How to Keep Your Small Business Safe in the Cloud Using Encryption

Think Cyber Security Isn’t Important for Your Small Business? Think Again

KPMG RECENTLY SURVEYED a range of procurement officers around the UK, and they heard some interesting things about contracting practices.

For example, 70% of respondents said that SMEs should be doing more to protect their data from cyber threats and protect valuable client data. And almost every single one—94%—said that cybersecurity standards are important when awarding SME contracts.

Possibly even more interesting is that 86% of the respondents said that they consider removing an SME supplier if that supplier was hacked.

What does all of this mean for you?

In short, it means that you need to make sure you’re taking the right precautions or you could face some very serious repercussions, especially if you contract with larger businesses. If you haven’t taken the time to make sure that you’re protecting your data, you should do it as soon as possible.

More and more businesses are taking advantage of the cloud for data storage. Whether it’s a major provider, like Dropbox or Google Drive, or your own personal cloud, it’s crucial to take steps to protect your data from snooping and cybercrime.

You must also create backups of all of your important files, you can also be assured that even a catastrophic event that destroys your local hard drive (or the entire computer) won’t erase your important business data. Whether you back up to a local external drive or to a server in another country, you’ll be able to download copies of all of your important files in a matter of hours. Having backup copies means that you won’t have to pay a data recovery expert to try a very, very expensive and chancy process to get corrupted data back from your hard drive.

This can thankfully all be managed on the cloud, the cloud refers to the storage and processing of data on remote servers. What this means, simply, is that instead of storing something on your hard drive, you store it on a hard drive that’s been rented (usually for free) from someone else.

This helps keep your hard drive from filling up, making it easier to share with colleagues, and makes sure that you still have a copy of your files if your computer gets stolen.

Is the Cloud Safe for My Business?

While cloud storage and processing are fantastic ways to help move your business into the digital age, there are a number of factors that could make it a security threat.

Always having access to your data no matter where you are, the ability to easily share information and the fact that you’ll always have a backup are significant advantages, it’s important to not overlook the risks of storing business data in the cloud.

Cloud services are a really obvious target for hackers, for example—they know that individuals and businesses store a lot of sensitive information there, and getting access to it could prove to be extremely profitable. They also know that people don’t take steps to protect themselves, making it much easier to victimise them.

Protecting Your Business Data in the Cloud

So what can you do? How do you stay safe in the cloud?

  1. Use Good Password Practices

The simplest thing you can do is something that we covered earlier in the week: protect yourself using good passwords. If you store a lot of sensitive data on Dropbox, using a password like “fishandchips” isn’t doing you any favours. Using SimplyPayMe is a great start—all of your payments information is protected by industry-grade encryption through Stripe. But you should be doing more, too. Make sure your passwords are strong. Don’t keep old customer data in unprotected folders on your computer.

 

  1. Choose Wisely the Data You Store in the Cloud

Even a well-protected cloud storage server is still like any other server—it’s connected to billions of people via the internet, and it has a physical location that could also be compromised. For this reason, it’s a good idea to think carefully about which things you store in the cloud.

For example, you might need to access your customer list on a regular basis. But do you need to have their addresses? Or just their phone numbers? What about payment information? E-mail addresses?

You should only store the data that you absolutely need in the cloud. The less information that you’re storing, the less could be potentially compromised. (If you’re using the cloud to keep backups of your data, keep reading to find out about encryption, and check back next week for a new post on backing up your business data.) If you create a local backup, you can choose the level of security and encrypt your backup files so that no one can get access to them, even if they end up getting access to your computer. Using a well-attested system like PGP  will help keep your data extra secure. Because so many people rely on backup files and are concerned about the privacy of their data, most backup services use excellent security measures.

If you’re looking for an automated solution, I highly recommend CRASHPLAN. It’s easy to set up, it’s quite affordable, and you need to do almost nothing to keep it running. They offer unlimited storage and will back up an unlimited number of versions of your files. It’s easy to back up to both local and remote servers, too.

What should I look for when backing up my data 

Should I backup my data Locally or remote?

When backing up your data, you can store it either locally (i.e., on an external hard drive somewhere in your home or office) or remotely (on a server that belongs to someone else). There are advantages to both.

Restoring files from local backups is much faster than from a remote server. If you need to re-download a huge amount of data, the difference could end up being a number of hours or even days. So if you plan on restoring a lot of your data, a local backup could be a good decision.

On the other hand, a local backup is much more easily destroyed. If there’s a fire in your office, or your town gets flooded out, your backup hard drive could be made just as unusable as your computer, meaning that all of your backing up wouldn’t do you any good. That’s where having a remote backup server helps a lot.

