Working in the cloud is becoming more commonplace and there are numerous benefits for most businesses.
Working in the cloud is becoming more commonplace and there are numerous benefits for most businesses. But are there times when you should avoid using cloud services?
Customer privacy and trust is the primary concern when considering the cloud. Gartner has predicted that by year-end 2016, more than 50 per cent of Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud1.
As legislation evolves, there are increasingly strict requirements around protecting and encrypting data. To be able to host customer data in the cloud, you need to ensure your provider is able and willing to comply with any relevant laws and codes of practice. These vary depending on the industry and jurisdiction.
Australia and the European Union have strict laws that may make it difficult to legally store data in a US-based data centre. The US Patriot Act is particularly problematic, since it gives the US government wide-ranging access to private data. As a result, you may need to keep customer financial information close to home, or use encryption.
The availability of your data is also very important. Whether you choose to store it remotely or not may depend on what cloud service you want to use.
Cloud providers should establish availability and reliability, but although many promise higher than 99.9 per cent availability, it’s very hard to actually measure this. Even leading providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Drive have suffered major outages2.
You may be liable if your cloud provider has a data breach. Dropbox has suffered at least two public data breaches3. This is catastrophic for a company storing sensitive customer data. Dropbox has now taken steps to increase its security, but the larger and more prominent providers become, the more they may be a target for cyber attacks.
A very important consideration is maintaining control of your data. How can you get it out if you want to change providers? This is not always easy, so you need to make sure migration tools are available. Vendor lock-in is a concern, so look for providers using open-source technology.
Legislation may also require that certain data is stored for a minimum length of time, and is instantly accessible. This means that vendors who store archive data on tape may not be compliant.
To cloud or not to cloud
One final thing to remember is that some data may be more secure in the cloud. If your own data centre isn’t up to the task of protecting information, the cloud could afford better protection.
Some companies are particularly concerned about cloud data storage when it comes to valuable, confidential information such as accounting data. But the companies that provide cloud accounting software usually have the highest focus on security.
Typically, data centres are very secure and robust through competitive necessity. Cloud providers can often dedicate far more resources into bleeding-edge technology than a small business can.