The following post is a Guest Post by a featured contributor to the Small Business Sense blog. Mauricio is the CEO of Cloudwards.net, a data and user feedback driven comparison engine for cloud apps and services.
He enjoys writing and producing educational videos around the cloud to help people find the best cloud service for their needs. Get in touch with him on Google+.
Take it away Mauricio!
The hottest business trend in the last two years has been the adoption of cloud based services.
It’s true, cloud computing started off as a buzzword among CIOs from large corporations in an effort to streamline maintenance of IT systems and reduce costs. Cloud based services have proved to be even more of a godsend for small businesses.
Just one look at CRM and Email software available from companies like Salesforce and Zoho, these are two of THE most popular cloud based solutions available on the market today.
Then there are cloud based solutions like Wave Accounting and Freshbooks that take the hassle out of billing and accounting for small businesses.
While cloud computing has enjoyed excellent pickup with out of the box solutions where risks are pretty much minimal, this isn’t always the case with cloud based solutions.
One of the most common concerns that small businesses have about cloud computing is with security.
Although there have been no major issues reported with cloud services, it is understandable for a small business owner to feel a sense of unease about putting an IT infrastructure in place an environment where all systems are going to reside off site, off sight and seemingly off control.
Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits that cloud computing solutions offer and more importantly review information on security for cloud computing.
Security for Cloud Computing: 6 Essential Tips for Businesses
Tip #1: Cloud based providers are specialized at Security
Security for cloud computing is something that every cloud based service provider takes seriously.
In fact, these providers run extremely sophisticated businesses by operating an infrastructure that services not only your business but hundreds of other clients across the world.
They are certified in security related standards and audited at regular intervals by reputable firms. The other dimension is with physical security and access controls which are also implemented very stringently at provider premises.
Add to that controls on ID privileges and authentication safeguards for data and infrastructure access, these providers have you all covered.
Also remember that they have staff with the skills and experience needed to keep pace with the latest happenings in the security space with regards to software, mobile device jammers and remote monitoring, the whole nine yards.
While you likely do not. The long and short of that is, it is nearly certain that these providers are far more capable than you at keeping your data safe and secure against thefts or hacks.
Tip #2: Implement Asset mapping inside the Organization First
The first step when you are considering moving your IT systems to a cloud based provider should be to implement rigorous asset management and mapping within the organization.
This mapping exercise should identify all IT assets, including hardware and software assets. Hardware assets include anything from servers to printers while the software assets listing should cover the entire gamut of software solutions currently in use.
The software assets mapping is of particular interest and should include comprehensive information about the current security processes in place specific to each software module or solution.
This should include access types available, history of past breaches, backdoor accesses available, user privilege levels and failsafe options being used.
This exercise should also include an access and security related audits, the results from which would be critical when drafting contract requirements with the provider.
Tip #3: Do your part for Homeland Security
When you contract with a cloud hosting provider for requirements related to maintenance of IT systems, infrastructure and software, most security related concerns would be taken care of at the provider end.
However, there are some processes that would still happen at your end which can open up loopholes for hackers or data thieves to exploit. The first point of vulnerability at your end is related to the ID’s and passwords used by your personnel when logging into remote administration and management tools installed by the provider.
If you already have not, you would need to have standardized policies set up related to the management of ID’s and passwords. You should also ensure that personnel are sensitized about the importance of ID and password related security.
It would also be a good idea to have enhanced security requirements for physical access at your workplace, including biometric access and two-factor authentication for application and systems sign-ins.
Tip #4: Ask Security questions to your Cloud based provider or vendor
Here are some questions related to security that you can ponder over and ask your provider about:
- What kinds of physical access controls do they have in place for servers, storage and infrastructure?
- What is the site plan to handle to fire, flood and other perils? Do they have regular fire drills happening at the facility?
- What kind of software solutions have been installed on servers and gateways in order to deter hacking, phishing and attacks by viruses and worms?
- How many failsafe networking links do they have for your site?
- What kind of access and security related reports will be provided to us every month with regards to the business’s data access logs and physical access logs for the infrastructure at the hosting facility?
- Do they have an insurance policy that covers thefts and damage at the hosting facility?
So, if you are satisfied with the answers and other security concerns, it’s time move ahead with the right vendor. It’s time to go with the Cloud.