go away.

Can we help with your cloud-based fears? Contact us here.

Read our other blogs related to the pharmaceutical industry at – j-gmp.co.uk, and see what Jordan gets up to at harksys.com

Get in touch and we will be happy to advise you.

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