Fear Not the Cloud, A User’s Guide: Part 1

In general, people fear what they don’t know and this is doubly true for all things related to technology. We get it. Your company’s IT can be daunting. After all, it powers your entire business! If something goes wrong, or even just misbehaves for a bit, it can cause a whole world of confusion and headaches, which can be difficult to unravel and may have lasting ramifications. So when we, as IT service providers, begin talking about “the cloud,” we’re used to witnessing a bit of apprehension from our clients. 

Data servers resting on clouds in blue in a cloudy sky

What Is the Cloud?

It can be difficult to fathom sending all of your data - and your clients’ data - to “the cloud.” For many, “the cloud” is some mythical entity that they don’t know much about. But don’t worry - it’s not a myth. It also doesn’t mean your data is just floating out in space. Data in the cloud is actually data living on a network of servers and traveling to and fro via the Internet.

As cloud technology improves, IT service providers are touting its benefits as it becomes more mainstream. In essence, cloud-based applications are a logical step to more security, efficiency, and scalability.

To help fend off the uncertainties you may be feeling, here are a few things to consider when evaluating cloud-based applications and services. 

Do IT Service Providers Use Security Best Practices?

Any IT service provider worth their salt will be upfront about their security practices, especially cloud-based applications. You shouldn’t have to go digging to find information on the types of processes and procedures they have in place - but what should you be looking for when you find that information?

Here are a few questions to ask: 

Is all data encrypted when it’s transmitted across networks and also once it reaches its final destination?

The guaranteed encryption of data throughout the entire process should be non-negotiable, as strong encryption will protect data from being intercepted and accessible during transit (upload/download, via email, etc.). 

How do they authenticate user access to data?

Do they make use of two-factor authentication (or multi-factor authentication)? In order to ensure that data is secure, access to their platforms should require some form of two-factor authentication. The most common forms of authentication are knowledge factor (such as answering a question only the end user will know the answer to) and physical factor (such as requiring a unique, time-sensitive code to be generated via a small security hardware device or sent via text message). 

Are they SOC 2 Compliant?

SOC 2 Compliance is a standard created by the American Institute of CPAs and defines five criteria for managing customer data. The criteria are: privacy, security, availability, processing integrity, and confidentiality.

How Do They Handle Outages and Data Recovery?

One of the most disconcerting aspects of storing all of your data in the cloud is the possibility that there could be an outage or disaster that affects your data and is completely out of your control. However, IT service providers that know their stuff should absolutely be following best practices for outages and data recovery. 

Some of these best practices include:

  • Data replication between data centers
  • The use of geo-redundancy

The entire point of “the cloud” is that information lives somewhere other than at your physical location - this frees up valuable physical space and server space. However, when you’re working with a cloud-based application you’ll want to be certain that there’s more than one copy of your data available. Data replication will provide a means for applications and software to continue running even if there’s an outage or issue at the main location where the data is stored. The access to the information may be a little slower than usual, but at the end of the day there will still be access, and that’s the most important thing. 

Geo-redundancy is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - a redundant (duplicate) copy of all data in a secondary location. For many organizations this may seem like a bit of overkill. However, if your company is based in a location most at risk for natural disasters, like hurricanes or forest fires, having a secondary store of your information hundreds or thousands of miles away from the main cache could save your business. 

To find out if cloud-based applications could benefit your business, schedule your free IT assessment today.

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