Sony, Walgreens, Best Buy, Citibank. What dubious connection do these well-known companies share? All of them fell victim to major, headline-making data breaches in 2011.
When data breaches happen to big companies, it’s natural for small businesses to take notice. Events like these create the impression that data--particularly data stored in the cloud--is vulnerable. In fact, recent research by Microsoft found that 51% of small business owners are hesitant to use cloud-based solutions because of data privacy concerns.
Despite these fears, a key fact remains: The cloud can offer far better security than you can provide on your own. Here are five reasons why:
1. Cloud security is stronger.
The current cloud ecosystem is built on a global network of world-class data centers operated by big names like Amazon, Rackspace, and Google. These providers host applications for the companies that develop them, and security is the backbone of their state-of-the-art infrastructures.
From security guards and video surveillance, to access controls and perimeter fencing, big data centers have exceedingly strong physical security. At some small business like yours, data breaches can happen because people simply walk off with a server or laptop that stores sensitive information onsite. You can bet your biometric security devices that thefts like these are rare at modern data centers.
2. Cloud security is smarter.
Almost every type of hacking threat--from viruses to phishing scams and beyond--is on the rise. In just one month last year, Kaspersky Lab detected more than 640 million hacking events on devices running its products. Numbers like those could make any business long for the good old days of telegraphs and typewriters.
Anti-virus software and firewalls provide basic protection, but data centers that host cloud-based software utilize cutting-edge encryption and security tools. These include advanced intrusion and zero-day threat detection, which means security teams can fend off hackers before they attack. Yes, they really are that good.
3. The cloud makes security compliance easier.
Besides “taxes,” few words inspire more dread than “compliance.” And for good reason: Depending on your industry type and standards, security compliance is expensive, time consuming, and involves a mountain of paperwork.
Take an e-commerce business. Companies that handle credit card information must follow PCI data security standards, a set of 12 requirements--and 220 sub requirements--developed by credit card companies. Given that, it's no surprise that the vast majority of small online merchants work with a third-party, cloud-based payment processor, like PayPal. These large providers have the resources to ensure PCI compliance, and make life much, much easier for their customers.
4. The cloud makes security more cost effective.
If you decide to take a do-it-yourself approach to security, you not only have to buy the right equipment and software to secure your on-premise deployments, you also have to worry about maintaining it and keeping it up to date as threats evolve--or hire staff to do this for you. None of this is cheap.
When you use cloud-based software, on the other hand, all you need to purchase is a subscription to your software of choice. Security is covered by the cost of your subscription, which means you, and your wallet, can breathe a sigh of relief.
5. The cloud lets you focus on your business, not security.
I know a small, successful law firm that has an on-premise document storage server in one of its office closets. The backup server is located in the same closet; actually, it's stacked on top of the primary server.
From that, you can probably tell that the firm has no IT staff and the partners don't know much about data security. Their documents would be safer if they used a cloud-based solution hosted in a data center, where one fire or electrical surge couldn't knock out both document servers in an instant. This would also stop the partners from spending time setting up or managing hardware or software. And that's the real beauty of the cloud: You can focus on your business without having to worry about technology that may fall far outside of your area of expertise.