Cloud-Based Social Media: Use Cases and Security Concerns

Read on to find out about the main use cases and security concerns for cloud-based social media.

Cloud computing is an information technology model that provides access to computing resources, such as processing power, storage, and applications over the Internet. This model enables individuals and organizations to consume computing resources as utilities rather than having to purchase, build, and maintain infrastructures to support the use of those resources.

As reported by Forbes, LogicMonitor’s Cloud Vision 2020 report predicts that 83 percent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Google are all major service providers in the cloud computing industry, but smaller third-party companies are increasingly entering the cloud computing market to get a piece of what is a very large pie.

The relatively recent increase in cloud computing adoption converges with that of social media, which has experienced massive growth over the last decade. Estimates show the number of expected worldwide social media users by 2020 tops the 3 billion mark, which is an increase of over 2 billion users from 2010’s figure of 0.97 billion worldwide users.

Social media technology hasn’t been static—it has had to evolve to facilitate the massive growth in users and the sheer volume of data transmitted over platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and this evolution has many connections to cloud computing.

Read on to find out about the main use cases and security concerns for cloud-based social media.

Many social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have granted developers access to APIs, which means that developers can build applications that interface with social media. Some social media apps enable businesses to automate their social media post schedules while others rely on interactions with social media APIs for user signups and logins.

Regardless of the purpose and functionalities of the software, businesses are beginning to turn to the cloud to run their social media apps due to lower costs and effortless scalability. AWS services like EC2 can help business run app workloads on virtual servers while Amazon EFS and EBS provide storage options for application data.

When turning to the cloud to run apps, it’s imperative to keep track of costs. Sticking with AWS for a moment, different AWS services have different pricing models, and costs can be difficult to estimate. A browser-based AWS calculator can clarify the total monthly cost of ownership for these services.

Social media is a veritable goldmine of so-called Big Data, and companies looking to improve their marketing efforts can analyze this data to derive important insights on buyer preferences, optimal campaign strategies, and more. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all provide detailed data for business users.

However, analyzing social media Big Data, such as likes, shares, posts, and other interactions,  requires the right infrastructure due to the data’s high-volume and fast-moving nature. This is where the cloud comes in by providing computing environments for building big data apps to collect, store, process, analyze, and visualize Big Data and derive insights from it.

Social media networks depend heavily on multimedia content for their business models; some more heavily than others. On Instagram, for example, users share over 95 million photos and videos each day. That amount of content would’ve likely crippled most social media websites back when they first surged in popularity.

However, cloud computing has facilitated the evolution of social networks and their ability to handle all this multimedia-rich traffic by storing content in and serving it from the cloud. Cloud storage is available at a low cost and with rapid elasticity to meet changing service level needs. Without cloud storage systems, social networks could not keep up with demand.

Cloud-based tools have emerged that help with monitoring social media accounts, engagement, and interactions. SAP’s Social Engagement Cloud, for example, provides a set of cloud-based tools for social media such as keyword detection, monitoring and prioritizing of received messages on social media business accounts, and detailed charts and analytics on social media performance.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and following the implementation of the EU’s GDPR data protection law, organizations need to become extra careful about how they store, process and curate customer data.

The following issues are of particular concern in terms of information security in the cloud for social media data:

  • Loss of control: by storing social media data in the cloud, social networks and businesses alike cede control of sensitive data on users to the cloud provider, and they rely on their provider to secure this information.
  • Non-compliance: Breaches related to non-compliance with laws and regulations can lead to heavy fines for companies. This makes the decision to trust a third-party with sensitive data more difficult.
  • Insider Threats: Shocking research by Skyhigh Networks found that over one in ten enterprise users have their credentials for sale on the Darknet. If sensitive social media data got into the wrong hands, the repercussions could be enormous. Since the cloud is accessible remotely, this issue is exacerbated because it’s difficult to track who exactly logs into a compromised account.
  • Data Loss: Cloud providers have been known to lose their customers’ data due to outages.

The best way to minimize any security concerns with the cloud computing is to take a prudent approach. This involves steps and best practices that include:

  • Researching any cloud provider and discussing data privacy concerns to establish a strong level of trust.
  • Ensuring that you encrypt all sensitive data stored in cloud systems. If the provider doesn’t offer encryption options, choose another company.
  • Asking to see your cloud service provider’s certificates of compliance with relevant regulatory mandates, including GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA.
  • Exercising fine-grained control over user permissions for cloud services. A role-based approach that only gives cloud users the necessary access needed to perform their jobs properly works best.
  • To minimize data loss, back up cloud-based social data to a trusted location.  
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