How Secure Is the Cloud?

There is a preconceived idea that the cloud is not secure and data stored there can be breached easily. Fortunately, these preconceived ideas are changing and starting to diminish.

But how is the cloud’s lack of security being compared? Customers often compare it to their own infrastructure. I often ask them what security measures they have set up? The data centres hosting cloud technology have implemented security measures that, without being of military calibre, are far superior to most companies’. As such, this should not be seen as a security issue for 80% of businesses. In addition, data centres are very restricted geographically, with state-of-the-art technology when it comes to anti-virus protection, security updates, etc.

There are two big risks associated with the presence of data on the cloud: the first one is the amount of data found in data centres, making them a target of choice for hackers. The second big risk is not the cloud itself, but that users’ password quality, allowing access to their data, is inadequate. Given that data is accessible from everywhere, secure use of the cloud essentially requires users’ strict discipline in password management.

The perceived risk usually comes from organisations, such as professional orders, that have been accustomed to hosting sensitive data themselves for many years. They may be fearful of hosting this information elsewhere, as they don’t know exactly where it will be kept.

Didn’t we have the same fears when e-commerce emerged? Can we compare the quality of the cloud’s security with the internal hosting security process of online purchases, when consumers were afraid to buy through the Internet, fearing that their credit cards would be compromised, while security breaches were more common with in-store purchases at that time?

Secure access to data within a business isn’t always perfect. Physical access to the premises remains the greatest flaw in data access, whereas it is very limited, and extremely well-protected in data centres.

It is therefore a real, but erroneous, perception. The risk is greater for data hosted internally (privately) than on the cloud.

Which security elements need to be implemented in a cloud infrastructure to ensure optimal data security?

In terms of security – both internally and on the cloud – there is always the possibility of error, but a minimum is required to ensure the security and integrity of the data, and especially to secure the location where the data is kept.

Component 1: Data Levels

Where data is kept, access must be secured and password management should be effective.

Component 2: Infrastructure

To remain cost effective, servers are pooled, meaning that one client’s data may be on the same server as another client’s. It is therefore essential to follow standards of computer architecture in order to implement the necessary security measures, so that neither client can access the other’s data.

If data were hosted internally, we would not be exposed to this risk, but we need to be aware of our own budgetary constraints, as internal hosting represents additional costs in terms of server management and maintenance.

Component 3: Data Location

Nowadays, data centres and server hosts, which make up cloud infrastructure, can be found everywhere. Access to these centres is increasingly secure (i.e., access cards, fingerprints, etc.). And these sites are often set up to support one another, for example in Montreal, Toronto and the United States. So if something happens to one of them, such as a fire or other disaster, we can switch to another centre to ensure data access.

Component 4: Legal Considerations

As data security is extremely important and well monitored, country-specific confidentiality and data access clauses have been devised.

Finally, do we risk running out of space with the explosion of today’s data and mega-data (big data)? Do not fear – the cloud’s storage space is almost infinite, so new infrastructures and storage can constantly be added. Not to be neglected, the cloud is also a very ecological option, when you think that each business needs its own equipment room. Cloud storage represents an economy of scale and offers considerable energy savings!

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