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How to protect your business when you’re working on the cloud

The benefits of cloud computing are numerous – and on-going developments in the technology are making accessing these benefits ever-easier, whether you’re a huge corporation or a fresh out of the blocks start-up.

However, your IT infrastructure contains one of the most sensitive parts of your business – your data – and questions are repeatedly asked about whether or not the cloud can guarantee this data’s safety. We’ll walk you through the areas that can represent a vulnerability – and explain in a little detail what your organisation might be able to do to mitigate those risks.

Do your homework

Not all cloud storage provider’s policies are the same – and variations in what constitutes a business-class level of security vary from country to country.

Try to see beyond unquantifiable claims that companies use ‘bank level security’ and such like, these terms actually mean very little compared to the nuts and bolts facts that you should expect them to lay out in their terms, conditions and service agreements.

It’s worth comparing providers and understanding what each level of security they claim actually means and what the requirements of their hosting country are – and how they relate to your own. It takes more than bravado to keep your business safe.

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Don’t leave passwords to chance

Most of the ‘hacking’ stories that we see in the news don’t have anything really to do with sophisticated hacking as such, instead, fairly basic programs and methods are run that exploit weaknesses in people’s password creation habits.

So, when we hear about Apple’s iCloud service being ‘hacked’ – the truth is that their security infrastructure hasn’t been compromised, just that poorly thought-through passwords have been taken advantage of.

Humans represent a point of weakness in any IT system. Implement a strong password policy and you remove this vulnerability to the best of your ability.

Vet connected devices

If you’re throwing the doors to your cloud storage open to your workforce then you need to be sure that the devices they’re using to access it are suitably safe – i.e. free from the kind of malware that can exploit channels of data access.

If you’re a large organisation, especially one with multiple sites, you might find this difficult without dedicated IT staff at each site – however, as the popularity of SD WAN solutions increases, the need for on-site access to devices and network infrastructure decreases – making the application of network-wide security more conveniently maintained.

Limit access

You’ll notice we used the phrase ‘throwing the doors to your cloud storage open’ when we talked about vetting devices that have access to your cloud storage – and, while this might sound like a clumsy term, it’s actually frighteningly representative of how many companies manage their access control.

It’s vital that access to data is done on a ‘need to know’ basis, with applications and file storage defined accordingly. Unabridged access to data should be viewed in the same way as a member of the staff team walking into your director’s office and rifling through the drawers.

It’s also worth extending this analogy to the use of freelance contractors too – and most of your cloud-based applications should have defined levels of access for you to implement.

Back up

Despite what the often-sensationalist press would like you to believe, ‘hackers’ represent a very small threat to your data when compared to issues that result in data loss.

In fact, the vast majority of cloud-based data security issues in 2017 stemmed from loss, rather than malicious intent. So, how do you mitigate against loss? The answer is backing up – and while you probably thought the reduced need for backups is what you were paying for when you opted for cloud storage, it’s worth rethinking this.

The benefits of the cloud are vast – and frankly, a reduced need for backing up isn’t high on that benefits list. If you’re handling data that you simply cannot afford to lose, then back it up in a more traditional manner too.

Be clear with BYOD behaviour

An increasing number of businesses operate a ‘bring your own device’ policy – and it’s a great way of keeping your staff comfortable, as well as clearly reducing hardware costs.

That said, any blurring of the lines between business and pleasure can represent a problem, even for the most well-meaning employee. Every device that accesses your network and cloud storage should have at least the same level of security as the devices that live in your office; mobile phones and tablets very much included.

BYOD workplaces also need to make it very clear what can and cannot leave the office. While access control might make this less of a problem, even high-level employees can have their laptops stolen – and that single step could make your cloud security as easily breached as picking a laptop bag up off a train seat.

Implement encryption solutions

For the ultimate in ‘belt and braces’ approach you should consider encryption of your data as it’s transmitted to and from your cloud storage. Now, this level of security does extend beyond what’s expected – even from the most stringent data protection guidelines – but, if your company’s well-being relies on it, then it’s never a step too far.

Operate alternatives

Here’s a fact:

When you hand your most important or sensitive data over to someone else you bestow upon them the ability to severely damage your business should they drop the ball. Now, ‘dropping the ball’ is something you’re unlikely to see from the likes of Microsoft or Google – but do smaller organisations miss from time to time?

They do – and they’ll continue to do so, simply because no cloud storage service is completely fail-proof.

If you hold data that simply cannot fall into the wrong hands, then consider a more robust storage solution on your business site. Cloud storage has some marked benefits – but if security is your number one priority, then rolling out a solution that’s security focused is the only way to go.

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