Believe it or not, once upon a time employees of various companies would only be able to access data, messages, files, and information by logging onto a physically chained network that would be interlinked from computer to computer using actual cables.
Pretty old school, right? Not only this, the data was then kept on massive machines that had their own separate room, a space that had to constantly remain well-ventilated in order to prevent any potential overheating.
One wrong move could be fatal; if a device were to overheat, next thing you know company data would all be lost which could lead to complete catastrophe. For this reason, an entire IT-support team would be required to work in-house, simply in the event that something could go awry.
Times have changed, and now companies turn towards systems such as cloud computing for their data storage. Cloud computing carries many advantages, which we will go into further detail about shortly, but as with all things in life, the pendulum swings both ways.
With the presence of hackers and threats to cybersecurity on the up and up, cloud computing can carry risks, such as information being compromised by those with malicious intent. In this article, we discuss not only what cloud computing is all about, but also how one can better protect confidential or sensitive information when using such a modern and potentially vulnerable service.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Simply explained, cloud computing refers to a third-party online service that hosts applications, data, files, software, and more for an individual, an entire company, a business, or other needing organization on a virtual system known as “the cloud.”
Those who are Mac or iPhone users will already be familiar with this term, for the Apple Cloud has grown immensely over the past decade. Cloud computing providers tailored towards organizations and businesses are typically on a much larger scale because the amount of data that must be stored reaches grandiose sizes and often a big network of employees must be able to access various information.
Data and applications are accessed from the outsourcer, the service provider, by logging in through any computer that has an internet connection, which means that no matter where in the world an employee is located and no matter what physical device they are hooked up to, they will still be able to view the same content and details, freeing them from many potential complications that once existed prior to the cloud is a thing. Considering that physical proximity used to be a massive concern for employers, this restrictive physical presence is no longer needed.
Cloud computing is paid for typically through a subscription, which is normally billed on a month-to-month basis, meaning that this service can be canceled at any point in time. This contrasts the prior option of needed to buy a license for a specific program, which could end up costing a company large sums of money upfront with no refund policy in case a business decided to suddenly shut its doors.
The most important aspect of cloud computing to remember is that maintaining upmost security with this type of service is an equal responsibility between the provider and the consumer.
The cloud computing service provider ensures a network is safe on their side (the infrastructure or core of the system,) but the consumer must monitor their platforms, data, and operating systems which remain in their direct hands.
The reality is, a cloud computing service provider could take all the precautions necessary, but if the consumer is not also in cooperation, a cyberthreat could unfold, leading to compromising circumstances. One such example of a consumer mishap would be a hack happening from the inside by an employee with full access to sensitive data.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
The reason why funding for cloud computing services has reached $39.5 billion in 2019 is due to the copious amount of advantages this option does offer. Companies and businesses are happy to spend money on cloud computing because of how much cash it saves them in the long run.
The biggest advantage of switching to cloud computing has to be that it not only saves money but also time. Having a database of information available on a secure, online platform allows gigantic, international companies to effortlessly share and send data between one another, deeply extending global reach. This entails grander expansions and maximizes the potential for multi-national businesses and organizations.
Next off is the service’s protection against data loss. No longer do businesses have to worry about unforeseeable circumstances or natural disasters demolishing all of their saved data. Unless the internet was to completely be erased, there would be no way for files to just disappear in a moment.
Additionally, the need for physical backups is no longer a fundamental practice for companies storing information because third-party cloud computing services are responsible for backing up data digitally.
As the world turns more and more into virtual reality, we’ll be seeing cloud computing grow in size, use, and popularity, with predictions of it turning into a $63 billion industry by 2021.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
The biggest disadvantage of cloud computing has to be the fact that when utilizing this service, you are placing substantial responsibility into the hands of third-party service. For this exact reason, when choosing a cloud computing provider, one must ensure that they are selecting a trustworthy source.
In order to avoid any mishaps or threats to security due to trusting the wrong individuals, all cloud computing service providers must be thoroughly checked and preferably selected based off of a recommendation from another company or dependable network of individuals.
Some of the most popular cloud computing providers are as follows (but as always, do scope out the company prior to paying for their service):
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud Platform
- Oracle Cloud
- Verizon Cloud
- Dell Cloud Marketplace
- Alibaba Cloud
Many other service providers do exist, but again, fully vet any cloud computing company you are leaning towards subscribing with. Often times, the bigger, notorious names have extra security measures set into place, which is what makes them a potentially more reputable decision.
Why Is Cloud Computing a Modern Choice?
Let’s be honest, companies do not want to have all of their sensitive data stored anymore on a device that could overheat and create catastrophe; they would much rather have a network that can be widely accessed by all who need to receive specific information.
Long gone are the days of massive servers kept in isolated, well-ventilated rooms with an always on-call IT support team ready to jump in at any sign of potential disaster. The idea of a natural disaster such as a flood or fire destroying all information also helps to convince businesses to move towards the modern choice of cloud computing.
Additionally, now there are so many opportunities for global access to all information, in addition to saving employees time without needing backups to be constantly generated or for duplicate versions of documents to be created.
The modern choice of switching from physical software to cloud computing has not only saved companies time but in turn also a ton of money.
How Can Confidential Information Be Better Protected When Using Cloud Computing?
Because cybersecurity is just as much the responsibility of the user as it is a cloud computing provider, there are specific steps that can be taken in order to better protect confidential information when utilizing this type of digital service.
The following courses of action can be implemented for improved security:
- Monitor and audit all movement happening related to the cloud. Regularly view all authorized and unauthorized log-ins, and track employee usage of this virtual service.
- Keep tabs on privileged accounts so that there is an air of accountability. Make sure each one of your employees logs into the shared network with their own information so that you can avoid any breaches from the inside.
- Limit privileges and allowances to only what is necessary. Do not give every one of your employees the same access to information and data. Instead, only permit the actions they can select to what is appropriate for their job description and work responsibilities. Only give your most trusted employees full access.
- Enhance security by implementing multi-factor authentication. Require multiple steps and passwords for employees to log into the cloud and opt for vaulted passwords.
Some of the most detrimental cyberattacks involving cloud computing occur because of someone on the inside who is granted substantial access to the network and its data. In this manner, the individual gains the keys needed to unlock many precious doors, which can lead to massive security breaches.
Avoid this by knowing all of your employees with in-depth access to any cloud computing services and complete thorough background checks if the data they will be accessing is particularly sensitive. Additionally, proper tracking will help to keep tabs on which actions are performed by which employees.
Mistakes to Avoid with Cloud Computing
When running any business, it is important to remain trusting of your team but also still enforce the necessary precautions. Do not assume that you know someone just because they appear a certain way on the surface.
Still be sure to take care when giving people access to sensitive or confidential information, and always monitor what is going on even if you have full confidence in your employees.
Our Final Thoughts on Cloud Computing
Although the idea of entrusting a third-party online provider with storing sensitive data, information, applications, and more may seem like a risky ordeal, cloud computing providers have proven time and time again that their services are quite safe, so be it that both the provider and the consumer play an equal role in maintaining responsibility by securing data as much as possible.
As a user of a cloud computing service, there are specific steps that can be taken in order to better protect confidential information, which comes down to properly tracking and monitoring your employees and limiting access to certain individuals.
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