WHAT IS IT?
Cloud computing refers to “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer” (thank you, Google). In our firms and in our lives, we access data all the time. So where is it? A cloud service hosts your data and information on servers that are located somewhere other than your server room or personal computer. You may hear people discuss “on premises” (or “onprem”) versus “hosted” (aka “in the cloud”). The difference is where the data is located and how you access it.
Here are some examples of cloud computing services: Microsoft Office 365, Google Cloud, Apple iCloud, Amazon Web Services, and HR and payroll systems like ADP. Most people use cloud computing services every day whether they realize it or not.
IS IT SAFE?
Keeping data safe is paramount for an organization and its individuals, so cybersecurity must be addressed whether the information is housed onprem or hosted. Ask yourself: Where is the data that matters to you? How do you access it? Is it protected? Is it backed up and recoverable?
As Adam Levin, Chairman of identity protection service CyberScout, told NBC News, “It is no longer realistic to believe that we can prevent these attacks from happening, but we can be prepared to minimize the damage and recover quickly.” Cloud-based tools that focus on protecting data are in a better position to provide the types of safeguards that might otherwise be cost prohibitive to the average company or individual.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
With cloud services housing your data, you no longer have the responsibility of maintaining, securing and protecting the hardware required to keep that data onprem. The onus of responsibility is shifted to the service provider. This frees you up to manage your technology resources rather than maintain them. Also, the subscription model of most cloud computing services allows you to adjust for needs quickly. You can scale your costs immediately to adapt to your current business needs. Budgeting becomes more scalable and predictable.
Other benefits of cloud computing include:
- Instant disaster recovery built into the service
- Built-in business continuity plans
- Accessibility options that would require extra effort to provide with onprem solutions
- Increased mobility options for a highly mobile workforce
- With many of the services, instant collaboration and coauthoring options internally and with clients
Cloud computing allows a business to be nimble and creates the type of connectivity that meets the demands of today's workforce.
Keeping data safe is paramount for an organization and its individuals, so cybersecurity must be addressed.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Whether your data is onprem or in the cloud, there are constant risks surrounding its protection. You are responsible for conducting due diligence and making sure the proper safeguards are in place to protect your information. With cloud computing, it is important to read the terms of service. Know the difference between a "consumer-grade” system and an "enterprise" solution. Consumer-grade products and services offered by cloud providers like Dropbox and Google have very different conditions around their rights to the data versus yours. For work-related information, you should never use a consumer-grade service. Cloud providers offer professional enterprise services that you should use instead.
Another risk has to do with the way you access the data. The new "perimeter defense" is no longer your network — it’s your identity. The way you verify that users are who they say they are when accessing data is vital. Authentication methods have broadened beyond simple usernames and passwords. Whether you are using cloud services or onprem services, you should implement multifactor authentication. The risks outweigh the inconvenience by far.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
The cloud is the great equalizer for businesses. It levels the playing field for companies of all sizes. The agility the cloud provides allows you to adjust to constantly changing business and client demands, making this a compelling way to approach technology in your organization. Clients who once resisted cloud services are now using them and expecting that you do the same. If you are not in the cloud now, you will be soon. If you haven't started planning out your cloud strategy, you should. The times are changing, and we must change with them.