Although trusting something called the “cloud” to keep your data safe and accessible at any time may not seem reassuring, be aware that the most unsafe place to store information is actually a local computer. In fact, very few computers contain the rigorous, high quality components that cloud services offer, such as automatic testing and monitoring processes capable of initiating immediate alerts when deviations from the norm occur. Further, local computers do not provide the strong security that the cloud provides by implementing reinforced malware protection software and nearly impenetrable firewalls.
Unfortunately, many of us inadvertently compound the weaknesses in our local computers by using deficient backup, unsecured locations and poorly trained personnel to oversee the safe storage of vital information. While human and nature-made disasters can devastate a computer’s data storage center and severely limit access to substantial amounts of data, these adversities cannot affect the operation of the cloud since a cloud storage service is usually hosted at several, geographically separate data centers that remain untouched by human error or the destructive power of powerful weather event.
A variety of cloud storage systems exist that are specifically designed to store certain information, such as emails, pictures, videos or vast amounts of organizational data. Storing your information on a cloud provider involves transmitting files of what you want stored to the data server, which immediately records and secures whatever you send to it digitally. By accessing the data server via interface technology, you can retrieve, manipulate and view anything you have sent to the cloud server from any location, as long as you have some type of computer and an internet connection.
Securing your information is further enhanced by cloud systems relying on several hundred servers as a way to store your data. Storing multiple copies of the same information on numerous machines is referred to as redundancy. Unless the cloud implemented redundancy, it could not ensure the security or the immediate accessibility of client data at any time. In other words, if a power supply is restricted due to internal or external component failure, the person using that particular cloud service will still be able to gain access to their stored information.
Before outsourcing company functions that involve huge blocks of data to the cloud, verification of a cloud service’s integrity is highly recommended. A few things to look at before trusting your data with a provider include:
• Will your data be stored in a data center regulated by the Statement on Auditing Standards, Number 70, an American Institute of Certified Public Accountants auditing program?
• How long has the cloud service provider been operating and how many employees work for them?
• What is their record with handling security breaches, if any?
If you, as a client of the cloud service, wish to change providers or send your data an offline form of storage, how would you go about getting your information back from the provider? If the service is unable to deliver a clear and understandable explanation concerning the process of eliminating your information from their system if necessary, you probably shouldn’t be allowing them to manage your data.
File encryption also enhances the security of storing your data with a cloud service provider. When files are encrypted during the process of traveling between the servers and your computers, WiFi sniffers and hyperactive hackers can’t peek at your classified spreadsheets, employee information or other top secret data. In addition to being encrypted along the way, files can be further secured by providers that use AES-256 bit encryption and Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, after the files have been imported into the cloud.
Cloud storage providers continue to improve data security by diligently remaining up to the minute with the latest malware and hacker tools and by employing highly qualified IT specialists who constantly monitor the operations of cloud servers and data centers. While the idea of relocating irreplaceable and valuable information into something that cannot be touched or seen is daunting to some people, the fact is that cloud storage is one of the safest and most efficient methods for an organization to utilize in the smooth operation of their business.