How to Find Safety in the Cloud

How can small and medium-sized businesses protect their vital information from hackers? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article written by John Bussey, the answer is outsourcing to an IT management firm. The idea to do so is finally catching on, as an ever-increasing number of smaller firms opt to protect their data off-site.

While IT service providers have been around for years, they were mostly used by big companies. Smaller businesses are now starting to use “cloud computing,” or the running of operations and the storing of data on someone else’s servers, then accessing it from home or the office through use of the Internet. They are lured by the cost savings and service provided, in addition to the added security offered.

A variety of packages are offered, starting with the basic plan, which includes tasks such as updating antivirus software or downloading patches for software. As with all things, the more you pay, the more you get, ranging from firewalls protecting your data to a “private cloud” that allows you to isolate operational critical information while still allowing you access to extra processing power. Some other options are high-end encryption, notification of hacker attacks and mitigation to help moderate and alleviate such attacks when they happen, and 24-hour tech support.

But cloud computing also has its drawbacks. One is that having  multiple users of a given server allows for multiple avenues of access being available to potential hackers. Also, if security is weak on the provider’s end and companies who share that server with you have bad Internet practices, then this makes everyone who is on that server vulnerable to infection by viruses, Trojans, and malware. Hackers are attracted to the multiple targets in one setting, which clouds provide. All this can make your data more vulnerable in the long run.

According to a survey by the tech-research group IDC in 2008, 72% of small businesses (or businesses having fewer than 100 employees) and 63% of mid-sized companies (or those having 100 to 999 employees), stated security was the main issue that discouraged them from using cloud computing. Compare that to 2011 where 50% of small businesses and 47% of mid-sized companies had the same concerns.

Before you determine if cloud computing is right for your business, verify vendor references and fully investigate vendor security records.

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