You are bound to have come across ‘the cloud’ at some point in recent years. The buzzword has increased in IT popularity and no, it has nothing to do with those fluffy things in the sky. If you’re using an online service to send emails, edit documents, watch your favourite movies and television shows or even sneak a quick online game during work, it’s likely that the cloud is making it all happen behind the scenes. But how secure is cloud storage? And WTF is it?
Cloud services are relatively new, but already plenty of companies are embracing the technology for all sorts of reasons, from tiny startups to global corporations. But before we can get into how secure cloud storage is and the benefits it can have, we need to know what it actually means.
- 1. What Are Cloud Systems And Storage?
- 2. How Do They Work?
- 3. Why The Cloud Needs Special Protection
- 4. How Much Does It Cost?
- 5. Who Uses Cloud Systems And Storage?
- 6. What Are The Benefits?
- 7. What Are The Risks?
- 8. Cloud Systems vs. Server Rooms
- 9. Can Companies Use It To Their Advantage?
- 10. Remember To Protect Yourself And Your Business On The Cloud And Elsewhere
Without getting too technical, cloud storage is essentially a method that allows you to store your data on the internet, just like you would save on your computer. The cloud is just a metaphor for the internet, as you’ll be storing data over the internet instead of taking up valuable storage on your hard drive.
A cloud system, on the other hand, is used to work on and complete specific projects. It’s linked with cloud storage, as you have to move your data to the cloud before you can make use of the cloud systems. Once data has been moved to the cloud, you or someone else can process it into useful material and send it back to you.
The simplest way to understand the cloud and how it works is by looking at how we use the cloud in our everyday lives, sometimes without even realising it. You might be using Google’s Gmail service or Microsoft’s Outlook, if you are then you’re already using the cloud for email.
When your inbox is building up with emails, they aren’t being saved on your device’s storage, they’re all being saved on your personal cloud which has a storage limit. You might be a business that needs to collaborate with clients, and might be uploading your files for them to view, even if they’re on the other side of the world. It’s all saved on the cloud - so you won’t be needing to hand out multiple memory sticks.
While it all sounds so effortless, cloud storage and systems need special protection. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal cloud account or a private one for businesses, you might be storing sensitive data. Sure, your password might protect your account so nobody can access it, but that won’t stop attackers from repeatedly trying to get access to your data.
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We’ve seen it over the years in the news, as even celebrities have had their cloud accounts hacked and data has been leaked. Backing up your data regularly is crucial, as you may become a victim of ransomware, for example. If an attacker gains access to your data, they may hold your data ransom and demand a payment in return. If you’re regularly backing up your data on the cloud, you’ll still have access and can ignore the threats of those pesky little hackers.
The cloud could be your saviour, but only if you go out of your way to continue protecting it.
Sadly, the cloud isn’t completely free. In most cases, platforms provide a healthy storage space. Google Drive, for example, gives its users 15GB of storage space for things like documents, emails and photos and that might be more than enough. However, the bigger the business, the more data is produced and more cloud space is needed.
If we stick with the popular Google Drive, their costs vary:
- 100 GB: £1.59/month or £15.99/year
- 1TB: £7.99/month or £79.99/year
- 2TB: £15.99/month
- 10TB: £79.99/month
- 20TB: £159.99/month
- 30TB: £239.99/month
As you can see, the costs can add up if you’re needing more cloud space and that’s the case for similar providers. You might even choose to outsource all of your IT requirements to a third-party for your online storage needs. The advantage of this method is that you’d have somebody to meet and discuss needs tailored to you. The experts can prove to be cheaper alternatives, yet remain on hand whenever needed - and won’t be taking up space in your office either.
Cloud storage is utilised for both professional and personal reasons, while cloud systems are essentially targeted towards businesses. The difference is that cloud storage is simply a data storage and sharing medium, so you could be storing your personal photos on your cloud storage.
On the other hand, cloud computing systems give you the ability to remotely work on data, which is something businesses could be heavily reliant on to operate. Both are becoming a popular option for small-to-medium sized businesses, as well as larger organisations, as an alternative to adding and maintaining more storage in-house.
There are many benefits to utilising the cloud, so it comes as no surprise that it’s proving to be a popular option. The benefits include:
- Cost: Cloud systems eliminate the need for buying additional hardware, software, as well as the running of on-site data centres. When you take everything into account, the costs can add up quickly.
- Disaster Recovery: Not every company can afford to invest in robust disaster recovery, but the cloud is now helping more organisations by including backup systems and recovery solutions to save time.
- Automatic Software Updates: Because the cloud systems are off-premise, suppliers take care of them by rolling out regular software updates, including security updates. It means you have less to worry about when it comes to cyber attacks, as you won’t have to worry about maintaining the system yourself.
- Work From Anywhere: With cloud systems, you can access your data from anywhere, whether it’s at home or work. As long as you have an internet connection, you won’t be restricted by which device you can use, and where you can access documents.
- Security: You might misplace your laptop or your hard drive with all of your sensitive data on it, and it will cost a lot more to replace them while the loss of data permanently is irreplaceable. With the cloud, you can access it no matter what happens to your tech.
- Environmentally Friendly: While the cloud will be utilised for your benefit, the environment will be getting a little love too. You only use the energy you need, and you won’t be leaving oversized carbon footprints.
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While there are the positives of cloud systems, it also comes with some potential risks that businesses need to be aware of. These include:
- Data Privacy: Hosting confidential data with cloud service providers involves the transfer of a considerable amount of a business’ control over data security to a provider.
- Outages: As cloud systems are reliant on the internet, you will never know when there might be a sudden outage where you can’t access the internet. No internet means you can’t access your data, even if the servers are down, which means you won’t be getting any work done.
- Cybercrime: While you might have security measures in place, it might not be enough to stop attackers from gaining access to your data and taking control of it. This can lead to them shutting down your servers, taking control of your data or even erasing or leaking it.
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The alternative to adopting cloud systems are server rooms. Server rooms are devoted to the continuous operation of computer service, where entire buildings or stations are used as data centres. However, cloud systems are the better alternative in the long run.
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Unlike cloud systems, server rooms require a capital investment in hardware and infrastructure, such as constant electricity which means the costs are a lot higher. Server rooms also require a lot more room in your office for rack space of a completely separate room, whereas cloud systems are all online-based and you might not need dedicated IT support either.
As cloud systems and storage continue to grow, they become more and more popular which companies can now begin to use to their advantage. The benefits above show how it can be a major positive, and companies can save a lot of money.
However, it can also be used as an accounting advantage for businesses and a method to make a profit. Now that you are able to lease cloud space, companies might choose to offer this service as another means of making a profit and expanding on their IT portfolio.
It’s completely understandable to be worried about cybercrime, and the rising threat of ransomware on cloud storage. This threat has affected many companies, and will continue to do so until the correct measures are in place.
If you want to learn more about ransomware and how to prevent it from happening to you or your business, check out our free eBook: