Are your employees the weak link in your company’s cloud data protection plan? Despite your best efforts to keep your company’s data safe in the cloud, it’s hard to prevent employees from sharing company data via cloud-based tools like Dropbox and Google Drive.
The problem, of course, is that these data-sharing tools are not necessarily secure.
But that doesn’t mean cloud-based data storage isn’t right for business. By taking certain precautions, businesses can enjoy the convenience of cloud-based file-sharing services while also keeping data secure.
But, keeping your company’s data safe in the cloud isn’t impossible. It just takes a little effort.
Have high standards
The best cloud storage solutions for businesses let employees interact with data in diverse ways, while keeping that data out of the wrong hands, explained Eric Knudson, a representative of technology services company Touchbase, in an email interview with BusinessNewsDaily.
“Security and access are almost always at odds with each other,” Knudson said. “The best cloud storage provider is going to balance these.”
And while it might be easy for business owners to judge for themselves how well their storage site scores in the accessibility department, how can they tell if their data is secure?
Knudson said that there are industry standards for data sites — as specifically outlined in the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 (SSAE 16) — and that several of the larger cloud-based storage providers comply with these standards.
“I would consider these types of standards as an indication that the cloud storage provider's ‘house is in order,’” said Knudson, “And that it has considered things like security breaches, power loss or total isolation of one of their data centers.”
Other important security features to look for when choosing a cloud-based storage provider include data encryption, audit compliance, single sign on (SSO) integration, granular user and file permissions and administrative report generation.
“Encryption, versioning and audit or e-discovery capabilities tend to be afterthoughts,” Knudson said, “But if you're considering cloud storage for your business, these should be important considerations. They may be the primary considerations, in fact.”
Love the one you’re with
Your employees might have their own preferences when it comes to which storage sites they use. But having just one, company-wide storage provider is a must if you want to keep your data secure.
Dan Waldinger, a representative of Web-conferencing provider Brother International, said that while the use of multiple cloud-based sites might make life easier for employees, it makes keeping track of data difficult. Having data stored on multiple sites also makes it hard to assess whether sensitive information is properly safeguarded.
But there’s an easy solution to this problem. Waldinger said that businesses should simply choose one storage site and stick with it. This allows employees to make edits to files without worrying about version control and also keeps administrators in the know about where their documents are stored, Waldinger explained.
And once they have their storage provider selected, businesses should follow some simple rules for how to use it. Waldinger recommends using only secure Internet connections when sharing data in the cloud.
If you allow employees to work from home, for example, make sure they’re not using Wi-Fi at the local coffeehouse when sharing sensitive documents.
“Public Internet connections at these locations are anything but secure,” Waldinger said. “Use collaboration and Web-conferencing technology that only works over a secure conference connection.”
Waldinger also stressed the use of simple security measures, such as passwords, to ensure the safety of documents. The storage provider you choose should allow you to safeguard whichever documents you’d like with password protection.
Make it official
Now that you’ve chosen which cloud-based storage provider you want to use, it’s time to make sure employees are on board with the decision and that they understand acceptable ways of interacting with company data.
“Developing and maintaining a simple policy around file-sharing can be a powerful step toward safe cloud application practices,” said Robert Hamilton, a representative of the global security software company Symantec.
Hamilton cited a recent Symantec survey, which found that 62 percent of employees think it’s okay to transfer work documents to personal devices, as an obvious indication that a central policy is needed to keep company data safe.
“By maintaining oversight, you can ensure employees know how and when to use cloud application efficiently and securely,” Hamilton said.
Touchbase’s Knudson agrees with this top-down approach to ensuring data security.
He recommends choosing a cloud-based provider that can answer all of your questions about where your data is going, including what files your users are sharing and whether they are sensitive in nature.
The storage provider you use should also allow you to generate reports and determine who your top users are. It should also allow you to control whether all users are able to share files with external organizations or only a few.
“While we would like to trust our users to make the right decisions, sometimes a central policy is the right decision instead,” Knudson said.