These days, very few people don’t store at least some data in the cloud. Private individuals, for instance, store personal photographs on Facebook and emails on Gmail, while businesses may use Google Drive, Apple iCloud or Dropbox for business documents. According to Entrepreneur.com’s Jason Fell, the cloud is a wonderfully convenient and affordable way for businesses, large and small, to manage all of their data.
In fact, the cloud is considered by many to be safer than trying to store and protect data in-house. One of the reasons is that it’s cloud service providers’ job to be safe. Their entire business is built on their ability to store massive amounts of data securely. But that doesn’t mean that all cloud service providers are equal or that you can sign on the dotted line and forget about your data forever more. There are still some risks to storing data in the cloud, but they can be mitigated if you take the proper precautions.
How to help keep your data safe in the cloud
The first thing you need to do is determine the level of protection that you need. If your business deals with a lot of sensitive information, then you’ll need a provider that offers a high level of security – and that usually comes at a price. The higher and more complex the level of security, the more the service is likely to cost. But, if you weigh it up against the cost of a data breach, you’ll find that paying a little extra is well worth it.
The second thing you need to do is thoroughly research the different cloud service providers that may be able to meet your needs. This may seem like a schlep as it involves some times spent online, on the phone and reading paperwork, but again, it’s worth it because the wrong decision could cost you more than data; it could cost you your business’s reputation. And th
at could cost you your business.
Some of the things you need to look for in a good cloud service provider include:
- Customisable accessibility. You should be able to choose who in your company has access to what data. For example, upper management should have access to more sensitive documents than those in middle or lower management, and sales managers should not be able to access financial information that is available to financial accounts managers.
- Encryption. Some cloud service providers include encryption both on your computer and in the cloud. Boston University says that you will have to find out what the provider’s terms and conditions are to see if encryption is offered as part and parcel of the service. If you’ve got very sensitive information, then you might be legally bound to use a provider that encrypts data, so you also need to be
aware of your industry’s data security requirements.
(If the cloud service provider doesn’t encrypt data, then you may want to do so yourself – another tip from Ivey.)
- User authentication. Derrick Harris recommends that you find a cloud service provider that uses at least a two-factor authentication process. This means that providers require users to enter a username and password as well as a unique code (usually sent to an email address to mobile phone) in order to log on.
- Physical security measures. Yes, you want your data protected from viruses, malware, hackers and the like, but you also wanted it protected against physical damage (fire) and against physical theft (someone saving data on a USB and walking out with it). You need to find out what security measures the provider has aga
inst a variety of physical threats, including thunder storms and malicious employees or burglars.
Storing sensitive business data in the cloud has many advantages over trying to store and protect data in-house, not least of which is the degree of security involved. It’s important to realise that not all cloud service providers approach security with the same zeal, so you need to research your options before making a final decision.
About the Author: Jemima Winslow is a freelancer with minimal data storage and security needs, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t aware of the danger that faces business and private data stored online. She’s vigilant about what she puts on Facebook and takes great pleasure in her creative passwords.
License: Creative Commons image source