Cloud storage

A great deal has been written and said about cloud storage. It’s a huge subject, but here we cover the main security points to consider when looking  at cloud storage for your business. What this article doesn’t do is look at the wider features and benefits of cloud or security issues as they apply to other aspects of computing. These subjects are covered elsewhere on the site and in the FAQ and on our blog.

Bear in mind from the outset that ‘cloud’ refers to any service held anywhere other than on your local machine or in the office you use. If you use any form of social media (including business-focussed platforms such as LinkedIn), externally hosted email including Outlook and Gmail, and certainly services such as SkyDrive and GoogleDocs, then you are already using cloud services.

Many of the considerations around cloud services apply to any kind of remote service, especially one that replaces a service traditionally or previously looked after in-house and/or on-site. However well-managed (or otherwise) IT services, there will always be some risk. A 100% risk-free IT set-up is yet to be engineered, therefore, rather than panicking about risk per se, evaluate how your risk will shift if you move services to the cloud.

Safer on-site?
Many companies feel instinctively that their data is safer stored on a machine under their own roof than entrusted to a third party in an external location. It’s wise to proceed with caution, but important too to be brutally honest about the conditions of your on-site storage.

Ask yourself these questions:
Is the relevant hardware running up-to-date software, well-maintained and with optimum security measures in place?
Is there at least one (ideally two or even more) back-up routine in place, and has data restoration been tested?
Is the back-up routine running at a frequency that makes sense for your company data?
Are you meeting your data protection obligations?
Is there a recognized and tested procedure for alerting staff to data loss and putting the restoration process into action?
Is the physical location of the hardware well-secured against break-in, fire, flood or other catastrophe?
In the event of a disaster, do staff have swift access to restored data in order to keep your business running?
Would significant downtime have an impact on your business operations, revenue and reputation?

If you’re confident that all these issues are covered properly or non-issues for you, then the advantages of cloud storage for your business come down to features, costs and capacity, which isn’t the focus of this article.

If the questions have given you pause for thought or cause for concern, then the first step is to gather information. Using the cloud for data storage would take most of the points out of your hands and into the hands of the storage company. For smaller companies, especially without IT specialists in-house, moving to cloud storage and services offers huge benefits, which have been covered on our blog.

If you feel cloud storage would be of benefit to your company, there are several main security issues to consider:

Is it important to you that the servers are based in the UK?
Do you want to store data on servers owned by the company you’re dealing with?
Do you want to manage the storage set-up yourself, or hand that job over to someone else?
Does your potential supplier have a good track record in security and uptime?
Is encryption offered as part of the service?
Is your data sensitive enough to require private cloud, or will public do?

And then ask all the first questions of your potential provider. Any provider worth its salt should be prepared to spend time with you, go into as much detail as you can face, and explain how its services will support your business.