I recommend using both a local and a remote backup server. I back up all of my files to a local hard drive and to a remote server, ensuring that I have the maximum amount of protection without sacrificing restoration speed.

Is it best to choose a DIY or Subscription-Based Backup?

Whether you decide to back up your files locally or remotely, you can decide to do it yourself or have another company help you. While DIY is cheaper (often free), paying for a remote backup service often provides a number of great features that would be quite difficult to create on your own.

For example, many services offer versioning, so that every time you make a change to a file, a new copy is made. If you create a file and then edit it 100 times, there will be 101 copies of that file on your remote server, letting you effectively move back in time to see what the file looked like at any point in the past.

Backup providers also usually offer a very high level of encryption, further adding to the security of your business.

And, of course, paying someone else to take care of your backups means minimal setup and a lot less hassle than doing it yourself.

Should I choose Automated or Manual Backup Programs?

Many backup programs allow automatic backups, so that all of the files that you’ve told it to back up are copied either at a specific time or whenever they’re changed. This can use a lot of bandwidth, however, and if you have a slow internet connection, it could slow you down quite a bit.

Manual backups let you choose the time at which things are backed up. While this gives you a lot of control over your connection,

At SimplyPayMe we recommend automated backups, no matter what you’re backing up.

  1. Use Multiple Cloud Storage Services

With all of the free cloud storage available, there’s really no reason to ever pay for a premium account and lock yourself into a certain provider. Dropbox provides 2GB for free (though it’s easy to get more), Google Drive gives you 15GB, and Box comes with 10GB for free. And that’s just three of the major providers. There are plenty of others, like Amazon, OneDrive, and SugarSync.

Splitting up your information makes it more difficult for any single person to access all of it. If you keep customer contact information on Dropbox, inventory on Google Drive, and business contacts in Box, less of your important information will be lost if one of those servers is hacked or goes down.

If you’re nervous about keeping track of where everything is, you can use a service like PrimaDesk, JoliCloud, or CloudKafe to manage all of your cloud storage accounts from a single place.

  1. Consider Using Your Own Cloud Server

If you’d like to store a lot of information online, and you’re concerned about security, creating a cloud server for your business might be the best way to go. It allows you to control who has access to the information, set up high-security measures, and make any tweaks to the server that you need to.

Even if you’re not a tech genius, setting up a server for your business is easy. Companies like WD make a lot of products that will help you do this, like the MYCLOUD SERIES. You can also check out CIO’s 6 STEPS FOR SETTING UP A SMALL BUSINESS SERVER ROOM.

  1. Encrypt Business Data in the Cloud

We haven’t covered encryption in this series yet, but it’s coming soon, and that will provide a more comprehensive overview of encryption and how you go about using it. But if you’re looking for cloud security solutions right now, I’d recommend encrypting your data.

Encryption, while it’s extremely effective in keeping people from stealing any of your information, has a price: it takes time to encrypt and decrypt files. So if you’re encrypting and decrypting a file that you use all the time, you might find that it slows down your workflow quite a bit.

But if you’re storing backup data on a server, or information that you don’t need to access quickly and on the fly, encryption is a great way to ensure that it stays safe. Even if you do access the data on a regular basis, the added peace of mind for you and your customers might be worth the time and expense.

If you’re interested in encrypting your data, check back soon for our post on encryption, which will give you a list of tools that you can use to keep your files totally secure. Until then, however, you can take a look at BOXCRYPTOR, a subscription service that encrypts cloud files for you.

While we place a lot of trust in our cloud storage providers to keep our data safe, encryption takes safety out of their hands and puts it into yours, giving you more control over your own security.

Conclusion

Using cloud storage for your business is a great way to share data, save room on your local hard drive, and protect your information from problems with your local computer. But storing data in the cloud also gives a measure of control to the storage provider, which can put you at risk.

By using strong passwords, carefully considering which data you store in the cloud, use multiple cloud storage providers, set up your own server for extra-sensitive data, and encrypt your business data, you’ll take that control back and ensure that you’re as safe as possible without sacrificing the convenience of online storage.

 Install a good antivirus program, like BITDEFENDER or AVAST. These are just the basics of computer security. If you start with those, you’ll be well on your way to protecting yourself.

It might seem like too much effort for not enough reward, but it could prevent a costly mistake in the future. It’s worth the time you’ll spend!

And a final recommendation, Please don’t wait to experience the pain of data loss to start backing up! Be proactive, do some research, and find a solution that works well for your business. Even if you never need to use it, the added peace of mind will be well worth the expense.

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