Small Business Security: Keeping Data Safe in the Cloud
By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly
If you're a small business owner, you've heard a lot about cloud computing in the last few years. You may even be thinking about taking your enterprise into the cloud right now.
Cloud computing, the process of storing data and running software applications offsite on remote servers, has taken off because it provides a high level of productivity and convenience.
Is Cloud Computing Safe?
The assumption that by putting your data in the cloud you're essentially "hanging it out to the wind" is a false one. In fact, in most cases, storing your data in the cloud is safer than storing it on local servers or in hard copy. Hard copies and local servers can be stolen during break-ins and local servers may be targeted by hackers just as cloud servers are. In fact, data stored in the cloud is less likely to be hacked than that stored locally because the security protocols used by reputable cloud providers are so good now. The very survival of a cloud platform as a business hinges on its ability to keep data safe. Take the case of Amazon Web Service (AWS), the world's largest cloud provider. AWS uses hundreds of security controls to keep client data safe, including data encryption. The platform serves over a million customers, including Amazon's giant retail operation.
Smaller providers also have robust security measures in place and the reputable ones have great track records in cloud security. Check out their reputations by doing internet research (look at each company's client base and testimonials, if available), reading trade journals or by talking to tech experts.
However, even a well-established cloud host is not invulnerable to risk. While cloud platforms have good security these days, there is still the possibility for a platform to be hacked. It's also possible that a rogue employee (working for the cloud provider) might want to steal your data. Further, poor security on your end (e.g. failure to secure devices with passwords) can lead to problems. With these thoughts in mind, let's look at what you can do to prevent a breach.
Your Role in Securing Your Data in the Cloud
- Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication systems are your first line of defense when it comes to security. All computers and mobile devices used in the business should be encrypted with complex passwords. For an extra layer of safety, consider adding a security question after the password login. This will make it more difficult for thieves to get at your data.
- Train your staff to beware of phishing attacks – emails or other communications which trick users into revealing security information like passwords. Phishing emails can often be identified through things like fake URLs in links, fake sender addresses and the fact that most businesses never request sensitive security information by email. Making your staff aware of these tell-tale signs can save you a lot of trouble.
- Many cloud platforms include login and activity monitoring tools as part of their security measures. If these tools are available, use them. Do regular checks to make sure that the login times actually conform with staff usage.
- In addition to phishing tactics, hackers also use malware (such as Trojans) to gain access to mobile devices and computers. To help prevent this, make sure that all your business devices are equipped with anti-malware software. Should you or a staff member inadvertently click on a bad link, anti-malware software will usually keep you safe.
- Finally, you should strongly consider encrypting your data on the cloud. Most reputable cloud providers include encryption as part of their security measures. Encryption ensures that any data that's accessed (even during a security breach) is unreadable and therefore useless to thieves. Some providers (like AWS) even allow business owners to hold the encryption keys so that even the cloud hosts themselves can't read the data that's stored there (thus preventing theft in a rogue employee scenario).
If these measures are taken, there's no reason not to consider moving your business to the cloud. Safety and convenience can be found there, along with a growing number of software solutions that can help you take your business to the next level.
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