Given how popular the cloud has become in the business world today, it makes sense that there are so many solutions to choose from. You have your work cut out for you when it comes to finding the right option in terms of security and compliance – use this guide to make sure you find the right solution for your needs.
According to the Cloud Security Firm RedLock and its Cloud Security Trends report, more than 50% of businesses that use cloud services like Amason Simple Storage Service (S3) have unintentionally exposed at least one of these services to the public.
This growing trend of unsecured cloud configurations is due to businesses neglecting known vulnerabilities in the cloud, or failing to properly assess their cloud environment to discover unseen security risks. These researchers found that:
- 38% of organisations have had an administrative user account compromised
- More than 80% of businesses fail to mitigate cloud vulnerabilities
- 37% of databases accept inbound connection requests from the Internet, seven per cent of which receive requests from untrustworthy IP addresses
- Cloud security is undeniably important, but still gets overlooked. In this guide, we’ll explore the many considerations involved in finding an appropriately secure and compliant cloud solution.
What Is The Cloud?
In a nutshell, the cloud is a network of technologies that allows access to computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and more. That’s where the data is – in these data centres all around the world. Which data centre your data is in depends on what cloud service provider you’re working with.
Why should you use the cloud?
For the same reasons that thousands of other businesses around the world have already adopted cloud computing:
- Computing Power: The cloud can activate tens of thousands of CPUs. This unparalleled power can quickly perform deep analytics of your data, and process nearly any ad-hoc queries that you require.
- Reliable Costs: The cloud services subscription model offers the strategic advantage of low-cost, low-risk opt-in combined with a simple, predictable monthly fee.
- Easy Scalability: Cloud services have the unique strategic characteristic of being able to stretch or shrink to suit your current level of demand. This is especially useful for businesses of scale or companies that go through seasons of activity.
- Real-Time Collaboration: With cloud technology, your staff doesn’t have to wait for each other to be done with their part of the document or project to tackle their own aspect. They can all work on the same project at the same time to maximise productivity.
- Remote Work Capability: This cloud feature allows you and your employees to work remotely as need be, which will give your business members the flexibility they desire to have a more balanced home/work life.
The Necessity Of The Cloud
According to a study by AIIM, organisations have already begun to experience the growing pains associated with ongoing data retention and storage in the cloud:
- 40% of organisations are struggling to manage the large amount of data (petabytes or larger) they need to retain
- For roughly the same portion of organisations, more than half of their data is stored and accessed through the cloud. 40% of organisations expect this to increase to 70% in the next 1-2 years
- 37% of organisations still have at least half of the content in hard copy, paper format
As the amount of data an organisation manages grows, it takes more and more money and other business resources to manage it. On an annual basis, internal teams have to ask for more of their budget to devote just to storage.
That’s why finding the right cloud service is so beneficial. The fact is that the cloud is becoming a non-negotiable service for most businesses today. They simply have too much data to store locally or in hardcopy, which puts them at risk of significant data loss, in addition to the rising cost of doing so.
In migrating their data to the cloud, organisations can gain a number of key benefits:
- Increased Convenience: Once documents have been properly scanned and organised digitally, they can be stored through the cloud to a remote off-site server. Depending on the business’ configuration (which we can set up to their satisfaction), those files can be accessed by any authorised person at any company workstation, home office, or even a mobile device. This means no one has to go digging through filing cabinets in the building basement ever again to find that one file, saving company time and money.
- Lowered Expenses: Companies often rent out storage for large numbers of cumbersome filing cabinets containing records going years back. By storing data off-site, companies free up any space that the physical versions were occupying beforehand, which further saves them in resources.
- Enhanced Data Security: Another benefit of remote digital storage is that data is now safe from any disaster that could compromise the physical premises. Whether it’s a flood or a fire, unforeseen emergencies can quickly destroy old files, but through the cloud, digitised files are always safe. Furthermore, the stored files are protected behind industry-standard security measures to ensure that no digital threat can compromise them.
