Balancing the convenience and cost-effectiveness of cloud computing with the very real security concerns that arise from giving a third-party provider control of sensitive data can be tricky, to say the least. Obviously, the possibility of unauthorized breaches is heightened when data is hosted off-premises. Because once information has been transferred to an outside service provider, the owner forfeits absolute control of where the data is stored and who has access to it, right?
In fact, businesses can enjoy all the benefits of cloud computing along with acceptable security protocols—it just takes a little planning before committing to a service provider. Like all decisions, choosing a service provider requires some research. It mainly involves asking a few right questions and ensuring that the provider can fulfill any specific security needs.
Re-thinking Data Protection
The foundational premise of cloud computing is that data is hosted at a remote location, so naturally, it is understood that the same provider co-hosts data of multiple clients. This means, however, that possible breaches in one of the other client’s environments could compromise the security of all data stored with the service provider.
Moreover, the danger isn’t limited to that. As the location is controlled by the service provider, security threats could occur through unauthorized connections, malware, or some other scurrilous attack. So it’s crucial to re-think cloud authentication and/or the authorization apparatus in place before choosing a provider.
The best protection against these types of threats is achieved by partnering with a service provider who enforces proper segmentation (firewalls and physical separations) in the infrastructure of the hardware where the data is stored. Choose a provider who not only has actionable policies about data protection and authentication in place, but also uses applicable encryption software to ensure information security.
Data ownership should be a clear-cut issue, but often it isn’t. So the first rule of thumb is making sure that the service provider selected conforms to the specific terms and conditions regarding information ownership.
Be careful—some providers offer hosting options that might seem too good to be true because the fine print allows them to mine the data while managing it. Perhaps they do so with legitimate marketing intentions, and perhaps the goal is an additional source of revenue. But in any case, it is vital that the ownership conditions of the contract be understood fully before the data transfer takes place.
Another potential problem with cloud security occurs because of the global nature of the technology. The copyright and ownership laws that concern data created in one country may not be identical to the country where the data is hosted. This type of trans-global origin generates all sorts of legal issues, from compliance procedures to auditing requirements. So, become well-acquainted with how a prospective provider addresses legalities arising from hosting locations before finalizing a contract.
Essentially, even if a business stores its data on its own premises with expensive servers and all the maintenance that it entails, the information is still vulnerable to internal corruption. Making the shift to cloud computing just moves the danger from one location to another—the main benefit is its cost-saving advantages.
Also, as the cloud technology expands to include a variety of “as a Service” options, more and more providers are offering and delivering cloud platforms that fully address and resolve these types of security concerns.
Nevertheless, since impenetrable information simply cannot exist in today’s global environment, no provider can guarantee absolute data integrity in the cloud. But with a little research, businesses can find qualified service providers who are able to mitigate the risks, thus allowing them to balance the convenience of cloud computing with specific security needs.