Cloud storage has become an indispensable part of modern business. Yet despite the cost savings, ease-of-access, and reliable data backup it offers, some people still don’t trust the Cloud. Why not? And, do they have a point?

Why are people concerned about cloud security?

It comes down to control. When you upload files to a cloud, you aren’t saving them locally to an internal server. Instead, you’re sending potentially sensitive data to another company, one that could be hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and entrusting them to keep it safe. This might sound obvious, but for some businesses, this loss of direct control is a real concern.

Looking to better protect your business? Start by getting certified in Cyber Essentials, the UK government scheme that covers all the basics of cybersecurity. 

What are the risks?

Are businesses right to be worried about losing direct control of their data? What are the risks associated with using cloud storage?

Security

The big cloud providers – Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon – spend billions of dollars on their security each year and have some of the best defences around as a result. However, that doesn’t mean they’re infallible.

The most determined cybercriminals find a way around even the tightest defences, whether that’s through guessing security questions or cracking passwords. Even the biggest providers aren’t immune to these approaches as the infamous Apple iCloud hack of 2014 and 2019’s Facebook data breach revealed.

Alongside potential breaches of cloud providers’ infrastructure, there’s some risk involved in the process of just getting your data up into the cloud. For example, let’s say you’re using Google Docs as part of your cloud package. A hacker could potentially intercept your data as it moves between your device and the cloud. Provided you’re working with a reputable cloud provider it’s unlikely, but the risk remains.

Privacy

The other major cybersecurity risk involved in using the cloud is privacy. Even if your data isn’t stolen it could still be viewed both by employees of the cloud provider and government agencies. Governments can legally request data stored by cloud providers and it’s up to each company as to whether they comply.

Although you’ll often hear people trot out the old adage ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s nothing to worry about’, the possibility of sensitive documents being read by third parties is a valid concern. 

Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

So, do the risks of storing your data in the cloud outweigh the benefits?

In short, no. To illustrate why, ask yourself whether sensitive documents and information would be safer stored locally on company-owned servers or devices? Invariably, the answer is no. 

Consider the typical IT infrastructure within a small business. It’s often housed in the same building employees work and is accessible by anyone who works for the company. This not only makes the job of cybercriminals far easier but it also increases the likelihood of a data breach due to human error.

Now contrast that with a large cloud provider. Cloud servers are housed in huge, well-guarded data centres, often far off the beaten track and a long way from providers’ central offices and staff. What’s more, the data in those servers is usually protected with complex encryption, making hacking it extremely difficult.

As for privacy, it’s again worth asking yourself a couple of questions. Firstly, would your company object to a cloud provider’s staff viewing sensitive data for troubleshooting purposes? If the answer is ‘no’, then there is little to fear. Cloud providers generally won’t view the data they store for any other reason.

Secondly, were a government agency to request access to business data would you be likely to refuse? Again, if not, there’s little difference in privacy between storing your data onsite or in the cloud. 

The verdict 

The cloud isn’t perfect. It’s far from completely secure and it’s increasingly becoming the number one target for cybercriminals who realise this. However, it is by far the best data storage option available to businesses. 

It offers a level of security sophistication streets ahead of anything a small business could afford. It’s cost-effective, allowing you to store masses of data for very little money. And, it allows your people anytime, anywhere access to the files and applications they need.

Of course, if you are concerned about the security of your cloud storage, there are extra precautions you can take. Consider setting up encryption (more on which here), two-factor authentication and implementing a strict password policy for an extra layer of protection.

Looking to improve your cybersecurity but not sure where to begin? Start by getting certified in Cyber Essentials, the UK government scheme that covers all the fundamentals of cyber hygiene.

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