- Simple Scaling: Cloud services have the unique strategic characteristic of being able to stretch or shrink to suit the business’ current level of demand. This is especially useful for businesses of any scale that will change in size over time. Think of it as “utility computing”. In short, the cloud is both necessary and beneficial. Unfortunately, the dire need businesses have for the cloud puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding the right cloud service. Cloud vendors know the value of what their offering, which can make their services exorbitantly expensive:
What Is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving some or all of your data and applications into the cloud (that is, to a data centre or a cloud-based infrastructure provided by a cloud service provider).
You can choose to move some of your applications, or your total organisational infrastructure where all of your computing, software, storage, and platform services are transferred to the cloud for any time, anywhere access.
Cloud migration helps you achieve real-time and updated performance and efficiency. However, a cloud migration requires careful planning and implementation to ensure the cloud solution is compatible with your organisational requirements.
Why Should You Be Hesitant To Move To The Cloud?
There is a range of concerns related to cloud migration…
- During the transition, you could lose some key files for good with no backup or redundancies to replace them.
- In the process of migrating, your security and control standards lapse, putting you in a state of noncompliance.
- Once it finally gets installed and launched, you find out the platform isn’t up to your security standards and will put your data at risk.
Does that mean you should forget about the cloud and what it could do for you? Of course not — it just means you have to plan your migration carefully.
3 Ways To Enhance Your Cloud Security
Depending on the industry in which you operate, you may have more pressing security concerns than other businesses. In order to maintain data security, or even to comply with certain regulations, you may need to keep some of your data on-site.
Keep this priority in mind when determining whether you need a hybrid cloud environment or not. With a combination of onsite storage for secure data and a cloud platform for everything else, you can get the best of both worlds.
The cloud has so much to offer businesses like yours, but only with the right security measures. When you finally decide to make your move to the cloud, consider these keys to security:
- Encryption: Encryption ensures that even if data is unlawfully accessed and stolen, it will be completely unreadable and unusable to the thief, which helps to protect you, your employees and your business contacts. Intrusion Detection: Monitoring of your cloud configuration to detect, prevent and report potential breaches around-the-clock is the best way to keep unwanted visitors out.
- Virtual Private Network: Implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great way to keep your data safe, especially when using unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks. Whether travelling or just checking email at the local coffee shop, investing in and using a VPN ensures that no unwanted third party can get into your cloud-based data at the same time you’re accessing it.
Compliance & The Cloud
In the modern business world, technology can be more than just a way to keep your business running, secure from cybercrime and backed up in the event of a disaster. Truly optimal IT should help you transform your business for the better.
Advancements in technology over the past decade or more have transformed the way we do business. From the cloud to “smart” technology to AI-powered line-of-business apps, technology has rapidly evolved the nature of the modern workplace. However, with these advancements come new risks. The leading edge of business technology is a type of frontier, complete with uncertainties and dangers.
For example: while the cloud has made storing and accessing business data much more convenient to users, allowing them to do so from anywhere with an Internet connection, it has also changed the way we have to think about data security, and therefore, compliance.
Whereas at one time, protecting sensitive employee data meant having the right physical security to protect hardcopy records, today, it’s not the same. Data is stored digitally on business devices and in the cloud, granting greater access to both authorised users, and potentially greater access to unauthorised parties as well. This requires much more complex forms of security.
3 Key Compliance Considerations For Your Cloud Environment
Compliance can encompass a number of different considerations for organisations like yours, depending on both on what you are subject to (FINRA, GDPR, HIPAA, etc.), and what your service or product offering is. Regardless of the specifics, you’ll need to consider the following when attempting to maintain your compliance status:
- Data Security: As compliance regulations are updated and created to match the pace of technology — that’s used with sensitive data, the need for verified and reliable security measures has greatly increased. Certain compliance regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), hold you responsible for the security of the data – even if you’ve outsourced its security to someone else. That includes cloud storage. If you’re supposed to stay compliant and want to use the cloud, then you have to verify the security standards of the cloud solution in question.
- Business Continuity Planning: Many compliance regulations cover aspects such as risk assessment, risk management, disaster recovery, and business continuity under the same guidelines. However, it’s important to look at each one individually rather than as a whole. In the past when businesses had primarily or entirely paper-based records, IT disruptions and downtime were more of an annoyance than a cause for real concern. A modern setting, on the other hand, will be mostly, or eventually, entirely paperless. This means that not having a business continuity plan in place could cut your staff off from client info entirely or lead to data loss, resulting in non-compliance risks. Make sure that system continuity and high availability top your priority list when you’re evaluating a potential compliant cloud solution.
