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Is your business’s data safe in the cloud?

From individuals simply wishing to back up their personal files to employees who work remotely and use the cloud to store data on services like Dropbox and Google Drive, cloud computing is revolutionising the way we access data.
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Whilst many small businesses may not be highly tech-focused, storing important data is something all businesses are concerned with. A lack of understanding of the cloud from your business’ management can put this data at risk. To prevent this, employers can turn to enterprise versions of cloud based sharing services.

With the help of a few cloud computing experts, I hope to layout the precautions your business must take if it’s to safely store in the cloud. 

Kenneth Leeser, president of security at resource management company Kaliber, says: “It has recently been shown that government organizations can break encryption. So who do we want to keep our data safe from? Competitors, or prying eyes? In these cases common, secure cloud practices are adequate.

“When we want to protect ourselves from organized crime teams that seek to harvest credit card information or health information, common, secure cloud practices might not be safe enough. A highly motivated criminal organization can probably break the passwords which are the main defence.

“Sharing data by using secure sites which encrypt the data, in transit and when it is stored, is relatively safe. Using encrypted email is relatively safe too. In fact, in my opinion, these tools are safer than most people’s current practices of sending open emails and storing data on unencrypted computers and laptops. 

“In my mind, the best tip I have to secure your data revolves around password construction. The longer the password is (preferably 12 characters) and the less it resembles a word or phrase (even by substituting characters or numbers) the stronger it is. Because of new decryption algorithms, M@ry!h@D*@litleL@mB is no longer a secure password. Xd23#(48KS^^ is much better.”

Jonathan Thompson from Rook Consulting specialises in reducing companies’ IT risks, and sees quality of service provider as key to the cloud’s security.

He says: “Data shared and stored in the cloud can be safe but it depends on the cloud provider. Sharing data through the cloud is actually safer than on the average user’s home PC. For example, cloud service providers such as Google invest millions of dollars in security and have huge teams behind them to support safety in data sharing and storage. 

“Users should be sure to check to see if the cloud service (app) they want to use has a SSAE 16 certification (compliance speak meaning that they are more secure than the average provider). They can look for this on the service (app’s) web site. 

“Unfortunately, some don’t make it easy to find, so you should search for the website in Google and the term SSAE16 to find the easiest link. Users should also make sure that the cloud service has a privacy policy (generally at the bottom of a web page)… and read it. This is their commitment to you on how they will use your data.”

Mac McMillan, CEO of CynergisTek.inc concurs that there must be a certain level of responsibility within your business of how best to use the cloud you’ve been provided:
”Like any technology, it’s as safe as the platform providing the transport and the steps you take to secure the data for transport. So short the short answer is: it can be.

“The problem is that it often isn’t secured and organizations don’t do a thorough job of due diligence with respect to their cloud vendor to understand where they might need to augment their security.

“The HIMSS Cloud Security Workgroup has a good checklist for this. There are also other sources of good checklists on cloud security you can use to perform the necessary diligence that I recommend.”

Philip Whitchelo, vice president of strategy at More Than A VDR has learned that corporate file sharing is too important a matter to be left to the freebie services on the web. 

“Always choose a trustworthy premium cloud vendor that encrypts the data with strong user authentication. The temptation may be to try and do this on the cheap, but ultimately you get what you pay for. Large service providers have far more robust defences and you’ll save yourself a great deal of heartache in the future.

“If you can’t budget for the premium vendors then the cloud probably isn’t the best option for your business right now. However, cloud computing is set to become a more affordable option in the future as low-power processors become more commonplace.”

Ultimately, if you have the budget, the need and some basic logic, then cloud computing may be the answer for your growing business’ data needs.

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