30 years back, we had to deal with bulky files, stacks of paperwork, and clunky hardware to run a business smoothly. To do the same today, all we need is a device that can browse the internet.
The cloud plays a more significant role in our lives than we realise. If you're someone who regularly watches movies on Netflix, listens to your favourite music on Spotify, or uses Instagram, Gmail, or Amazon, then the cloud is already a major part of your life. Gartner has predicted that worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is expected to increase from $270 billion in 2020 to $332.3 billion in 2021. That's a growth rate of 23.1%. With the pandemic pushing many people to work from home and putting a strain on business budgets, there's been a huge surge in businesses demanding cloud services.
But despite its wide usage and numerous benefits, many small businesses still have doubts concerning the safety and privacy of the cloud. Can it really keep your data secure?
For the most part, yes. Here's how.
How your data is protected
First, cloud service providers store your information in data centres that are protected with the highest levels of cyber and physical security. These defence mechanisms are usually so strict that even most employees (of both your organisation and the provider's organisation) won't have access to it. When your data is stored, it is also encrypted. This makes it almost impossible for hackers to get access to your information.
How does encryption work?
Encryption is the process of converting your data into another format (unique characters) to conceal its real meaning. Encrypted data cannot be accessed unless it's decrypted by a key, and that key can only be found only by using the right key code combination. The codes used by cloud providers these days are so complex that cracking them can take months if not years even for today's advanced computers.
Although quantum computing can perform calculations at a much faster rate, reducing the time required to crack weak codes, modern encryption systems are well-equipped to withstand these attempts. Not only are the keys intentionally built to be extremely long, but often multiple algorithms are used to encrypt your data. This means that hackers would have to overcome numerous layers of coded defence. It's estimated that even the latest quantum computing technology could take up to 25 years to crack the strongest key codes we use. Not to mention that quantum computers aren't widely available and likely won't be for many years to come.
Regardless, global scientists are actively researching ways to protect crucial data for a much longer period, especially for high-risk organisations like governments. Many use quantum computing themselves to identify potential security threats, and some have also been able to implement stronger encryption techniques that have proven to resist certain quantum attacks in the past. This gives reassurance that the world is not that far away from having a fully quantum-resistant encryption system.
Trusting your provider
Each cloud service provider is also obligated to comply with government regulations surrounding data privacy and security. So, if your cloud provider is based in Australia, they must follow the privacy laws put in place by the Australian government to best protect their people.
With all of these measures in place, your data may be much safer in the hands of a reliable cloud provider than in hard drives lying around at your home or office where there is a higher chance of that data being damaged or stolen. At Zoho for example, we don't take our customers' security concerns lightly. That's why we store our ANZ customers' data locally in Sydney and Melbourne using our best-in-class data centres. We comply with GDPR and some of the most stringent data protection and privacy standards in the world.
The privacy problem
It’s fair to be paranoid about data security when your information is physically out of reach and entrusted to a third party who is located miles away. We feel you. But after the infamous iCloud hack that happened back in 2014, a bigger concern for many with using the cloud is privacy. People worry that their information can still linger in the cloud even after being deleted, giving access to cloud service providers and the cyber criminals who target them. In some cases, companies must also disclose your personal information to the government to comply with legal obligations.
That said, there are also instances where cloud vendors can sell customer data to advertisers or other applications. For example, let's say you check out a pair of sneakers you found through a Google search. Later, when you open Instagram, you are likely to see an advertisement for the same sneakers you saw earlier. This is because Instagram (owned by Facebook) can receive information from its partners, who share your website interactions and activities with them. In a way, your information is being passed around without you directly knowing about it.
With these loopholes, we can never tell you that the cloud is 100% foolproof for protecting a person's privacy, but that doesn't mean you are powerless.
The safety of your data is also in your hands
It's your responsibility to keep your data protected just as much as it's your cloud provider’s. It's very similar to how you keep money in a bank. While a bank can keep your money safer than you can in your home, you still need to be cautious and take extra security measures to prevent your bank account from getting hacked.
Similarly, you can take the following measures to keep your business' data secure on the cloud.
Always use strong passwords with multiple characters (uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols) for any online account you create.
Never save your passwords in a browser or share your passwords using messaging apps. Instead, you can use a password manager like Zoho Vault to securely store and share passwords with other employees in your organisation.
Enable two-factor authentication to log in to your account.
Don't use public wifi to access important business information online.
Read important documents like the privacy policies and user agreements of cloud service providers thoroughly before purchasing their products.
Avoid installing suspicious applications that ask you to grant unnecessary access permissions or direct you to visit unknown third-party websites.
The cloud service provider you choose can play a huge role when it comes to your data security. It's important to research them in advance and sign with a reliable cloud vendor that doesn't have a history of security and privacy breaches. While we cannot guarantee that all cloud service providers are secure, we'd like to emphasise the fact that the cloud is as secure as you make it.
At Zoho, we handle your data as responsibly as we handle ours, and we've always been transparent about the security and privacy measures we enforce. That's why we never sell your data to third parties or allow ads on our applications, even if they're free. We've stayed true to our commitment for the past 25 years, and we promise we always will.