Benefits and Risks of Cloud Computing

The individuals, businesses and entrepreneurs who have joined the growing ranks of cloud service users are taking advantage of highly productive tools and resources that were previously unavailable. The U.S. federal government has also made cloud computing a major factor in its recent modernization program. The cost-saving, efficiency and scalability benefits of the cloud make it an attractive alternative to expensive on-site hardware and software investments.

It’s not hard to see why new businesses and those companies seeking to free up capital for growth view cloud computing as an especially appealing resource. Very few innovations come without some downsides, however, and cloud service users and anyone considering becoming one should weigh the benefits against the risks. The good news is that the risks are both manageable and avoidable, but you need to know what they are and what you can do about them.

The Benefits Are Considerable and Well Worth Looking Into

If you or your business has already begun making use of what the cloud has to offer, you won’t need to be reminded — skip ahead to the next section and see if you’re doing what’s necessary to ensure your data and security are safe and well-protected. For those who are still at the thinking-about-it stage, these are some of the benefits that have caused cloud service users to increase in growing numbers: 

  • Saving money: The capital expenditure for the hardware, along with its maintenance and power costs, are passed on to the service provider.
  • Scalability: When your business grows, your cloud service will easily grow with you, even when the need is sudden and unexpected.
  • Instant Access: The things you need, even if required with little advance notice, are available in the cloud; there’s little time lost on app-hunting and setup.
  • Reliability: Cloud service users benefit from their service provider’s network of redundant backups, virtual servers and fail-safe systems. A cloud-based company’s remote staff members can access critically needed software resources even if their headquarters are hit with an unexpected shutdown. 
  • Physical security: A service provider’s physical servers are kept in secure data facilities that are well-protected from intruders, environmental issues and disruptions.

There Are Risks, But They Can Be Minimized or Eliminated

If you’re not fully informed of the risks, you may be exposing yourself or your business to unique technical, legal, compliance or privacy issues that may not have been considered before. Due diligence goes a long way toward protecting your users, assets and sensitive data. There are some best practices that both businesses and individuals can follow to protect themselves from the vulnerabilities that could arise when you become a cloud service user.

Give Careful Consideration to the Users Accessing Your Cloud-Based Resources

If any of your employees or associates are hacked and their access credentials stolen, your system can be severely compromised. If the stolen passwords belong to high-level personnel entrusted with making system or configuration changes, your operation could be knocked offline and both staff and customers deprived of services. Plan your access authorizations around need-to-know or need-to-use criteria. No single individual should be able to make changes that could affect the entire system.

User access rights should be given careful consideration, and those individuals who have demonstrated carelessness in adhering to security measures should be prevented from accessing the system.  A malicious insider could also cause a great deal of damage. Limit access so that managers and other privileged staff are constrained to the areas or projects they are assigned to.

Create and enforce an access and security policy that governs the actions of all employees throughout the organization. Don’t be shy about retraining or disciplining employees who get sloppy about sticking to mandatory security procedures.

Protect Your Data With Encryption

Use encryption as much as possible if not always. This can be a vital consideration when remote staff members are uploading and downloading sensitive information from their mobile devices. Cloud service users can have access to their providers’ encryption systems, but you need to change encryption keys regularly. This helps ensure that sensitive data stored on mobile devices or removable backup drives won’t be stolen if any of those devices fall into the wrong hands.

Delete Sensitive Data Carefully and Thoroughly

When you delete sensitive data, work closely with your service provider to be sure that anything stored or cached on its servers has also been deleted. As a user, you have a reduced degree of visibility regarding where your cloud-based data is stored. Deletion procedures may differ among service providers, so be sure you know exactly what steps you need to take to ensure that all the data you want deleted has been fully removed from the system.

Plan Ahead Before Moving Any Part of Your Digital Operation to the Cloud

First-time cloud service users should plan ahead before migrating any part of their operation off-site. Be sure to fully understand the scope of the security measures you’ll be responsible for. Security should be viewed as a mutual responsibility shared by your provider, your organization and your employees. Draw up your security policies and provide ample training to anyone who will access the new system.

Don’t Go It Alone: Team Up With the Security Experts To Help Implement Best Practices

Embraced by businesses, individuals and government agencies across the world, cloud computing brings numerous advantages, but you need to be mindful of the risks. Don’t overlook the steps you can take to keep your cloud-based system secure and fully operational. You don’t need to go it alone. Make good use of the knowledge and experience that security experts can provide. We’re here to work with you. Contact us to learn more about what can be done to keep your operation and your users protected.