- Wireless Networks: Generally, when we talk about wireless infrastructure in a business setting, we’re referring to the capability of your staff to connect their tablets, smartphones, and laptops to your network. When integrating a compliant cloud solution, the need for those devices to have a reliable, fast, and secure connection available will increase significantly. A site survey and network assessment will give you a clear idea of whether or not you have adequate coverage in place, and if your bandwidth allotment can handle the increased demand.
- Contracts and Agreements: Business Associate agreements and other service-level agreements are a great first step towards ensuring that your cloud provider is taking the safety of your healthcare data seriously. But as with any contract, it’s crucial to read over these documents carefully. You don’t want ambiguous wording to lead to an unpleasant surprise down the road, especially when it comes to the way your provider approaches the handling of sensitive data or their attitude towards data ownership.
- Access Monitoring: Keeping your data out of the hands of unauthorised users should be a top priority for any cloud provider. Precautions such as advanced firewalls and intrusion detection systems that can detect hackers and other malicious activity should be in place. You should be provided with documentation that clearly shows the safeguards your provider has implemented. Reviewing this documentation and researching and previously reported intrusions will help you discover which providers are the most secure, and which have a history of coming up short.
How To Plan Your Cloud Migration
- Evaluate Your Infrastructure: Do you plan on moving completely to the cloud, or maintaining a hybrid environment? Some businesses don’t bother to migrate all their server-side architecture to the cloud – regardless of whether you do or not, you have to take stock of your servers, and associated software, to ensure it is all compatible with the new cloud environment you are planning.
- Plan Carefully: Be sure to specifically lay out how you plan to virtualise your back end. This will largely depend on your size:
- Small businesses: It would make sense to leave certain aspects like email and apps on-site, especially if they don’t require too much storage. Larger businesses: For your line of business apps and dozens of accounts associated with your email client, you can likely afford the cloud storage needed to host these aspects offsite.
- Set Your Budget: The best way to figure out which cloud service you want to go with is to know how much you can spend. The price tag will help you sort out options. And don’t worry, a small budget won’t limit your options too much. A key benefit of the cloud is its scalability. In most cases, you can start small on a great cloud service, and scale-up and pay more later as you need it. Be sure to keep this scalability in mind from the start – do you anticipate needing to scale up by a considerable degree, within a year at the soonest? Make sure your cloud service of choice can handle where your business will be in five years.
- Confirm Security: Depending on the industry in which you operate, you may have more pressing security concerns than other businesses. In order to maintain data security, or even to comply with certain regulations, you may need to keep some of your data on-site. Keep this priority in mind when determining whether you need a hybrid cloud environment or not. With a combination of onsite storage for secure data and a cloud platform for everything else, you can get the best of both worlds.
- Get Expert Help: Lastly, before you start, you should figure out if you can handle the migration on your own. There’s no shame in needing help. Especially when it’s a matter of migrating all your apps, data and other IT assets to a totally new environment. However, if you have the time, knowledge and skills to handle it on your own, that will certainly be more cost-effective. But don’t forget – better safe (and a little more expensive) than sorry.
Need Expert Assistance Migrating To A Compliant Cloud Solution?
Reliable Networks has extensive experience in helping clients harness the many benefits offered by the cloud while maintaining security and compliance.
No matter where you are with the cloud, our team of IT specialists can provide troubleshooting assistance or strategic advice, helping you to leverage the power of these cloud technologies to your benefit.
- Migration Management: If you are not sure which solution is right for you or how to migrate all your workstations, we’ll walk you through the entire migration process, handling each step along the way to make sure it goes smoothly.
- Comprehensive Support: We offer onsite and remote support to help you resolve any sort of configuration and/or troubleshooting issues right away. If we are not able to remotely resolve the issue, we will come onsite to help you out.
- Employee Training: A vital component of the success strategy of any software offering is the ability for a business’ employees to understand it well enough to utilise it to its fullest potential. We are here to walk your staff through any new features or applications.
Schedule a complimentary consultation with the Reliable Networks team to determine which cloud solution is the right fit for you.