Why Cloud Security is Essential for Keeping your Business Safe
By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly!-- AddToAny BEGIN -->
Cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular with businesses. By hosting your business data and software on remote, offsite server, you and your employees can access company data and virtual software from anywhere and from a wide range of devices. This gives your business incredible flexibility, and ensures that your data is safe from the kind of catastrophes (e.g. fire, floods) that can wipe out a single, onsite server. But with that convenience comes specific security risks. Let's take a look at some of the biggest security threats associated with cloud computing, and what you can do to mitigate them.
First, by adopting a cloud service you're handing over your company's most valuable data to a third party. You are essentially giving up control of the management and security of that data. While reputable cloud service providers take security very seriously and have great track records, you are still enabling third party access. Should the cloud service provider make a mistake, or should one of its employees want to sell or otherwise use your data maliciously, your business could be affected.
Secondly, by allowing access to a cloud platform from multiple remote users across a variety of mobile devices, businesses are entrusting their security to much greater number of access portals than was done in the days of traditional computing. With traditional computing, authorized employees could only access company data from onsite, office computers. With cloud computing, authorized employees have access to your company data and software remotely. This means they can access it from computers and usually from mobile devices, like Tablets and phones. This means that mobile devices and offsite computers are potential access points. Unless their employees are following strict security protocols, like keeping their devices locked down and using strong passwords, all of their devices are in essence potential security risks. In addition, there is a risk that disgruntled employees may act maliciously. They may sell your data to a competitor or sabotage your data.
Finally, as with all internet networks, cloud platforms face the threat of viruses and malware. With a greater number of access points comes a greater risk of infection.
Do your research carefully before choosing a cloud platform provider. Make sure they have a solid reputation in security management, including protection from viruses and malware. Make sure they allow independent audits of their security systems. There should be a plan, negotiated between your business and the service provider, to address any security breaches. Most cloud service providers have excellent security systems, so by doing good research and choosing a good company you can go a long way in protecting your business.
You may also consider using a data encryption service, such as CipherCloud, a company from San Jose, Ca. CipherCloud's platforms encrypt data before it's sent into the cloud. That data can only be decrypted by authorized users who hold localized keys, which are never shared with the cloud provider. Prices can be negotiated with the vendor. There are also plenty of other security options available, and a simple Google search is a great place to start.
In addition to encrypting your data, mobile security solutions should be adopted. BES, a popular security suite from Blackberry, is an example of a product that can be installed on all mobile devices (including employee-owned devices in BYOD models) and forces employees to comply with company login policies (such as strong passwords). It costs between $3 and $25 per user per month, depending on the package you choose.
Finally, screen your employees well and train them in using strong cyber security practices, such as scrutinizing suspicious emails, locking devices, using strong passwords and changing those passwords on a regular basis. When employees leave your company, make sure to terminate their cloud access immediately. These days, more and more mobile devices are offering fingerprint and iris scanning as security measures. It's not a bad idea to limit the selection of acceptable devices to one that offers these features, even if your business has a general BYOD model. It's becoming more common to do this, not only for security reasons, but because it's easier for IT staff to support a limited number of familiar devices.
If you do your research, choose a good cloud provider and implement strong security policies with your staff, you should be able to minimize the risks of operating in the cloud. And with the benefits of cloud platforms, such as greater flexibility, productivity and reduced hardware and IT support costs, it could well be worth it.
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