Making the decision to move your business to the cloud can be a scary one. Sure, the cloud is a widely used tool for the majority of businesses, but even Internet giants like Twitter, Amazon, and Spotify have had downages. Most recently, Amazon’s Alexa (the voice-controlled digital assistant sold by Amazon) had a major outage on March 2, 2018. It is important to note, too, that while the major data centers that host the cloud have unrivaled security and reliability, they aren’t 100% infallible.
But, with the way technology is evolving, the cloud may soon be unavoidable. It’s important to be prepared and to have a conversation with your IT support team to know just what the cloud is, and how it can impact your business (in both positive and negative ways).
First things first - definitions.The cloud is really just a network of computers that store massive amounts of data and are accessible at a moment’s notice. These networks are housed in acres of warehouses called data centers which are physically secured from both natural and human disasters. In addition to that, the owners of these data centers (most notably Google and Amazon) have more than one location (so if one gets hit by a tornado, for example, the others still hold copies of your data). This data is then accessible anytime, anywhere.
Now that you know what the cloud is, we can discuss the pros and cons of using it.
While there are many benefits to the cloud, here are the three major advantages:
- Flexibility. Scaling up or down can be done without major investment or leaving excess capacity idle. It also enables your entire workforce to get more done, where and when they need to.
- Collaboration. With data and software in a shared cloud environment, staff can collaborate from anywhere. Everything from HR to accounting, and from operations to sales and customer relations, can be managed from diverse and mobile environments, giving your team greater power to collaborate effectively.
- Disaster Recovery. Typically, data stored in the cloud can be easily retrieved in the event of a disaster. It also augments local backup and recovery systems, adding protective redundancy.
The pros sound good, right? Unfortunately, everything has a downside. By putting your business’ data in the cloud, you could leave yourself more vulnerable to a cyber attack. Because you spread your data outside of your physical office space, you increase your company’s potential for attack. More hackers could potentially find and steal your data simply because it exists in more places.
The good news is that these cons can be addressed by simply staying educated and following some best practices:
- Social Engineering Awareness. Whether you go cloud or local, the weakest link in your network is not in your equipment or software; it’s in the people who use them. Cybercriminals are aware of this fact. And you can count on them to come up with an endless variety of ways to exploit it. One day it’s a phone call ostensibly from your IT department requesting sensitive data, the next it’s an e-mail that looks official but contains malicious links. Make sure your employees are aware of and trained to deal with these vulnerabilities.
- Password Security and Activity Monitoring. Maintaining login security is absolutely critical anytime you’re in a cloud environment. Train your staff in how to create secure passwords and implement two-factor authentication whenever possible. Take advantage of monitoring tools that can alert you to suspicious logins, unauthorized file transfers, and other potentially damaging activity.
- Anti-Malware/Antivirus Solutions. Malicious software allows criminals to obtain user data, security credentials and sensitive information without the knowledge of the user. Not only that, some purported anti-malware software on the market is actually malware in disguise. Keep verifiable anti-malware software in place throughout your network at all times, and train your employees in how to work with it.