A Guide to Data Security in the Cloud

When you think of the term security what is the first thing that comes to mind? For some it will be the sight of security guards, for others it might be fingerprint scanners or futuristic retina scanners, whereas for some, it could be as simple as a password-protected document. Whatever your first thoughts are when it comes to security, we can all agree that security is important right?

Unfortunately, in the years since British mathematician and data science entrepreneur Clive Humby said that “Data is the new oil,” businesses have been slow to react to the actual value of their data. A report by IBM showed that the average data breach cost is now $4.35 million in 2022, up 12.7% from the $3.86 million reported in 2020.

In the UK, the government has urged businesses to boost their cyber security. This announcement follows a rise in cyber attacks on businesses nationwide.

Whether you are a new business or a legacy firm undergoing a digital business transformation, the importance and monetary value of data security cannot be understated.  Over the course of this post, we will be taking a look at data security in Cloud computing and helping you to get a better understanding of Cloud data security and the best practices to employ for data protection in the Cloud.

What is data security in the Cloud? 

To understand what data security in the Cloud is, we must first understand what data security is. As the term suggests, data security refers to the protection of digital data and the actions taken to keep data from falling into the wrong hands. Therefore, data security in the Cloud builds off of this and is best described as the technologies and protocols that help keep data secure from unauthorized access.

A robust strategy for data security in the Cloud will see you maintaining access control as well as having complete visibility of any and all data on your network at all times. Regardless of whether data is in use (currently being accessed by applications and employees), in motion (being uploaded through encryption to the Cloud), or at rest (data that is stored on the Cloud), 

Data security is also crucial for data analytics, as data teams need to be sure that the data they are viewing and making analyses from, has not been compromised or tampered with in any way. 

At Astrato, for example, we strive to deliver a ground-breaking data visualization and analytics solution that is powered by live data. However, live and accurate decisions can not be reliably made if the data being analysed has been compromised.  

As such, data security is as fundamental to analysis as it is to Cloud computing. The always-online nature of the Cloud, as well as the factor of remotely stored data, makes the Cloud a major target for would-be hackers looking to expose and sell data on the black market (dark web).

What are the pros & cons of storing data in the Cloud? 

When it comes to storing data in the Cloud, there are several benefits and drawbacks that you should consider if you are setting up a new business or exploring what Cloud technology can offer. 

We have broken down 3 of the biggest pros & cons we feel could play a part in helping you decide which method is best for you:

Pros:

Access data anytime, anywhere:

One of the foremost benefits of using the Cloud in your business is the ability to access data wherever you are. As demonstrated by streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, and Apple Music, accessing your files on the go or when you happen to be away from your home is a significant convenience. Cloud computing and, to an extent, Cloud storage carries much of the same bonuses for most businesses as the giants mentioned above do for entertainment.

Scalability:

While most of your company’s data will be digital, it’s important to remember that it still needs to be stored somewhere. If you’re looking to upscale your business rapidly, you need a storage solution that grows alongside your journey. Cloud storage offers a viable and cost-effective solution that can scale to match the needs of your company with ease.

Security:

As highlighted in the introduction, security is paramount to your business’s success. Generally speaking, the Cloud offers far greater security solutions than local storage, but it’s important to consider there are potential drawbacks as well. Below, we will highlight just how secure your data is in the Cloud.

Cons:

Requires internet:

While storing data on the Cloud is a great way to allow your employees access the information they need wherever they are, it’s important to remember that access to the Cloud will require an internet connection. If your office suffers from an internet connection issue. In that case, little can be done to access your files safely and securely – assuming that you don’t wish to deal with the security issues of employees using their own devices.

Beholden to platform holder prices:

When going the Cloud storage route, it’s good to consider the costs incurred. While setting up an adequate and secure private solution is costly, doing so will allow you not to be beholden to the monthly/annual subscription fees that all major Cloud hosting providers charge.

Risk of cyberattacks:

We’ll admit, this ‘con’ could apply equally to both Cloud and local storage solutions, but hear us out for a second. While being on the Cloud offers you many security options (more on that shortly!), it can also make you an unintended target of cyberattacks.

For example, when Dropbox was hacked, over 68 million usernames and passwords were leaked – many of which would have also been the accounts of businesses.

Now it’s not a stretch to suggest that if some of these companies weren’t using the service to store data, they would have fallen under the radar of several hackers who tend only to target larger organizations. However, as a counterpoint, it’s important to note that reports indicate that smaller companies are more frequent targets of cyberattacks. 

How secure is my data in the Cloud?

Your data is generally safer in the Cloud than sitting on servers outside of it. While some of the world’s largest organizations can build state-of-the-art data security facilities, most regular companies just don’t have the technical expertise or resources required to make their data as safe as it otherwise would be in the hands of Cloud service providers.

When you upload data to the Cloud, it is, in actuality, being instantly copied multiple times to a series of data centers throughout the US and beyond. Your data is copied for greater peace of mind that in the unlikely event that one of the million-plus servers employed by the likes of Amazon or Google fails, your data will still be stored securely on the Cloud.

Monitoring is also one of the major advantages of storing data in the Cloud. Unlike a private server sitting in your office, the servers used by Cloud network providers are under constant surveillance virtually 24/7. Most Cloud providers also employ a vast range of security experts who are in charge of overseeing the servers. These highly skilled experts can often quickly thwart an intrusion before your data is compromised.

Best practices for ensuring data security in the Cloud 

Now that you’re familiar with the upsides and downsides of storing data in the Cloud, here are five best practices to follow to ensure Cloud data security.

Choose the right Cloud service provider

Depending on your organization’s size and the industry that you operate in, your security requirements for a Cloud service provider might be completely different from that of another business owner. As such, it’s impossible to suggest that any one provider will be the right solution for you.

When choosing the right provider, you should evaluate your company’s security goals and compare them to the provider to see if they align. You should also consider if signing up with a service provider could cause regulatory concerns.

Implementing Access Control

Implementing adequate access control to your files is crucial in maintaining data security in the Cloud. Please see our guide for more information on managing access control.

Up-skill your employees

If you’re a legacy business that has retained several employees over the years, then upskilling your team is an absolute must.

We have previously shared our tips on undergoing a successful digital transformation. We can’t stress how important it is to train employees on how to handle data.

Cloud encryption

Cloud encryption is one of the most effective tools used by Cloud service providers to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands.

The term refers to the process of encoding data in a series of algorithms that help to conceal their contents from being read by third parties.

Data encryption is vitally important in our online world as it ensures that only the data owner or the intended recipient is privy to the information. When it comes to regular files, encryption is typically in the form of passwords or number codes. However, in some instances, third-party applications such as Google Authenticator might also be used as a method of data encryption.

Logging and Monitoring

As hinted above, the data centers used by many of the world’s largest Cloud computing providers are highly secure locations both in the physical sense with active security patrols, as well as digitally, where they employ highly-skilled cybersecurity experts to oversee the data centers.

One of the other ways that data centers are secure is through their use of logging capabilities. What this means is that whenever someone tries to access any data in the Cloud, their activities will be flagged on the system. This level of monitoring allows all users (and even any rogue agents in the data centers themselves) to be detected almost immediately. 

Whether or not you have decided to use the Cloud to help define your company’s data security procedures or wish to go it alone and build a secure infrastructure for your company, maintaining data security is vitally important for any business.  

Equally crucial to a business as data security is the data itself. Help your data teams make informed, data-led decisions with the help of accurate data analytics software. Book a demo with Astrato today and see how we can help your business to harness the power of your data.

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