Cloud-based email services aren’t exclusive to personal users anymore. In fact, businesses of all sizes now utilize at least some form of cloud-based email to allow workers to be able to access work emails online. But for the many professionals now logging into services like Gmail and Outlook.com, security remains a prime concern. How can a user know for certain that sensitive emails won’t somehow be compromised?
The Cloud Conundrum
One problem with cloud-based email services is that, by their very nature, they aren’t 100 percent private. When your email is hosted on-site or on your own private cloud, your company is the only one who can see it. When you choose to connect your domain to a cloud-based provider, you’re sending all of your emails through a server that is no longer und
er your control.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the professionals at cloud service providers have no interest in personally reading each of your emails. However, the recent data breach at Target serves to remind businesses that it’s possible for a hacker to gain access to servers.
Terms and Conditions
One mistake many businesses make is in signing up for free services without reading the Terms of Service. When you check “agree” on Gmail’s TOS, for instance, you are agreeing that they are not accepting any liability for a data breach. The TOS explicitly states that, “YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED ‘AS IS’ AND ‘AS AVAILABLE.'”
Without realizing it, you may also be giving away rights to the content of your e-mail. Some service providers state that they can reproduc
e your content without your permission. While this is unlikely, cloud service providers are currently gathering information about emails passing through their servers in order to add on ads that are targeted directly to recipients. Use of these services means agreeing to be part of these large companies’ data collection processes.
Securing Your Communications
If your business regularly deals with sensitive communications, cloud-hosted email may not be the bargain you think it is. For optimum security, keep your email on your own servers and ensure communications are encrypted. However, for most businesses, cloud-hosted email will provide adequate protection, since cloud providers employ strict security measures to keep data safe.
Cloud-hosted email services like Hushmail are another option. Hushmail takes on the risk, signing a HIPAA Business Services Agreement, and promises encryption for all co
mmunications. Up to 25 MB of storage is free, with plans with more storage starting at $34.99 per year.
For the most part, cloud-hosted email accounts are safe from intrusion. However, businesses that deal with regulatory obligations may want to stay with a company that promises to take responsibility if a breach should occur. After all, the fines for leaking protected data can often be far more than a company would pay to store their emails with a service that takes responsibility if a breach occurs.
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