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Are We Really Safer in the Clouds?

Cloud storage is a current hot topic. Essentially, it provides the means through which everything from computing power to applications and data storage can be delivered remotely by third party providers. This means you can use software and hardware via the internet without needing to possess it yourself.

The computing power, functions and data are scaled up or down based on user demand. It becomes a utility. Like using gas or electricity, you pay a certain amount for the basic service and costs are then linked to how much you actually consume.

Privacy and security is always an issue and can be even more important for businesses. Accounts, contact lists and other sensitive data could all cause serious potential problems if compromised.

If a business makes use of fully comprehensive online accounting, data storage or any other cloud-based services, it’s imperative that the company uses a reputable third party provider and adopt safe practices, just as in any other situation.

A host of companies both great and small are now using cloud storage and cloud computing. Google and Amazon, for example, both now have most of their IT resources in the cloud. You might think, ‘If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us’ but is the cloud really safe for the average small business or do we have our heads in the, well…clouds?

As with any choice, there are pros and cons to working in the cloud. There are, however, a number of steps you can take to help protect yourself and make an informed choice.

When choosing a provider, you should always ask where the data will be stored (if it’s within the EU you’ll be protected by data protection rules that can vary elsewhere) and who in the supplier’s organization will have access to stored data.

All data should be effectively encrypted and Dave Anderson, Director of Strategy at Voltage Security, suggests that you should also encrypt data at the point of creation, before it is even sent to the cloud. Passwords can also be an issue. Easily guessable passwords such as ’123456′ are still common even on a corporate level.

Storing data in the cloud does have some benefits over storing on servers in-house. In the case of a physical break-in, thieves would be faced with banks of thousands of identical machines, code labelled so that it would be extremely difficult to locate a server with specific pieces of data.

The scale of a cloud service provider can also have benefits. Security skill and experience can be prohibitively expensive to bring it within a small business, but the scale and nature of a dedicated cloud provider means it’s in their own best interests to ensure they are secure and well-prepared.

Cloud computing and data storage is not impregnable. Like any other means of data storage there are risks involved, but following best practices can help minimise the risk of your data being compromised.