Is Cloud Storage Safe?
The Cloud is becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to store data and applications, and for good reason. Affordable, convenient, and endlessly scalable, it can be a key ally in facilitating growth and reining in overhead costs.
As with all technologies, the Cloud has both strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it comes to data security. However, there are also many misconceptions about how it works and where the true risks lie. In order to make an informed decision, it’s important to separate the genuine concerns from the easily manageable issues.
What Are the Risks of Offsite Data Storage?
The biggest source of anxiety when moving data to the Cloud is often caused by the loss of physical access to your organization’s servers and data storage. Part of this is purely psychological—after all, there’s very little that can be done on-site to stop a serious data breach that can’t be done remotely.
One real area of concern has to do with emergency preparedness. When storing your data on-site, you are free to develop your own disaster relief protocol to ensure you stay running in an emergency. With the Cloud, you’re dependent on the strength of the facilities and policies of your service provider. For peace of mind, make sure your Cloud storage provider has formal policies in place for:
- Physical security—including access controls, video surveillance, and intrusion detection
- Climate and temperature—so the servers storing your valuable data aren’t exposed to excessive heat or humidity
- Fire suppression—including regular testing of smoke detection and sprinkler systems
- Power—to ensure your data will remain accessible even in the event of an outage
- Data redundancy—even if one server fails, your important information will be preserved
Most importantly, make sure you’re working with a company that guarantees a minimum level of uptime. Ultimately, your choice of a provider will protect you against the risks of off-site data storage. Take the time to shop around and find an organization you trust.
Data Security in the Cloud
Another important component of data governance in the Cloud deals with threats from hackers. Unlike physical threats such as fires, flood damage, etc., managing these safety concerns means you need to stay one step ahead of an enemy that can adapt their strategies to counter yours.
In the Cloud, the technical measures put in place by your provider are an important component of your overall security posture. Choose a company that gives you the option of encrypting your data during transmission. The best data centers will have obtained certification to PCI Level 1, ISO 27001, SAS 70 Type II and related standards. If you work in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare, make sure your supplier can meet HIPAA or other statutory requirements for data security.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
Even when storing data in the Cloud, there are measures you and your staff can take to reduce the risk of a hack or data breach. While every organization is different, some common cyber security best practices include:
- Being smart about passwords—Mandate that passwords meet certain requirements for length, complexity, and uniqueness, and that staff members change theirs regularly. Have staff undergo training on proper password management, and establish penalties for team members that share or otherwise compromise this important authentication measure. Especially when working in the Cloud, a strong password is your best line of defense against a cyber attack.
- Setting appropriate access controls—Use the principle of least privilege to ensure staff members have access only to the data and applications they need to do their job. Likewise, properly screening new employees and independent contractors is the best way to reduce the risk of a breach due to a malicious insider.
- Establishing clear BYOD policies—In the Cloud, your biggest vulnerability is the devices your staff use to access data. Restrict the use of open Wi-Fi networks and make sure staff members have appropriate settings and up-to-date security software in place when they use their own devices.
Cloud vs. On-Site Data Storage: Which Is Safer?
Storing your data in the Cloud isn’t inherently more or less risky than keeping your server onsite. It is, however, risky in different ways. Putting your trust in an off-site provider requires strong partnerships with organizations that know what they’re doing and stand behind their promises.
By choosing a Cloud storage provider that is committed to data security, and by implementing appropriate policy for your staff to follow, you can enjoy the benefits of the Cloud while properly mitigating the risks of a cyber attack. To find more about how eFileCabinet can help you, please fill out the form on this page to request a 15-minute, no-obligation demonstration of our services.
Moving to the Cloud: Tips and Strategy for CPAs
The accounting profession relies on accurate, immediate access to data—something that is easily facilitated by the Cloud. So why aren’t more CPAs taking advantage of this convenient, scalable technology?
In a September 2014 webinar hosted by Accounting Today, Samantha Mansfield, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Program Development at CPA.com, attempts to demystify the Cloud. She provided tax accountants with a basic overview of how to get started. To view the full presentation, check out the webinar here.
Asking the Right Questions
Mansfield begins her talk be referencing the leadership philosophy of Simon Sinek, an author and TED speaker best known for the idea of “Starting with Why.” For Mansfield, the fundamental question CPAs should be asking about the cloud isn’t “How do I use it?” but rather, “Why aren’t I using it?” She then proceeds to identify some of the most common concerns many CPAs have with implementing Cloud technologies. These issues include security issues, loss of control, and reliability of access to important data.
Moving forward, Mansfield suggests that the best way to address these concerns is to ask the right questions. When you educate yourself about Cloud security, it’s easier to make more effective choices when choosing a provider.
Benefits of the Cloud
Mansfield identifies the main benefit of the Cloud as its ability to make computing power available to businesses of all sizes. Similar to how the power grid brought electricity to the world in the early 20th century, the Cloud frees organizations from the expense and hassle of maintaining their own network infrastructure.
In this view, the Cloud is the future. As it becomes more widespread, early adopters will be better positioned to meet changing business priorities.
Making the Move: 7 Steps to Capitalizing on the Cloud
In perhaps the most useful part of the webinar, Mansfield goes through 7 key steps to making the most of the Cloud. This involves treating it not as a new technology, but as a new type of business model—one that starts at the level of data and service delivery and moves outward:
- Digitize existing documents so they can be shared and stored electronically. Make sure you complete this step in a way that simplifies workflows rather than complicates them.
- Provide a portal through which clients can access digitized data. To simplify the onboarding process, start with why—explain to clients why they should use your portal and what the benefits are to them.
- Think of potential uses for your Cloud platform. Some of the easiest to implement and most marketable include tax preparation and payroll. Adding Cloud-based client-side apps can help facilitate this.
- Develop a niche. Cloud platforms eliminate a lot of the tedium of data entry, which frees you and your team up to focus your expertise on a particular area.
- Use the Cloud to communicate. A strong social media presence helps you market your business and communicate with clients more effectively. Use tools such as LinkedIn to establish your firm as a thought leader in your particular area of expertise.
- Move your firm to the Cloud. With your documents, your clients, and your communications already in the Cloud, the next logical step is to move your firm there as well. This requires migrating your applications and giving staff the tools they need to work from anywhere.
- Manage remote staff. When staff members can work from anywhere, save the overhead of a physical location and move to a virtual office model.
Mansfield’s presentation takes you from the small scale to the big picture, focusing first on the technical considerations of moving to the cloud and then expanding to look at some of the ways technology can enable the continued growth and success of your organization.
To learn more about the role eFileCabinet can play in all this, fill out the form on this page to view a free, 15-minute demo of our services.