Why storing files in the cloud could be putting your company data at risk

Avatar for Impelling staff member Ed Hardie

It's hard to ignore the benefit of the cloud, and in 2021 storage services like Microsoft's One Drive for Business, Google Drive, and Dropbox are more feature packed and convenient to use than ever before. This blog post isn't supposed to be a warning against using these products - because we agree - they are fantastic, but if your business keeps important data in the cloud there are a few pitfalls and traps that are easy to get caught out by. In this blog post we'll take a look at what some of these dangers are, and importantly, tell you what you can do to protect yourself and your company data.

What are the risks?

Before we talk about how to protect ourselves, we need to clarify what the danger to your company is. First on the list is data loss. Whether that data is a spreadsheet tracking how much commission you need to pay your sales staff, or a binding legal agreement with another party, having the file irreversibly vanish is not something that we want to happen.

Next are data breaches. Private information being leaked. Financial agreements, customer information, there's a lot of bad things that can happen if private data gets into the wrong hands.

Finally, the last item on this list is issues surrounding poor file management and bad data processes within an organisation. Issues that fall into this category are often overlooked because the impact is less tangible.... But imagine your staff making a big sales pitch, only the PowerPoint they're using has the wrong figures in it because there are multiple copies and everybody's been editing different versions. It makes you look bad. It's definitely a situation any business would like to avoid.

If my data is in the cloud isn't it automatically backed up?

It's not daft to assume that because you keep your files in a OneDrive or a Dropbox they're automatically backed up. The freedom afforded by being able to sign in and download all your files onto a new machine and have them sync perfectly is one of the big selling points of cloud storage solutions. Knowing you could lose your laptop off the side of a cliff and carry on working on a new machine the next day means you have some level of backup. Are you protected against all of the risks we outlined above though? Definitely not.

We can assume that the staff at the likes of Microsoft and Google probably have their heads screwed on when it comes to keeping customer data safe, but that doesn't mean someone with the keys to your cloud copy can't do a lot of damage. That person could be a hacker who's forcibly broken in, it could be a disgruntled employee using their own credentials, or it could be someone who waits at the bottom of cliffs to catch falling laptops because they get a kick out of deleting other people's files. Okay that might be pushing it but laptops do get stolen, and fines get issued as a result.

It's therefore essential to follow good security practices to keep malicious forces at bay, but even then you might still not be fully protected against data loss. A study by PC World found that 75% of data loss is actually caused by human error. You could have world class cyber defences, but the fact of the matter is you're more likely to fall victim to Keith from accounts accidentally deleting the wrong folder.

Important side note: Some cloud storage platforms will actually let you restore deleted files in an attempt to somewhat guard against this problem, but often file archives and versions only go so far back, and when you're working with large numbers of files things can often get deleted and go unnoticed for a long time and fall outside of the recovery period.

How to protect yourself against data loss and cyber attacks

What's the solution then? How do we ensure that we're fully protected against data loss, cyber attacks, and Keith from accounts' sausage fingers?

The answer is a fairly boring one actually. Backups. You probably know that any important or sensitive data should be backed up, but for cloud storage that needs to be a solution that keeps a copy of your data separate from Microsoft/Google/Dropbox.

Data in OneDrive/Dropbox/Google Drive should be considered live and volatile, rapidly changing. When it comes to keeping data safe, you want the opposite. A true backup is a snapshot in time that you can isolate and move away from destructive forces. Do this regularly and you gain the ability to safely restore files in the event of a ransomware attack, and accidental overwrite, or even a software glitch at the likes of Microsoft.

In addition to a backup, staff training is imperative. Your staff should know what they're doing when it comes to operating the cloud software that they use on a daily basis. Understanding how file sharing works and what the implications of taking certain actions within the system not only reduces the risk of your data leaking outside of your organisation, but it reduces the chance of mistakes happening.

Getting all of this right isn't easy however. As a business owner, even if you know what should be happening, implementing a dependable backup system and training your staff to all sing from the same cloud storage hymn sheet is a big undertaking to which you might not have spare resource to dedicate.

That's why our Managed IT Support is a ready made service that's designed to solve both of these problems with minimal fuss. Our backup solution is a robust and proven implementation that our team has perfected over a number of years, and we can deliver focused staff training via expert partners who have a track record in producing positive results educating on topics such as file structure, data sharing, and security best practices.

If you understand and acknowledge the risks posed by cloud storage, but don't want the hassle that comes with properly mitigating against them, get in touch and a member of our team can explain how Impelling can help.

Avatar for Impelling staff member Ed Hardie

Ed Hardie, Technical Director

A software developer by trade, Ed takes on the technical challenges involved with running a digital business. Still actively involved with the development of many projects, Ed keeps a close eye on the emerging trends and technologies within the industry.

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