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Cloud computing (CC) is one of the modern trends in the information technologies area that has a substantial influence on the concept of not only data storage but the essence of how business processes are performed. CC has many different advantages and several disadvantages; however, it gains more and more popular among regular users as well as businesses.
In fact, the concept of cloud computing is universal and can be used in any environment that requires data storing and processing. In other words, it is almost every environment in the world of business. However, business is not the only area of CC application – the healthcare industry can use cloud concepts rather efficiently as well. What is meant is the shift in patients’ records management area. Such a concept as personal health record (PHR) (Ved et al.) has emerged in the past few years and it can be described as a patient-centric model that allows health information exchange and facilitates it (Abidi; Chang, Chou & Ramakrishnan; Wang & Tan).
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The idea of this concept is in a patient’s ability to manage and control personal data in a remote centralized place that can be accessed from anywhere over the Internet. It is an excellent opportunity for all medical facilities to have a standardized and comprehensive medical record for any patient, using this concept. The most appropriate place for keeping such records is a cloud (Nkosi & Mekuria). Cloud computing has become very popular for the past decade and provides necessary capacities in terms of performance and storage volumes to very different organizations and private clients (Abidi; Chang, Chou & Ramakrishnan; Wang & Tan).
The concept of cloud computing can be successfully utilized in rather different areas of application. According to the news provided by Dearne on the pages of The Australian, ideas of cloud computing can be used for expanding rural GP center group Tristar Medical. The materials of this newspaper article provide the readers with an understanding of how the CC concept can be used for medical facilities in rural areas and how beneficial it can be. Dearne presents the benefits of cloud computing for Tristar Medical via the speech of managing director Khaled El-Sheikh. Lakshmi and Dhas discussed similar issues as well.
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Sheikh explained that the optimization of patient care purely by using IT had been his dream for the last five years. Among many other things, the manager said that immediate access to the records of any Tristar patient in any clinic; information sharing opportunities; centralized management of services and secure connectivity across clinics; assurance of easy access to different materials by doctors even in remote rural areas; and many other advantages make the use of CC one of the wisest decisions for their clinic. However, Sheikh emphasized his concerns regarding privacy issues that might be present while using CC. Another executive manager, John Paitaridis, outlined the significance of the transition to the new system and said that it was one of the biggest network computing deployments for health care facilities to date.
As it has already been mentioned, the main problem of keeping PHR in a cloud is security concerns. Among these concerns, the following ones can be outlined: privacy of patients’ personal health data and identification of the person who could get access to these records. The reasons for such concerns are conditioned by the peculiarities of any cloud. Patients lose physical control of their personal health data (Ming et al.; Löhr, Sadeghi & Winandy).
They upload or place it any other way to servers of the cloud provider directly. Cloud services providers cannot assure strong privacy assurance. It leads to such possible security problems as insider-provoked leakage of data, the servers can be subjects to malicious outside attacks, and data can be accessed by the unauthorized third parties on the way of information transition from its owner to a cloud (Ming et al.; Löhr, Sadeghi & Winandy).
The successful solution of the issue data security assuring in a cloud is one of the cornerstones on the way to achieve the main objective – providing protected access to PHR to the interested parties. For example, such a cloud provider as Google has reported attacks on its service Gmail with the intent to obtain the personal data of users. Therefore, attackers potentially could have commenced attacks on Google Health, PHR service by Google. The appropriate solution has to be developed. Li et al. worked on one of such solutions.
The article of Lin and colleagues presents the results of the conference, organized by IEEE Computer Society at Beijing to evaluate the opportunities and challenges that emerge from cloud computing (CC) and its application in different areas. According to Lin and colleagues, the conference has started with the evaluation of areas and people for who cloud computing can be most interesting. Thus, they came to the following conclusions: CC is a very interesting trend for the IT users, considering IT as a Service; it is also needed for internet application developers, as an Internet-scale software development platform and runtime environment; and it is a necessary technology to develop for the infrastructure providers and administrators (Lin et al.).
The participants of the conference also presented three layers of cloud architecture: the top layer – for applications delivered on-demand (SaaS model); the middleware layer – for providing application services and platform as a service (PaaS); and flexible infrastructure layer – for distributed data center services connected via the Internet. Finally, the major players on the market of CC services were explored and evaluated to understand their strategies of development, approaches, and other issues involved in the process of CC further development. To sum up, Lin and colleagues concluded that the migration of data between clouds (public and private) is the biggest obstacle to realize the CC potential for IT in full.
Takagi with colleagues addresses probably the most significant issues of the cloud computing paradigm – security and privacy. A rather comprehensive research study explores CC from its basic concept to the latest achievement in this and related areas. Takagi et al. have explored numerous features of CC to understand how valuable it could be for the present business and regular users.
Other researchers focused their efforts on the following features, regulation, and challenges: outsourcing data and applications, extensibility and shared responsibility, service-level agreements, heterogeneity, virtualization and hypervisors, compliance and regulations, authentication and identity management, trust management and policy integration, access control and accounting, secure-service management, privacy and data protection, organizational security management, authentication and identity management, access control needs, secure interoperation, secure-service provisioning and composition, trust management framework data-centric security and privacy, and managing semantic heterogeneity (Takabi et al.; Tripathi & Mishra; Liu & Zhang).
As it can be seen, the spectrum of the research covers all topics related to operations with data, users, and interrelations between them. Special emphasis is made on the problems of security and privacy. The authors concluded that regarding the opportunity to perform the fine-tuning of security within a cloud, it would be necessary to reassess risks and be aware of the possible issues for any company, considering using “cloud” services. It is utterly important in the modern business world because one mistake or miscalculation can lead to severe consequences.