Almost every user planning to outsource his data into the cloud has concerns about security. Who can access the exported data? Isn’t a third party storage service a much more interesting target for hackers? Can I really access my data at any time and from anywhere I want? Or may it happen that my data is untraceable in case of an emergency?
Three different aspects should be considered when securing data in the cloud:
- Is the data protected against data loss and can it be accessed at any time?
- Is data integrity guaranteed, meaning that the data cannot be altered by unauthorized persons?
- Is the exported data adequately protected from unauthorized access?
To illustrate the advantages of cloud services, just consider the following scenario: Should a fire break out in your house and thereby burn all of your belongings (including the PC, hard disks, CD-ROMs, etc.), the exported data still exists and is accessible.
Usually cloud storage providers protect your data against external attacks very well because it is their business. Many end users also believe that hackers won’t be interested in targeting the data they have stored on their home PC but reports show that still a lot of home computers are not adequately protected against attacks. One reason is the forgetfulness (or laziness) of many users in carrying out software updates. However cloud computing providers have to implement the best security solutions, since the earned trust is their asset. For personal use there are a number of cloud services with different security measures. It is usually advised to choose a major service provider such as Dropbox or Evernote, who are well established, because they surely have a secure market position and can use bigger budgets to avert danger. It could happen much faster to smaller suppliers that they don’t prevail on the market!
Before you decide on a provider, you should consider whether you just want to store data, if you want to use the cloud as a backup or if you want to run applications from the cloud. The providers also differ in the fee they charge for these services. Microsoft Office for example can be rented through a cloud, so it doesn’t have to be installed on the desktop anymore. Two criteria when selecting a vendor: Are the exported data and the access encrypted and who can access it in an emergency?
In the next step, you should carefully consider what data you want to export to the cloud. Not all data is suited, like for example bank data or very personal data. Anyhow, if you want to store such sensitive data in the cloud, it would be wise to encrypt it separately. A major advantage of a cloud is the easy access to the stored data. No matter where you are geographically and – with the mobile apps of many suppliers – independent of the device you use (smart phone, PC, tablet): It is always possible to retrieve your data.
The data export into a cloud does create risks, but also holds unexpected benefits: Whether the data is safe or not ultimately depends on the provider and the conditions demanded by the purchaser. Unlike companies that have to pay attention to complex legal regulations, the decision for the use of cloud services only depends on the personal sense of security. Before categorically rejecting cloud services on the basis of security concerns, you better first check the state of the data security within your own four walls.