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The days of digging through filing cabinets for important documents are fading as midsize companies increasingly adopt cloud services for data storage. On a global scale, 46 percent of business information is stored outside of firms’ own firewalls, according to a Symantec study.1
Provided your company takes the proper security precautions, moving your data to the cloud can add up to significant savings. A survey by Nucleus Research found that cloud applications delivered 1.7 times more return on investment than on-premise solutions, and companies using cloud services spent 25 percent less on support personnel.2
Cloud storage solutions move data outside of your network’s firewall, which could impose new security risks. To mitigate threats, make sure your cloud service encrypts all data.
“Check and see if [the service has] an encrypted key that can be stored on your own network that can give you an extra layer of security,” says Angela Mattia, Ph.D., assistant professor of decision sciences and information management at Jacksonville University in Florida.
For even more peace of mind, install a third-party application that can close any potential security gaps.
“One of the new tools is data loss prevention (DLP),” says Seth Robinson, senior director of technology analysis at the nonprofit IT industry trade association CompTIA. “There are tools that can attach themselves directly to the data and look for flags. You would get that DLP software from a separate security vendor and you would be in charge of installing [it] along with whatever application you would be putting into the cloud.”
Getting employees on board
Cloud services give employees greater flexibility by allowing them to access data remotely. To protect mobile-accessed information, you can set up a virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts data stored on the company’s server before it’s accessible through mobile devices.
While mobility allows for more efficiency, businesses should also adopt policies to secure data from within, such as a company-wide password policy.
“Passwords are no good if you put a sticky on your monitor with your password on it,” Mattia says. She recommends striking a balance between maximizing security measures and setting realistic policies for employees to follow. Requiring passwords to have about eight characters with a capital letter or special character—and to be changed every three months—is a good way to ensure your information is safe while not setting too high a hurdle for employees.
Continuing employee education
When migrating a large volume of business information to the cloud, a one-off data security seminar isn’t enough to help employees stay up to speed on best practices.
“A lot of companies are moving to different forms of education that is more ongoing and measurable,” Robinson says. “They’re able to track the results and see if it’s having an effect or not. Getting technology literacy, across the board, raised is something that companies need to be pursuing.”
Moving your business data to the cloud is an effective way to cut overhead costs, streamline communication and save on expenses. Just be sure you take the proper steps to protect your data and train your staff to keep it safe.
1 “State of Information Report: Digital Information Index,” 2012, Symantec
2 “Research Note: Cloud Delivers 1.7 Times More ROI,” September, 2012, Nucleus Research
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