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How secure is the Cloud?

For many businesses, moving your sensitive data to the Cloud, will feel like a less secure option than just keeping their files on your home or work computer. Understandably, because the Cloud is a network of servers outside of your control, and it’s run by another business. How could that be more secure than your own trusted hard drive or server?

In this article, we will explain why it’s a myth that the Cloud is insecure. There are always security fears, but you are much safer in the Cloud than out. Cloud security sits mainly with the measures you can take yourself, so we also share some tips on what you can do to keep your Cloud storage secure.

cloud security

Perspecsys Photos / Flickr

5 benefits of Cloud computing

Just to reiterate from our previous article on the Cloud - what are the benefits of Cloud computing again?

  • Flexibility: It’s easy to decrease or increase your server space, if your business is changing size.
  • Accessibility: You can work together with colleagues or partners on documents, and it’s much easier to work from home or on the road.
  • Efficiency: Because it’s easier to scale down the amount of server space you use, and you’re using less electricity, as a business you’re saving on energy and money.
  • Economy: There are minimum start-up costs to use Cloud computing, and no need to keep updating and maintaining servers, making it a great option for both new and existing businesses.
  • Security: Broken your laptop? Tablet stolen? You’ve not lost all your files luckily, because they’re safely stored on the Cloud. But how safe is it?...

What are the security issues with Cloud storage?

Cloud providers are a target for hackers

Big Cloud storage servers are like a honeypot to hackers, because they’re filled with sensitive data of millions of people. So how can it be more secure then?

Cloud providers know that their customers want secure storage, so it’s in their interest to keep it as protected as possible. They continuously update their security with data encryption, levels of authorisation and other controls to make their environments more secure.

Microsoft’s Office 365, for example; always encrypt your data, regularly make backups, and don’t disclose their facilities’ locations to the public. The amount of time and money they put into this could never be matched by small to medium-sized businesses controlling their own servers.

Michael Fimin, CEO and co-founder of NetWrix says:

“Having more resources and focusing only on this type of activity, Cloud providers are often far more competitive and reliable than other companies who prefer data storage on premise”. (Forbes)

Loss of ownership and control

Your IT experts may feel anxious about the Cloud, because they can’t quickly respond to any issues in the server room. It’s a good thing for your business though, because server issues are taken care of by the Cloud provider, leaving your IT staff with more time to focus on other important security tasks.

Ownership is another issue: Is your data still yours when stored with a different company? The answer depends on the organisation you store your data with, so it’s paramount to read the terms and conditions before you go on board with it. As an example, this is what Microsoft promises for their Office 365 product: “You own your data and retain all rights, title, and interest in the data you store with Office 365. You can download a copy of all of your data at any time and for any reason, without any assistance from Microsoft.”

And then there is another thing: Do you currently store important data on a USB drive or on your laptop? How often does someone lose a USB drive or breaks a laptop? And what about lost or stolen laptops at an airport, on holiday or even at home! By saving your sensitive data on the Cloud rather than on a portable device, you mitigate the risk of lost or stolen files.

“Cloud Industry Forum research reveals that while 70 per cent of businesses cite concerns about security when moving to the Cloud, 99 per cent never experience a breach when there.” (Raconteur)

What can you do about your own Cloud security?

Have secure passwords

Many people use passwords that are easy to crack or guess – like a pet’s name combined with their year of birth. Guilty?

Another security issue is that people use the same password for multiple purposes. Imagine if someone found out the password for your e-mail, and then discovered it is the same for your online banking, your business laptop and for your Cloud storage? Crank up your security with these tips for how to secure passwords.

  • Create a strong, long and random password. Use capitals, numbers and special characters and don’t include easy to guess words like your own name or a pet’s name. If you want some help, use a password generator.
  • Use different passwords for different logins and keep them safe. This doesn’t mean creating a list of passwords in an email or in an Excel file, but use a password manager instead.

Be aware of phishing, malware and viruses

The biggest threat to your business’ security is not people hacking into your servers - it’s the people working for your company. It’s not malicious employees we’re talking about, but the ones that are tricked by hackers trying to get sensitive data through phishing or malware.

Phishing is internet fraud, and means that a hacker is trying to get sensitive information. It’s good practice to keep yourself and your staff up-to-date on recent phishing methods. Examples of phishing include calls and emails where someone is pretending to be working for your bank or Cloud company, and they ask for your password. Legitimate companies will never ask for your password on the phone or email, so don’t give it!

Another way hackers can get your security details is by pop-ups, websites or emails with malicious software. They want you to click on a link or open an attachment, that will then download a virus or malware on your device. It’s important to be aware that reliable companies usually don’t send attachments. If you don’t quite trust an email or website – don’t click on a link or download something from it. Install anti-malware and anti-virus software from a reputable source to avoid your computer, laptop or phone getting infected.

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