By now, almost everyone has at least some experience with the cloud. And while most of us have no qualms whatsoever about storing, say, family photos or household papers in the cloud, but many businesses are still reluctant to move to cloud hosting for their websites. For all of the cost, reliability, and flexibility advantages that cloud hosting can offer, there is still one big question mark for many business owners: Security.
On one hand, the concerns about cloud hosting seem to have some merit. With news of costly data breaches making headlines every day, not to mention concerns about service disruptions, downtime, and other cyberattacks, the idea of hosting your site in the cloud can feel a bit nerve-wracking. The truth, though, is that cloud hosting is far more secure than you might think — and in many ways, more secure than what you can do yourself.
Addressing the Biggest Concerns
Most of the concerns over cloud hosting security come down to a few key points:
Location of the Data. By its very nature, cloud hosting is somewhat amorphous. Your site is hosted on multiple servers, which allows for consistent access and increased uptime, but that also means that you may not know the exact location of every single server hosting your site at any given moment — even if you do, you may feel like you can’t control each and every one. However, cloud hosting security is less about the actual location of the cloud servers than about controlling access to those services.
In other words, it doesn’t particularly matter where your site is hosted (provided, of course, that you aren’t bound by federal guidelines that specify where your servers must be located) but it matters more how you prevent access to the servers. This includes implementing access controls both internally and externally, in the form of password management protocols, intrusion protection, etc.
Security Approaches. There is a perception that cloud hosting is inherently less secure than traditional hosting, because instead of storing the site on a physical server or a private dedicated server, data is shared over a network of shared servers. While this might seem to be less secure on the surface, the fact is that the best providers actually take security as seriously — if not more so — than any other cloud hosting provider. Today’s cloud hosting providers work closely with their clients to ensure that their data is secure, employing many of the same tactics as private hosts, just on a larger scale. In fact, for a small business that lacks the staff or the skill to effectively secure their servers, cloud hosting is an ideal and more secure solution.
Data Permanence. One concern that many CIOs have about shared cloud hosting is what happens to their data when it is removed from the site; for example when the business closes and shuts down the site, or changes providers. Conventional best practices dictate that the best practice for completely eliminating the data on the server is to shred the drive, but when the machine contains data from multiple entities that isn’t always practical. However, cloud hosting providers often have DoD-approved disk wiping utilities that allow for the complete removal of data without destroying the drive, meaning that data can be removed without concern.
Securing Data in the Cloud
While cloud hosting is just as secure as physical hosting in many ways, it still requires adherence to security best practices. With that in mind, as you make the move to cloud hosting, do not forget the following security best practices:
- Conduct a security threat and risk assessment. Understanding the potential risks to your system and what you are up against regarding threats allows you to develop an effective security strategy.
- Regularly audit your cloud platform to determine if breaches have occurred or another suspicious activity has been detected. Knowing who is accessing your server and when can help you handle vulnerabilities and stop trouble before it starts.
- Employ data encryption.
- Employ data security best practices. This includes using VPNs, using firewalls, antivirus, and intrusion protection, developing an access management protocol, and managing your logs, among other tactics.
In short, when you use the same security protections in the cloud that you would on any other server, the cloud can be just as, if not more, secure. Therefore, if concerns about security are holding you back, it’s time to look at your cloud hosting options.