30 January 2014
Data is arguably the most important asset for any business.
Over the next few years organisations will continue to expand. Global offices are already the norm for large companies. The rise in remote working also means a surge in the demand for easy access to the business's documents.
Personal cloud storage has been around since the early 2000s. It was in 2006 when Amazon launched the first widely accessible cloud computing infrastructure service. Its evolution continued with the development of browser-based enterprise applications.
Businesses are now able to store documents and data easily, while making everything accessible to anyone across the world with access.
Unlike some technology trends, which come and go quickly, the cloud services market will continue to grow over the next 18 months as more organisations embrace them.
A large proportion of businesses have already realised the benefits of cloud computing. Two of the most popular services are Dropbox and Google Drive, both of which offer a business service in addition to personal accounts. But with free cloud-based solutions, factors such as reliability, encryption and security need to be considered.
Free or unlimited cloud storage offers can become disputable because it's possible that files can become corrupted or unavailable.
Consequently, organisations are increasingly willing to invest in a paid cloud storage service to ensure that their data is protected. The cloud is a virtual network, but providers are able to store data within highly resilient data centres, making it a more secure option than storing it on site.
Understandably, businesses will have initial concerns over storing data in an intangible space. But stringent security measures ensure that a cloud solution is probably more secure than storing data in an on-site server or desktop. Ultimately, providers are able to invest far more in security than average businesses can, enabling them to act as safe houses for the data.
Although trust in cloud-based platforms is increasing and anxieties are diminishing, the myth still persists that the service has certain security flaws.
There is a belief among some consumers that firewalls are incompatible with cloud solutions, but this isn't the case. They act as the most obvious form of security. Providers often adopt a layered approach in terms of security, in particular, physical security. Highly tiered data centres that feature rigorous access control procedures and sophisticated surveillance systems are often used to ensure sensitive information is kept safe.
Another myth about cloud security is that other customers using the service have access to your data whenever they like. Data is actually segregated and storing it in the cloud is no more dangerous than housing it within on-site premises.
Decipher the message
When securing data stored on a cloud platform it is important that an organisation encrypts its sensitive information, especially considering that hacking is prevalent in the modern business environment. To ensure that the data is kept private, it needs to be encrypted in flight over the internet, while in use and while in being kept in storage.
Businesses need to establish whether their cloud service providers will encrypt the data and text for them, or whether they are expected to do it themselves. Encryption software will increase the number of steps for the end user to access the data; they will need the software and the correct decryption key to read the secured documents. Retaining control of encryption keys will ensure that the business is still in control, even when data has left its building.
In addition, to prevent the risk of infringing any data protection laws, it is also worthwhile opting for a provider that only owns data centres domiciled within the UK.
Despite the cautious steps business is taking, it's important to remember that it isn't essential for companies to encrypt all their data - just the most important or most sensitive material.
Jon Arnold, enterprise sales director at Daisy Group