Businesses all over the world are transitioning to cloud-hosted apps for the majority of their software needs. Cloud apps have a ton of advantages; instead of relying on data hosted locally, they offer data from the cloud, so they can be accessed from practically any device with an internet connection. Not only does this make your workers more productive and allow for more flexible work arrangements, it can also keep your data more secure, if it’s hosted and stored properly.
But is switching to a cloud app enough to keep your data secure?
Deconstructing the Cloud
The “cloud” is a somewhat misleading term. Obviously, there isn’t a literal cloud, and your data isn’t hovering in the air. Instead, your data is stored the way it would be on a local server—on physical hard drives. The only difference is that your data will be stored and served using third-party servers, accessible with an internet connection.
Big companies with major data centers can store and serve data more efficiently (and sometimes more securely) than you can, which is why the concept is so advantageous to small business owners.
Of course, there are some tradeoffs to relying on cloud-hosted apps. You’ll forgo some degree of control over how your data is stored. However, you may be able to use secondary systems to make up for any weaknesses of cloud-hosted platforms; for example, you can implement additional layers of security for use in conjunction with services like Google Cloud web apps. This is important, because as you see, not all cloud services will provide you with adequate protection on their own.
The Potential Vulnerabilities of Cloud Platforms
Let’s assume you’re using a cloud-hosted service to store your business’s data in one way or another. You’ll want these data to remain secure no matter what, but naturally, there will be multiple points of vulnerability to think about. A breach of any of these vulnerabilities could lead to the theft or loss of data:
- Server failures. First, it’s possible that your data could be corrupted or lost due to server failures, natural disasters, or other incidents. This is highly unlikely with high-profile cloud service providers, since they pride themselves on having multiple backups across several physical locations. However, it’s still a point of vulnerability, and it’s important to learn how your cloud provider of choice is storing your data.
- A direct attack or breach. Data breaches and malicious attacks are becoming an increasingly popular threat, with the costs of such breaches increasing along with their frequency. An intentional attack on cloud-hosted servers could result in practically endless data plundering. Again, this is a significant variable; many cloud providers are well-defended against these attacks, while others are less so.
- Inherent system flaws. Bad API connections and other security flaws could easily be exploited by a third party, resulting in data loss before your information even reaches the server. Oftentimes, these go unnoticed until it’s already too late.
- A compromised account. Of course, not every flaw is tied to the server. All it takes is one breached or compromised account on your end for someone to gain access to all your company’s data. This could be due to a phishing scheme, a weak (and easily guessable) password, or a malicious employee selling access to your account.
- Internal theft. A disgruntled or greedy employee could also gain access to your data from within, assuming they have access to your cloud account. Don’t underestimate the potential damage here.
As you can see, some of these points of vulnerability will exist no matter where you store your data; threats like internal theft will always exist. Many provider-specific vulnerabilities will also always exist, but can be mitigated by choosing the best providers in your chosen niche.
What takeaways should business owners get from this?
- Your security depends on the integrity of the provider. Not all cloud providers are alike. Some will have more robust, better-protected servers than others, and will be better able to keep your data secure.
- Third-party security layers can improve your protection. No matter what, you can always improve your security by making use of third-party services that provide additional layers of protection for your accounts.
- Good internal security practices are always a must. Regardless of whether you are or aren’t relying on cloud-hosted apps, you need to keep your internal security in top form. Keep your employees well-trained and educated on best practices.
Using cloud apps to store or manage your data is usually a good thing, but they aren’t going to protect your data perfectly or automatically. Do your research in advance, and choose the most reliable platforms you can, then employ additional security measures to keep your data as secure as possible.