Migrating a business’ data to a cloud server is often an issue of trust.  You need to be able to trust the cloud provider on a personal level, since that provider effectively becomes your business’ IT department – or at least a major part of it – and regular, unfettered communication with them is key to success.  

You also need to trust them on a professional basis, not only because you require an efficient service, but because data privacy is of paramount importance.  It is human instinct to want to keep what we consider most valuable as close to us as possible, and transferring confidential information to the cloud runs counter to that instinct.  Therefore, the question is this: for all its perks, how can we trust the cloud to keep our data safe?

It is notable that many of the high-profile hacks we have seen in recent years – the likes of Target, Sony and TalkTalk – were committed on hosted, onsite servers.  This informs us that keeping data onsite is not necessarily safer just because it is geographically closer to the user or owner.  It also tells us that hackers are becoming cleverer and more sophisticated; their methods are increasingly difficult to detect.  Some forms of security software are built around the premise that threats are going to get in no matter what firewalls are put up.  Do not be fooled into thinking that your data privacy is absolute simply because it is stowed away in a small room in your office.

So what effect does moving data to the cloud have on privacy?  A cloud such as Amazon Web Services’ is offsite and unplottable on the map, while the system is tested regularly by professional hackers to ascertain data security.  In moving to the cloud, you hand your data over to specialists to look after, rather than burden your own IT team with the stresses of shooting down potential intrusive presences.  Furthermore, every scrap of information that is stored in the cloud is then backed up, replicated and encrypted – the latter of which is now officially listed as a PET (Privacy Enhancing Technology) by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Different cloud providers supply different services, however.  Market-leading Amazon Web Services, for instance, have more than 1,800 security controls to virtually guarantee data privacy – but not all providers can necessarily say the same.  If a provider is worth its salt, however, they can offers customers the choice of public, private or hybrid cloud – the latter allows a business’ most sensitive data to be stored privately without compromising the flexibility or applications that the cloud was created for.  In addition, it is possible to restrict the geographical locations (or, more specifically, Wi-Fi networks) that cloud-based data can be accessed from, and many providers will supply this service if the user so desires.

The majority of the world’s data is still stored on onsite servers; for a long time, that was the only practical way to do it.  The cloud era, however, is fast approaching, and more businesses are turning to it than ever before – but while that is changing, the importance of data privacy remains the same.  It is a challenge that cloud computing is successfully stepping up to.  We hear a lot about the cloud’s properties and how it can transform the way businesses work – from its lower costs to its automatic application updates, to the fact that it permits users to work in any location they need to, using any device they choose.  What we hear less about is the cloud’s security, and how moving to a cloud desktop can contribute to data privacy rather than compromise it.  Only now is the reality beginning to resonate with the public – and that understanding is set to keep on spreading.

Topics: Workplace Technologists

Oliver Kiddell

Written by Oliver Kiddell

Oliver Kiddell, Author at Viastak Technologists.