Cloud computing is causing a fundamental shift in the way most companies do business. However, this shift is creating new and evolving risks that were not historically present with traditional operational infrastructure. Companies are turning to the cloud for everything from E-commerce to payroll management to safety program development. Typically, the decision to move operations to the cloud is made by IT (information technology) professionals, often with little consideration for risk management.

And there is risk. Although cloud computing failures have not grabbed the headlines that were seen in recent data-breach incidents, there have been significant failures of both cloud computing entities (Nirvanix 2013) and cloud service providers (Microsoft Azure 2013).

Data loss can also occur as a result of a technical ‘glitch,’ or facilities-related issue at the cloud provider, as was evidenced when the Amazon Cloud crashed in 2011. Another data loss risk lies at the heart of the cloud, virtualized machines. A study completed by Kroll Ontrack, a United Kingdom information management and data recovery firm, found that 40% of companies lost data due to issues within virtualized environment, and of those only 33% were able to recover the lost data.

Risk management is a core business activity of all enterprises, large and small. Safety professionals are often directly responsible for operational risk management or are consulted on operational issues by senior management. Therefore, the modern safety professional must be educated on emerging hazards, cloud computing being foremost among them. The safety professional must be able to work with "the business" and IT to understand, assess, and manage the risks associated with cloud computing.

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