The cloud is an exciting thing. It means we no longer have to rely on computers, disks, or thumb drives to hold our information. There’s an unlimited amount of storage capacity at our fingertips that can’t be destroyed, even if your computer goes kaput or your thumb drive gets lost.

The question is whether or not the cloud is secure. It’s true that there is some level of risk involved with handing your personal information over to a cloud provider, but it’s a lot less risky than you might think.

Here’s how to use the cloud confidently so you never have to worry about your information getting into the wrong hands.

Follow the Lead of the Federal Government

When it comes to information security, no one does it better than the Federal Government. Government agencies have a ton of policies in place to ensure important information doesn’t get leaked. If they can use the cloud, so can you!

Both NIST and FISMA regulations allow governmental bodies to use cloud services by listing security requirements that must be in place for that particular agency to use the cloud. In response to these regulations, some Cloud Service Providers (CSP) have emerged that meet these strenuous guidelines.

They conduct regular assessments to demonstrate impact levels on the behalf of a government agency, so other agencies can use that information without having to conduct their own risk assessments. Choosing one of these CSPs can make you feel a lot more secure about putting your company’s information in the cloud.

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Start with Basic Security Measures, like Passwords

Whether or not you decide to use a government-approved CSP, you should still be very mindful of basic security measures. That means using the right passwords.

A few password tips include:

  • Use at least 12 characters
  • Include numbers, capital letters, and symbols
  • Don’t use dictionary words
  • Never use the same password twice
  • Change your passwords often

Be Smart About Who Has What Kind of Access

Access is always an important consideration, whether you have information in the cloud or not.

Only provide employees and third-party vendors with the access they need to perform their job duties. You may also want to consider time-sensitive access. That way, when the job is complete, access is terminated.

It also means being mindful of levels of access over time. Make sure former employees don’t have continued access to a system, and determine if certain departments require the same level of access throughout the year.

Back up Important Files

Sharing files and syncing systems are good ways to ensure you always have access to important information. However, they aren’t foolproof.

Instead, you need to think about backing up sensitive files on external devices. That might mean pulling out those old thumb drives or running your own computer systems with hard drives that contain important information. That way, even if there is a crash or a breach, you’ll still have access to your important information.

Use Encryption to Your Advantage

Encryption is a term that can be difficult to understand, and even more difficult to implement. In short, encryption creates unreadable text unless you have the right keys to decode it.

Encryption strategies can be used when information is in transit, as well as when it is stored in the cloud. It might include file encryption, encrypted email servers, and encrypted web connections. You can also pre-encrypt data before it enters the cloud, which provides you with even more protection.

Some Things Don’t Belong in the Cloud

There’s no denying the fact that the cloud is a vital tool that can be used with success no matter how big or small your business. You can literally store anything in the cloud, which can make life very convenient, but that doesn’t mean you should.

There are still some things that don’t belong in the cloud. They include:

  • Trade secrets
  • Sensitive data, like tax information
  • Sensitive employee information, like medical records
  • Daily standard operation procedures

This kind of information should instead be stored on an internal business server that is backed up in multiple locations, at least until the cloud offers the same level of security as these traditional measures.

It’s definitely worth the time and effort to store some business information in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean you should fill those online files without thinking about security. Follow these tips and you can ensure all your business’s information is as secure as possible.