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Is the Cloud Keeping Your Data Safe? A Business Owner’s Complete Guide to Cloud Computing

If you’re like many people, you use the cloud on a daily basis without realizing that you’re taking part in a technological revolution once thought impossible. You’re certainly not alone. Cloud adoption is at an all-time high in the business world, with the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report revealing that 94 percent of enterprises currently use it to some extent. Business owners favor the cloud for many reasons, including the impressive mobility, flexibility, and cost-efficiency it provides.

The popularity of the cloud is understandable, but the associated risks are also worth considering. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail to plan for the potential downsides of cloud adoption, as they optimistically assume that the very act of adopting a cloud solution will improve security. In reality, this lack of preparation can dramatically increase digital vulnerability, particularly for those using less-than-ideal cloud services or failing to invest in the tools and strategies needed to keep data safe.

At NerdsToGo, we believe that a little knowledge can go a long way for today’s hardworking business owners. That’s why we’re breaking down all of the essentials surrounding cloud computing below:

What Is Cloud Computing?

The cloud is both very simple and very complicated. At its most basic level, it serves as an internet-based location for storing and accessing data, which, at one time, would have been held on hard drives. Those who take advantage of modern cloud computing enjoy easy access to servers, software, networking, and intelligence stored in online locations.

What Types of Cloud Services Are Available?

The cloud serves several functions. Many individuals and companies rely on it for secure data storage, but that is only the beginning. Top services available for businesses on the cloud include:

  • Storage
  • Backup
  • Hosting
  • Software as a Service

Some organizations rely on a single cloud solution to handle multiple services, while others prefer to dedicate individual tasks to specific providers. Either approach can prove effective, depending on the situation.

What are the Types of Cloud Computing Services?

Typically, when people think of the cloud, they picture the public version, in which workloads are run on a remote basis via a data center operated by a commercial enterprise. In reality, however, public, private, and hybrid versions provide varying levels of access and control.

Public Cloud

Maintained on an external platform, the public cloud is, in most cases, easily accessible and highly affordable. Many public cloud platforms include built-in security features designed to reduce digital vulnerability. Top examples include Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Private Cloud

Operated by your business and featuring your own hardware and software, the private cloud provides maximum control and security. This option may not currently be as popular as the public cloud, but it still holds considerable appeal for a variety of businesses. In fact, the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud results highlighted that 46 percent of workloads run in the private cloud.

Hybrid Cloud

An increasingly popular option that combines the benefits of both the public and private cloud, the hybrid approach pairs on and offsite components to ensure maximum flexibility while still maintaining an impressive element of security. The RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report revealed a hybrid rate of 58 percent, versus just 51 percent in 2018.

What Are the Top Security Concerns Associated with the Cloud?

Security can vary dramatically from one cloud solution to the next. Each option carries its own unique set of risks and benefits. Public cloud solutions, although often thought of as less secure, offer strong encryption and a variety of other features designed to keep client information safe.

Private clouds can sometimes prove more secure – but at the potential cost of convenience and accessibility. Hybrid clouds provide a valuable middle ground, in which the most sensitive data can be kept private, while anything that mandates widespread access is made available on public platforms.

In most cases, providers can protect data while it’s actively stored within the cloud. Many of the greatest risks occur when that data is transferred. Such interactions are necessary, however, as cloud-based data will eventually need to be downloaded or shared.

Regardless of whether you opt for a public, private, or hybrid solution, you may eventually face one or more of the following security risks:

  • Data Breach – By far the most widespread cloud security concern, data breaches can affect companies of all sizes. These incidents make confidential data available for viewing or copying. They can be catastrophic on a reputational level, particularly if customers suffer identity theft as a result. While leaks are typically associated with outside hackers, they may also occur due to employee error or internal malicious behavior.
  • Malware – From viruses to ransomware, malware takes many forms, but it nearly always causes significant damage and is an increasingly dangerous threat – even for cloud services that seem secure. Researchers from Georgia Tech believe that as many as 10 percent of repositories hosted by top cloud providers actively supply malware, which is notoriously insidious and difficult to detect.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks – DDoS incidents occur when attackers send high volumes of data in hopes of rendering critical web applications inaccessible. While public cloud adherents expect top providers to keep attackers at bay, a 2019 DDoS attack involving Amazon Web Services called that assumption into question.
  • Cryptojacking – A recently prevalent and highly concerning cyber threat, cryptojacking occurs when mining scripts are installed on servers without consent. This allows hackers to process cryptocurrency transactions. It can dramatically increase business CPU loads and slow down cloud systems.

How Can Cloud Security Be Maximized?

Risks abound among commercial cloud storage solutions, but that doesn’t mean that cloud operations should be restricted or abandoned altogether. In today’s digital environment, cloud usage is expected – and going without it can prove decidedly limiting for companies looking to improve convenience and satisfaction for demanding customers. That being said, business owners should enter cloud operations fully aware of the potential for breaches, even when working with providers that offer mitigation services.

Cloud security begins by thoroughly managing user access. In all likelihood, most employees do not require access to all files or applications. If authorization controls are set, employees will only be allowed to view or manipulate necessary data. This reduces the potential for both accidental and malicious leaks.

Monitoring is also essential. User activity should be closely analyzed to ensure that irregular activity is pinpointed as quickly as possible. If suspicious behavior is caught early, it can be dealt with before major damage occurs.

Other possible solutions for handling data security risks include:

  • Strong Password Protection
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Firewall Installation
  • Cloud-to-Cloud Backup
  • Cloud Security Audits

Because cloud strategies differ so much from one business to the next, each will require varying levels of security infrastructure. Unfortunately, determining appropriate security features can prove complicated. Enterprises with limited resources can benefit from outside expertise. Small business consulting services, such as NerdsToGo, can identify where additional security solutions are needed and implement them in the most cost-effective manner to ensure maximum return on investment.

NerdsToGo: Your Resource for Small Business IT Solutions

If you’re ready to make the most of the cloud, don’t hesitate to seek a helping hand from the experts at NerdsToGo. We’re well aware of the many benefits your business can stand to gain via the cloud – but we also understand the necessity of ramping up security in today’s threat-filled digital environment. We offer a variety of services designed to keep your data as safe as possible without compromising convenience.

At NerdsToGo, we’ll work closely with you to determine which business cybersecurity solutions and protocols are best suited to your organization. Additionally, we offer remote data monitoring services, which allow you to catch cyber threats in real-time. In the worst-case scenario, our team can minimize damage via data backup and recovery services.

No matter how you prefer to tackle cloud security, you can count on the trusted team at NerdsToGo for help. Contact us today to learn more about our top IT services for small businesses.

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