As recently as five years ago, cloud-based software was relatively new. Bigger companies were migrating towards these systems, but many of my small business clients were hesitant. When it came to cloud-based storage, most business owners were leery of the same thing. “How do I know my data is secure?” I would frequently hear. “What if my data gets stolen or hacked?” These were valid questions then, and they still are now.
But something’s changed. Despite most small business owners’ reservations about security, many of them have embraced the cloud. They’ve moved their accounting systems there. They’ve signed on to use cloud-based customer relationship management and human resource systems. Small business owners moved their files to cloud-based servers and are collaborating with cloud-based office management systems. But the same questions from five years ago remain: Is it completely secure? Is my data safe?
The answer is no.
Your data’s not safe. At least not completely. And if any cloud service provider tells you that your data is “completely” safe then they’re lying. We, of course, know this to be true because almost weekly we read of some giant company (a large retailer, a government agency, a political party) being hacked. We see the private emails shared with the public, the stolen credit card data, the confidential information hacked and used for who-knows-what nefarious purposes. No, it’s not completely safe. So, with all of these lingering concerns about security, why have so many skeptical business owners taken a chance on the cloud?
It’s still safer than our own servers.
The big tech companies that host our data have lots of money. Small companies like mine don’t. The reality is that I can’t afford to hire really good, smart tech people in-house. Even paying for an outside tech firm is expensive. A lot of time is required to be really certain a network is secure. It’s not just that software needs to be constantly updated. Training needs to occur and questions need to be frequently answered. Employees are constantly introducing new risks because they’re always online, always downloading something, always browsing somewhere on whatever device they’re using that’s ultimately connected to our systems.
These same big tech companies plan and think. They have people in-house who are paid to do that. They have disaster recovery plans. They have formal processes for backing up data. They schedule regular upgrades and maintenance. They ensure that new devices are monitored. Their IT teams get alerts when something seems out of sync. They take the steps necessary to ensure that their systems are as secure as possible.
Why? Because it’s their business. My clients make their money from roofing services, landscaping, distributing pipes, manufacturing metal rods that are used in machines, building houses, and so on. They are not making their money from the cloud. They’re using the cloud. The companies that are housing our data have built a business model around the cloud. If my company has a data breach it could be very bad and disruptive (luckily, we have data breach insurance). But if a company whose entire revenue is a based on providing secured cloud storage to its clients is breached or compromised, it puts their entire business in jeopardy. Cloud-based companies not only have the resources, but they have the motivation to make sure their systems are as secure as possible.
And yet with all those resources and all that motivation, they still get hacked. Amazing, isn’t it? So no, they’re not completely secure. Nothing in life is completely secure. But we’ve learned that these large companies at least have a fighting chance against intruders.
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