Cloud computing is becoming more popular with every passing day. So popular, in fact, that Gartner—one of the world’s leading technology research and advisory firms—predicts that cloud computing will make up the majority of IT budgets as early as 2016.
“The Cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet, so cloud computing simply means Internet-based computing. It’s an online alternative to storing, managing, and retrieving data that has traditionally been kept on a computer’s hard drive or a local server.
So what’s driving this shift toward the cloud? And what are the security concerns?
The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud
Accessibility. Because you can access data stored on the cloud from all over the world, users can share and collaborate regardless of whether they’re traveling employees or outsourced staff.
Cost Efficiency. By migrating their data to the cloud, businesses no longer face the time-and money-consuming task of building and managing their own infrastructure. Instead of dealing with massive cost outlays on software and hardware, companies can shift that responsibility to their cloud provider, often for a fraction of the cost.
Flexibility. Another major benefit is flexibility. Cloud services can be purchased on demand under a pay-as-you-go format, so businesses are able to increase or decrease the level of services they require at any given time. This means that companies can scale quickly without having to make massive infrastructure investments.
Recovery. Organizations using cloud-based computing no longer need to rely on their own elaborate and costly disaster-recovery plans. Studies show that companies who use cloud service providers are able to recover from issues almost four times faster than those who don’t.
Maintenance. A UK study revealed that businesses spend 18 out of 30 days on average just managing on-site security issues. Cloud service providers take care of server maintenance, software updates, and security monitoring for you.
What About Security Concerns?
For many years, people viewed the term “secure cloud computing” the same way they viewed “jumbo shrimp”—a glaring contradiction. Putting sensitive information online, not to mention under the administration of a third-party provider, seemed unwise.
As cloud computing has become more widespread, concerns about security have abated. However, while the advantages of cloud computing are certainly attractive, it is still wise to proceed with caution. Cloud networks are, by nature, more accessible to hackers, and like any other type of security, must be continually updated and improved. This type of network also tends to be more complex than a standard IT setup, which raises the level of difficulty in terms of providing comprehensive security.
Yet as this technology has matured, new approaches have been developed to help mitigate cloud vulnerabilities. Most cloud providers also use regular, rigorous testing protocols to ensure security standards are being met.
Security Measures to Keep Your Data Safe in the Cloud
While the notion of putting sensitive information in the cloud may still give one pause, it’s important to remember that no system is entirely safe from security threats. Today’s networks employ a variety of tools to enhance data security.By taking full advantage of them, businesses can significantly minimize the risk of any exposure.
Two-step password verification. Research has shown that up to 90 percent of user-created passwords are vulnerable to hacking. Most cloud storage services offer two-step verification, the second step being an email or text, so in the event that a hacker is able to decipher your password, they won’t be able to do anything without the second step. Though some users may find the process a bit tedious, the extra few seconds it takes to punch in a code is well worth the peace of mind.
Encrypted files. Encryption is another key element of cloud protection, especially for the most sensitive data. Good encryption software adds another strong layer of protection to your data before sending it to the cloud. Those who require an even stronger shield can opt for a cloud service provider that offers encryption in addition to storage.
Regularly delete old data. Businesses should consider deleting data that no longer serves a purpose. Given today’s abundance of low-cost storage, vigorous deletion may not seem like a priority. But the longer the (digital) paper trail, the greater the odds of sensitive information being accessed.
Install anti-virus software. You should have this software already installed on your computers. If you haven’t, definitely do so before reverting to cloud storage. Anti-virus and anti-malware software prevents malicious software programs like keyloggers and Trojans from hacking your system.
Don’t forget about smartphone security. People love the convenience of their smartphones and other mobile devices. Just keep in mind to never save passwords or other sensitive information on your phone. Set up a PIN number to maximize security.
Where once the idea of storing potentially sensitive information in the cloud once seemed radical and possibly ill-advised, today such a move is viewed as far more routine and efficient. As with any major business decision, it’s wise to weigh the potential risks against the advantages of using a cloud provider. Hackers are always developing new ways to steal information, so as long as you follow strict security rules, your data has a good chance of remaining safe.