These days, more and more businesses of all sizes are moving their data and a lot of their digital operations into the cloud. Cloud hosting firms, from the largest industry players like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, on down to small regional or local operators, are becoming the main protectors of corporate and personal data.
While there are a lot of perks of this move to storage and infrastructure being remote, with the “as a service” mentality, there are also a number of risks. Some of the risks are overblown, and really not a major consideration. Others are entirely valid. Still, others are hidden and often overlooked – perhaps with devastating security consequences. We’ll look at all of these, and separate fact from fiction when it comes to the risks of storing your business data in the cloud.
Perceived Risks That Are Overblown
There are two main risks that often come up when discussing moving business data and operations to the cloud – security, and the risk of data loss. In our opinion, both of these are overblown concerns – if anything, most rational experts have demonstrated that, rather than being risks, these two elements are actually improved with cloud hosting, actually being rewards of moving to a cloud data hosting service!
The first of these risks, security, is a complex issue. Generally, in the context of cloud hosting, people are worried about their data remaining uncompromised by hackers, confidential and untainted by cloud host employees, and inaccessible by others who may use the same cloud hosting servers. Reliable cloud hosting providers have figured out how to deal with these challenges, however. They know they’d lose all business if data was compromised, either by hackers, inside employees, or by leakage between clients. Robust security protocols are used, and most top-tier hosting solutions have a team monitoring incoming and outgoing connections, using firewalls and other tools to keep all their hosted data secure. It’s in their best interest to ensure you are a satisfied customer, because a single data breach incident would likely end their business.
In terms of data loss risk, this is also not really a genuine concern with cloud hosting providers. Your data is, in fact, more redundantly backed up in most cases than in your own in-house operations. Major cloud hosting providers have multiple server farm locations, and often have multiple storage solutions in each location running redundant, real-time mirrors of data. Off-site backup services have been popular for many years, and cloud hosting providers basically provide this as a normal part of their functional service. So neither the security nor data loss risks are serious, provided you’re using a reputable, quality cloud hosting provider for your business data.
Genuine Risks to Consider
Of course, that is not to say there are no risks associated with cloud hosting. There is, in fact, a big one, that has been growing increasingly problematic for many companies, and is worth understanding prior to signing any kind of cloud hosting contracts. Turning your data over to a third-party company can be a scary prospect for IT and managerial types who like to retain full control, and with good reason. Often, it can be very difficult to get your data OUT of a cloud hosting solution if you wish to change providers, bring it back in-house, or make any modifications that otherwise take business away from your current provider. This is, of course, done by design, to discourage customers from moving to another provider. Both technical complications and financial penalties may apply with many cloud hosting providers if you wish to remove your data, and it can be a laborious and difficult process.
So, it’s important to ensure that your procurement and legal departments, along with IT subject matter experts, thoroughly vet the chosen cloud hosting provider. Reviewing contracts, terms, and conditions, and negotiating on penalty clauses, inserting mechanisms to ensure you can get your data out in a relatively low-cost and hassle-free fashion, and other similar efforts are recommended. You can also avoid some of these kinds of problems, reducing the risk further, by not putting all of your data operations with a single cloud hosting provider. Just be sure you divvy up data and applications logically, so things that need to work together are with the same host, otherwise, you lose a lot of the benefits of cloud hosting.
A Hidden Risk
There’s a big hidden risk, lurking just below the surface, that is often neglected in discussions of cloud hosting data. Specifically, that is the risk to your data during the myriad of transit operations between end users and the cloud host. Contrary to when you are running a closed-network data center in-house, cloud hosting means near constant data flow to and from the remote host from your employees, often over open, unsecured internet protocol connections.
Some providers offer security packages with multi-factor authentication for ultra-secure data, or use some form of dedicated data tunneling, but this can cost a lot extra, and may not be an option for many businesses – especially small and medium-sized businesses, who can neither afford nor negotiate these kinds of protections in place. So what can be done?
How to Deal with Hidden Risk
The easiest and most inexpensive solution may be using a third-party VPN service. For a very low monthly cost, VPN services can ensure data transfer between users and the VPN server is an entirely encrypted process, using military and bank-grade encryption that cannot be broken by brute force. Coupled with other passive security benefits that VPNs offer, such as protecting actual IP addresses, and rendering government and ISP censors blind to the content of your transmissions, VPNs can be a great solution. They are also easy to use – once signed up, you just have your employees activate a client or app when they are using network services, usually left in an always-on mode in the background. That’s all there is to it!
There are a lot of VPN providers out there, however, so it’s important to look into which may be best for your particular business needs. One provider worth looking at is PrivateVPN – they offer a number of useful services for Internet security and privacy as part of their VPN package. Regardless of which VPN service you choose, they are cost-effective, simple solutions to help combat the real, hidden risks associated with moving your business data to the cloud.