There are plenty of benefits to using cloud storage instead of a more traditional setup, and these include data security benefits. Myhrtoolkit's CTO, Kit Barker explains 3 of the key reasons why cloud storage is helpful for small business data security.
What is cloud storage?
Before we can get into the benefits of cloud storage, it’s probably worth taking a little time to explain exactly what we mean by “cloud storage”.
In a traditional setup with a server in your office, you know where your files are stored: on that server. As well as knowing exactly where those files are, you, or at least your IT team, do everything needed to keep the server running efficiently.
In a cloud environment, you don’t often know exactly what machine hosts your files or where exactly it is located. Moreover, you pass on a lot of the responsibility for the maintenance and security of your storage to a third-party provider.
The security benefits of cloud storage
If you’ve ever hosted your own enterprise-level file server, you’re probably aware of the complexity and the costs in doing so. Moving to the cloud often offers a huge cost saving on self-hosting. But other that the cost, what are the benefits of doing so?
1. Best of breed security
In a traditional office working environment, securing files was much simpler. You protected your local network, and if anyone needed access to the network from outside, you used a VPN. However, with hybrid working and more and more mobile devices, managing these complex access controls become increasingly difficult. Furthermore, cyber-attacks have become more sophisticated, and defenders need to constantly stay one step ahead of the attackers.
The resource and skill needed to manage this internally is huge. All major Cloud storage providers have excellent levels of security. From the impressive physical security of their data centres, to the army of skilled engineers keeping your data secure, the offerings of these providers far exceed what most small businesses can provide for themselves.
Additionally, most cloud storage providers are certified to a huge array of standards such as ISO 27001, PCI DSS, and SOC.
2. Vastly improved durability and availability
Durability may not be concept you’ve thought about in terms of file storage, but it is an important one to understand.
Durability is a measure of how well your data is protected against loss and corruption. There are many ways in which files can be lost or corrupted, such as network outages during a transfer and hard drive errors. Increasing durability usually requires a lot of duplication of each file to ensure that if one is corrupt, there’s a good version accessible.
Cloud storage providers such as Google and Amazon provide storage with a durability of at least 99.999999999%. Now that probably means nothing to you but in English this means that if you stored 1 billion files, you would likely go over one hundred years without losing a single one. Read that again - that is an incredible statement!
The concept of availability is more easily understood. It’s simply that your files are available when you need them. And again, cloud storage providers excel in this area. Most offer availability of 99.9%. This equates to under 9 hours downtime per year. Given that most of this will be out of hours, and the availability of simple tools to mirror files on your local PC, the chance of you needing a file and it not being available are slim.
To achieve this for a self-managed solution would cost eye-watering sums of money! Therefore, this level of durability is not generally available to a small business hosting their own server.
3. Usability and access control
With traditional network shares, granting access to files and folders could be a long-winded affair that usually involved getting IT involved in the process. As sharing of data becomes more commonplace, this can be a hindrance to efficient working practices.
Most cloud storage providers have excellent access control features that allow easy and secure sharing of files. With integration into your operating system (such as integration into File Explorer for Windows), files stored in the cloud can look like any other folder on your machine. Integration into collaboration tools, such as Teams and Outlook, is also a standard feature of most platforms.
A few words of caution…
So far this is all looking rosy for cloud storage. However, there are some crucial points to be aware of as it isn’t all plain sailing.
Durability isn’t backup
We mentioned that files are stored with incredible levels of durability. But this is not the same a backup. A highly available and durable system cannot help you recover from a ransomware attack or protect you against being locked out of your cloud storage account. For that you need a dedicated backup.
Cloud-based file sharing can reduce security
When the IT team needed to be involved to allow access to file shares, this often acted as a firebreak - someone else to ask why this person needed to access these files and for how long, etc. With easy point and click sharing tools available as standard, it is crucial that you have an access control policy in place and ensure staff are well trained in security best practices.
Written by Kit Barker
Kit is myhrtoolkit's Chief Technology Officer and a company director for myhrtoolkit who leads the technical team in developing the system. On our blog he shares specialist knowledge and tips around data security and company culture.