In 2022, 94% of enterprises were using cloud services and 60% of corporate data was stored in the cloud. The COVID pandemic that started in 2020 pushed many office employees to work from home, making universal accessibility to company-owned data and software a necessity. Cloud computing provided the flexibility that employees needed to collaborate and organize their work seamlessly. In addition to empowering workers with the ability to work from anywhere, anytime, on any device, cloud-based services help companies spend less on IT hardware and maintenance.
The cloud enables a company to scale up and down without having to manage a lot of hardware, and cloud service providers (CSPs) offer a high level of reliability by utilizing redundant systems and dispersing their operations geographically to mitigate the effect of natural disasters and power outages.
So, while a CSP helps add layers of data security, it is important for a business owner to recognize that contracting a CSP will not outsource all the risks and responsibilities of data security. Cloud computing involves the use of shared resources, such as servers, storage, and networking. When using cloud computing, the responsibility for data security is typically shared between the CSP and the cloud user. This shared responsibility model can vary depending on the type of cloud service being used. In most cases, the CSP is responsible for the security of the cloud infrastructure and services, such as the physical security of the data center, network security, and the security of the underlying hardware and software. The cloud user (that’s the business owner) is responsible for securing the data and applications they store and run in the cloud, as well as managing access to those resources.
Cloud-using enterprises must understand their responsibilities for data security and take appropriate measures to protect their data. This includes using backups, strong authentication and access controls, encrypting sensitive data, implementing appropriate security policies, and regularly monitoring and auditing their cloud environment. In this model of shared responsibilities, the CSP also plays an important role in ensuring the security of the cloud, by providing secure services and infrastructure, as well as regular security updates and patches.
There might be a tendency for a cloud-using company to take a “set it and forget it” approach to engaging a CSP, but that’s the wrong approach. A company that employs the cloud for its data storage and applications should think “delegate, don’t abdicate.” A CSP is your collaborative partner in a set of important, shared responsibilities. Risk never takes a day off. As a cloud user, a company should follow these 12 guidelines to protect itself:
- Do your homework before you hire a CSP. Make security a top priority when reviewing third-party services. Assess the CSP’s security protocols. Be sure your vendor is compliant with all applicable regulations and has the right infrastructure in place. Ask about server location and the monitoring and protection of the buildings that house these servers. Regarding the data’s virtual environment, ask about internal and perimeter firewalls, intrusion detection systems, zero-trust protocols (including multi-factor authentication) and continuous monitoring. While uptime and uninterrupted service are also very important, nothing is as critical as security.
- Understand shared responsibility. Be very clear about “who’s responsible for what.” CSPs usually operate under a shared responsibility model, where the CSP is responsible for the security of the underlying infrastructure while the customer (the cloud user) is responsible for securing their own data and applications. Misunderstanding or neglecting the responsibility relationship can lead to security gaps.
- Use strong authentication and access controls. Implement strong password policies, multi-factor authentication, and access controls to ensure that only authorized users have access to your cloud resources. Limit who can access, modify, or delete data. Failing to set up proper access controls can lead to data breaches. Weak password practices make it easier for attackers to gain access.
- Encrypt sensitive data. Safeguard your data with end-to-end encryption. Failing to use proper encryption methods at each stage of storage and transit can make sensitive data vulnerable to interception and theft. This can include encrypting data before it is uploaded to the cloud, using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), or, better yet, TLS (Transport Layer Security) to encrypt data in transit, and, finally, using encryption at the storage level.
- Implement appropriate security policies. Develop and enforce security policies around data classification, access controls and data retention. Companies should continuously monitor their cloud infrastructure for security threats and have a well-defined incident-response plan in place. Inadequate monitoring and incident response can result in undetected security breaches and delays in addressing vulnerabilities.
- Regularly monitor and audit your cloud environment. Monitor your cloud environment for security threats and suspicious activity, and conduct regular audits to ensure that your security policies are being followed. Inadequate monitoring can result in undetected security breaches and delays in addressing vulnerabilities.
- Keep track of your data. As with any physical asset, it is critical to know where data is stored and backed up. Build in redundant systems to access vital information on where your data is stored, just in case you or your key employees become unavailable.
- Keep your cloud environment updated. Regularly update and patch your cloud environment to address security vulnerabilities. Be sure you are running the latest security applications.
- Use third-party security tools. Consider using third-party security applications to augment the security features provided by your CSP. These tools can provide additional layers of security, such as intrusion detection, data loss prevention and vulnerability scanning.
- Train your staff. Provide regular training to your employees on best practices, including the use of strong passwords, how to avoid phishing and social engineering attacks and properly handling sensitive data in the cloud. Help employees understand that businesses are as vulnerable to theft of data as to theft of physical property and inventory.
- Have an incident recovery plan. A comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity plan is critical to minimize the impact of security incidents and ensure the swift restoration of services. Don’t wait to write your plan and educate all of your employees who need to know how to react quickly in the event of an emergency. Lack of planning can result in extended downtime and loss of data.
- Comply with regulations. Companies must ensure their cloud-based data storage and transfer practices comply with relevant data protection regulations, such as HIPAA and CCPA. Non-compliance can lead to fines, legal hassles and damage to your company’s reputation.
Trust Invision for cloud-computing services
The quality and accessibility of your cloud-based services depend on the quality of the host network’s reliability, performance and security. With nearly 100% uptime and industry-leading security, Invision’s cloud-computing services for businesses can handle your company’s most demanding IT needs. No one understands how technology and cloud services help a business level the playing field against the competition better than we do. And we can put the power that comes from the cloud in the palm of your hand.