The cloud offers a convenient and budget-friendly way to store data for your small business. It allows you to back up, sync, and access files across several devices and minimizes the costs associated with keeping your company’s information on-site. The cloud is also one of the most secure ways to house data — if you take a few simple precautions.
Follow these six fundamental rules for safely storing your company’s information in the cloud.
1. Research Cloud providers
Safely using cloud storage starts with choosing a reputable cloud storage service that best meets your needs. As you shop for a cloud storage service, look for one with positive customer reviews and a proven history of keeping its customers’ data secure. Be sure the provider you choose offers multiple-level redundancy, which means there are several copies of your data to prevent it being lost if one server fails. Redundancy across multiple geographic locations is another important security feature you’ll want from your cloud storage company. This means your data is housed at various locations, so if an event like a fire or natural disaster somehow destroys your data it can still be retrieved.
2. Match the sensitivity of your data to the cloud provider’s level of security
Three out of five small businesses close within six months of experiencing a data-security breach. If you are storing sensitive data, like clients’ financial or identifying information, make sure your cloud provider provides best-in-class security features. You’ll probably pay a bit more for enhanced security options, but it’s a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, not every file your small business handles will be highly sensitive. Storing non-critical data with a cloud provider that offers strong, albeit less robust, security features will probably be adequate — and reduce expenses.
3. Back up your data that’s in the cloud
Data stored in the cloud is typically more secure than data kept on your computer, but it is not a complete backup solution — and nothing is 100-percent fail-safe. Backing up the files you store in the cloud is a critical part of leveraging cloud technology safely. Many backup proponents suggest using the 3-2-1 standard: maintain three backups of files that are too important to lose, utilizing at least two different formats, with at least one of the backups residing off-site — meaning at a place other than where your computer or server is located.
4. Encrypt your cloud files
If your cloud service account is compromised, your files may become accessible to cyber criminals. To help minimize data vulnerability, encrypt your files before sending them to the cloud. Another option is to use a tool like BoxCryptor or nCrypted Cloud, which automatically encrypt your cloud backups.
5. Use password best practices
Good password management is one of the most effective ways to help keep your files safe. Use a password generator like LastPass to create a hard-to-crack code, never share your password, and don’t write it down or save it on your device. Avoid accessing your cloud account using public Wi-Fi, and change your password at least once every quarter. Make sure your employees are well-versed in password security practices for small businesses, have password polices in place, and enforce them.
6. Look for “https”
Your data can be captured by a hacker while it’s en route to the cloud or traveling from the cloud to your device. To help prevent this from happening, look for “https” (versus “http”) in front of the cloud service’s URL in your browser’s address bar. “Https” is the secure version of “http,” which is the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the cloud or any website that you are connected to. When you see “https,” the communication between your browser and the cloud service is encrypted.
Keep these safety tips in mind, and cloud storage can be an effective way to keep files accessible while protecting your small business data against everything from hackers to malware.