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How does an upscale clothing retailer know which garment or accessory will make them millions? How much does a bad Yelp review affect your business? Should your next used car be orange?
These are all insights, questions, or patterns that business intelligence – or, big data – can reveal. From what your customers are tweeting to the number of sales you had in August, nearly everything we do online generates data. Business intelligence (BI) is concerned with how we can use this internal data to make strategic business decisions. Companies able to harness the power of big data can gain a competitive edge by making fast and informed decisions based on facts, instead of intuition.
But with big data comes big responsibilities. Now that companies are able to use this information to optimize customer service or break into new markets, they must find a way to securely store and access it. Since 89 percent of companies see big data and business intelligence as an opportunity, the next question to answer is where to store this information: cloud or on-premise?
The Benefits of Cloud Storage
On-premise storage can be costly and hard to scale. Additionally, the amount of employees working from home or on-the-go has increased by 60 percent since 2005. Cloud-based desktop solutions that can be accessed on multiple devices are one way to accommodate this increasing mobility.
Cloud computing is on-demand, scalable, and can be swiftly deployed through a global network. It allows companies to bypass hardware, software, and other infrastructure investments that data storage and analytics require. Rather than build and maintain data warehouses, companies can buy BI resources on demand that are relative to their needs.
Potential Security Vulnerabilities of Cloud Storage
Though there are definite benefits to cloud storage, it remains plagued by security concerns. Two of the biggest barriers to cloud adoption are fear of unauthorized access to proprietary information and security defects. However, if risk can be managed, the potential flexibility of SaaS programs can be a large advantage.
Regardless of storage location, securing data depends on a variety of factors such as vendors, software, and use-case. Potential cloud storage vulnerabilities are not unlike those found on-premise – infrastructure security, power outages, data recovery. Security issues that arise can be faced by either the provider or the customer, and luckily there are ways for businesses to combat the concerns on each side.
Overcoming Issues Faced By Cloud Providers
Cloud storage providers must ensure their infrastructure is secure, the clients’ data and applications are safe, and that cloud or power outages are minimal. Due diligence is one of the most important steps businesses can take before choosing a provider. Companies should avoid any vendor that refuses to provide detailed information about their security programs.
According to Gartner, there are several details you should know about potential cloud storage companies before making a decision, including:
- Privileged user access details: Who manages your data?
- Regulatory compliance: Do they undergo external audits or security certifications?
- Data location: Where do they store and process data?
- Data segregation: Is encryption provided? What is done to segregate data?
- Recovery: What happens to your data in a disaster?
- Investigative support: Are they facilitating illegal activity?
- Long-term viability: Are you able to get data back if necessary?
Once you have evaluated the integrity and privacy standards of a cloud storage provider, make sure they offer:
- network segmentation through firewalls
- up-to-date security patches
- password protection
- and security management services.
Knowing the history and services a cloud storage provider offers will prepare businesses to make educated decisions that facilitate and achieve at least the same levels of data protection that an on-premise set up allows.
Combating Client-Facing Vulnerabilities
The path to secure data is a two-way street. Once you’ve ensured that a cloud storage provider has taken proper steps to secure information, there are additional ways to defend your data.
Companies must be sure to use strong passwords and authentication measures. If possible, multi-factor authentication should be enabled. This means that in order for a user to log in to a service, they are required to verify two or more independent factors. These may include:
- a knowledge factor: something only the user knows (password or PIN)
- a possession factor: something only the user has (magnetic card or usb token)
- an inherence factor: something only the user is (fingerprint or voice recognition)
Using your debit card and PIN at an ATM to withdraw money is an everyday example of multi-factor authentication. Requiring strong authentication is one way to add an extra layer of defense to protect your data.
Another way to protect sensitive data is through encryption – encoding your messages or information so that only authorized parties can read it. Although some storage companies may offer encryption, this means they decrypt your data as well. By encrypting your own data before it’s transferred to the cloud, you can make sure that the data is useless to anyone without access to the encryption key.
The Future of the Cloud
Though some see cloud computing as a way to avoid IT support altogether, the cloud does not manage itself. Cloud strategy is not an easy task to handle, and businesses will continue to need administrators and managers who understand internal software, how it affects the business, and complex cloud security issues. It’s predicted that by 2020 the majority of organizations will rely on the cloud for more than half of their IT services. For business owners looking to store their rapidly growing business intelligence data, cloud storage just might be the silver lining.
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