8 Ways to Protect Your Data in Today's Cloud World
By Camila Martinez-Granata
Remember wandering around a video store, looking at box after box, and trying to decide which movie to rent? Twenty years ago, we couldn’t imagine the idea of sitting on our couch, streaming movies directly from the cloud into our living rooms. Unfortunately for Blockbuster, they couldn’t imagine it, either.
Cloud computing hasn’t just changed media consumption, though. It has transformed nearly every industry and all aspects of the business—such as sales, operations, customer service, finance, etc. In fact, a survey of IT leaders found 92% of companies store data in the cloud, taking advantage of the flexibility and efficiency it offers.
As companies leverage the cloud to store and process more of their precious data, it also creates new, complex risks. So what are those challenges, and how can you prepare for a privacy-first digital world and keep your brand’s data safe? Read on to find out.
The cloud: a vital component of brand digital strategy
The term “cloud computing” gets thrown around often–a sign of its ubiquitous deployment in modern business. What was once seen as an experiment or luxury has now become a competitive advantage—research by Infosys found that companies who invest in cloud capabilities can increase profit by up to 11.2% year-over-year.
Among the countless ways brands leverage the cloud, a few main use cases have emerged:
- Data and file storage: Companies may share files or data with shared drives or network file systems (NFS). But, remote use can be clunky and storage space limited. By moving to the cloud, brands can make resources available to stakeholders in any location without having to worry about filling up a drive.
- SaaS: Much like renting videos, owning and installing software has become a relic of the past. SaaS allows companies to use cloud-hosted programs, rather than managing local installations. Everything from word processing to graphic design to accounting is available in cloud-based SaaS.
- Disaster planning and recovery: In the past, protecting your data was expensive and inefficient, requiring off-site backups and physical resources in multiple locations. Now that we can store cloud backups and deploy services in a matter of seconds, disaster recovery timelines have drastically improved.
While many people think of clouds as public platforms, there are actually a few different kinds of clouds:
- Public: Public clouds are managed by third parties such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Organizations can use these services without any infrastructure investments.
- Private: Private clouds are deployed, managed, and used exclusively by a single organization. Private clouds enable companies to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud–like remote access and sharing–while still keeping data in-house.
- Hybrid: Hybrid clouds are a less common option, where a company operates a private cloud but leverages public cloud resources when necessary. While hybrid setups offer power and flexibility, they require more complex configurations.
Common risks of storing data in the cloud
As data has become increasingly vital to brands’ operations, data protection is more of a priority than ever. The cloud offers more flexibility and power, but it also creates several data security challenges:
- Data breaches: Literally not a day goes by without a data breach. There were 1,862 data breaches in 2021, 68% more than in 2020. Losing data to cybercriminals costs companies immense amounts of money, effort, and consumer trust.
- Accidental data loss: While moving data to the cloud theoretically creates a safety net of redundancy, mistakes still happen. Whether it’s a vendor suffering hardware failures or your internal IT accidentally removing an in-use storage account, it’s totally possible to lose data in the cloud–and not always easy to recover.
- Hackers and malware: A recent survey found that 74% of companies experienced malware activity in 2021. With cloud-hosted data, you have to trust not only your internal security controls but those of your cloud vendors as well.
- Malicious insiders: Between 2018 and 2020, there was a 47% increase in data incidents involving insiders. As the cloud removes physical access barriers to files, it’s critical to carefully manage who has access and how they’re able to use and extract data.
- Compliance violations: Privacy compliance is a hot issue in the online world and many states, countries, and international organizations are passing strict data regulations that brands must comply with. Mishandling user data, even accidentally, can be an incredibly costly error. For example, GDPR violations can result in fines of up to 20 million euros, or 4% of a company's global revenue, whichever is higher.
8 ways to protect your data in the cloud
Despite the risks that come with cloud-based services and data storage, they’re useful tools. Here are eight steps you can take to minimize risks and get the most out of the cloud:
- 1. Configure data backup and recovery features: Everyone understands the importance of backups. Yet shockingly, a survey of over 3,000 IT professionals found only 41% of companies backup daily, leaving possible data gaps in the event of a disaster. Backing up data daily is a good way to minimize potential data loss, but don’t just store the data away. Test your disaster recovery plans regularly to ensure your backups are working as intended.
- 2. Encrypt your data: Encryption is a key line of defense for sensitive data like credit card numbers or health information. However, more and more companies are encrypting all of their data, especially when it resides in the cloud. That way, even if someone gains illicit access to your storage, they won’t be able to see the actual data without a key to decrypt it.
- 3. Strictly manage user accounts and permissions: Utilizing cloud services helps democratize data and facilitates easy access. The flip side is that managing permissions is critical and should be carefully managed. Never give users more access to data than necessary, and routinely check account permissions to make sure they’re still in line with users’ needs.
- 4. Secure end-user devices: Protecting your data’s access points is as important as securing where it’s stored. Deploying a robust firewall is critical. Another good practice is requiring users to connect to a VPN before accessing sensitive systems and data.
- 5. Set strong authentication policies: Strong passwords are a given. But you should also require users to change them periodically and prevent commonly used words. If you haven’t already, consider implementing two-factor authentication. By forcing users to enter a password and confirm account access another way—such as by text message or mobile app—you can eliminate passwords as a single point of failure.
- 6. Schedule routine security and QA tests: Researchers at Tessian estimate that human error causes 85% of data breaches. Eliminating human error is nearly impossible, but with rigorous training and routine security audits, you can catch more oversights and mistakes before they become a problem.
- 7. Vet your vendors: Whether you’re storing data in the cloud or leveraging SaaS, vet vendors’ security policies and backgrounds. You’re trusting them with your data, and you need to be sure they’re equipped to keep it secure.
- 8. Leverage account alerts: When problems do arise, whether accidental or malicious, catching them immediately is the best way to minimize damage. Any modern cloud platform worth using should have a robust alert system that will flag illicit account access, system interruptions, or other events that require your attention.
Keep your data and analytics secure with Scuba
The risks of cloud storage might make you want to lock your data away in a vault. But if you don’t put your data to use, your brand simply won’t be able to compete in the high-velocity digital world.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose between security and utility. Scuba’s privacy-by-design customer intelligence platform helps you maximize your data’s value while keeping it safe, thanks to these key features:
- Compatibility with both public and private clouds means you retain control of your data and where it resides.
- Baked-in privacy tools including GDPR compliance, SOC 2 Type 2 certification, ISO 27018 certification, and Privacy-Shield certification.
- Flexible security that works with your company’s policies, firewalls, and user access roles.
- Robust data ingestion to securely compile data and minimize the need for ongoing IT support.
- Flexibility and scalability to grow with your brand’s needs and empower your organization to better serve your users.
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