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What Is the Cloud, and Is It Secure?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

You’ve probably heard about “the cloud” more and more over the years, most likely in conversations about data storage. But you could you explain it to a T?

Most couldn’t tell you the ins and outs of it, even if their small businesses are already using some cloud-based services.

So, what exactly is it? Should your small business be using it? And is it safe?

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is what everyone refers to when speaking of “the cloud.” Think of it as a bunch of remote servers that can store and access data, operate programs or provide a service — all accessible whether you’re using your office’s Kinetic Business Internet or a mobile hotspot.

As an example, Microsoft Office 365 or even Adobe’s Creative Cloud used to require you to buy a CD to install said program on your computer. Now, both have done away with the disk, instead calling for a monthly fee to use their services.

Or, as another example, just as when you save, say, a business document on your computer hard drive, you can perform a similar function online with Dropbox or Google Drive.

Benefits for Small Businesses

Because cloud-based services use the internet, your small business will have less physical equipment to buy and maintain. That could also mean that you won’t need as many IT professionals to manage servers and backups, freeing them up to focus on network security.

These services are also the perfect tool for on-the-go employees or executives, who would be able to access business documents anywhere, anytime. And that flexibility may lead to savings, if small business owners let employees use their own devices or those that they’re comfortable using.

Cloud-based services also give you control over who has access to what documents and allows for greater collaboration within those documents. You won’t have to worry about fishing out the right email with the most updated attachment. Rest assured everyone will be working off the same document.

Should your small business grow, cloud computing services are easily scalable, meaning you can increase or decrease accounts or use.

A Safety Net?

Since Cambridge Analytica gained access to data of up to 87 million profiles, people and businesses alike are growing more concerned about keeping their information protected.

The cloud can prove to be more secure in part because you get to choose who gets access to it. While viruses can still attach to local copies of documents — those on your hard drive, say — cloud-based services usually allow you to go to a previous version or overwrite copies. Should disaster strike, you would also have automatic backups of the files you need.

But, with cloud-based services being available anywhere with an internet connection, you’re wondering how can it safeguard your small business.

Hackers have mostly gone for traditional servers, not public clouds, according to The New York Times. The newspaper likened the security of cloud computing to keeping your money mixed with other people’s in a bank vault, a safer technique than having your money in a dresser drawer.

Here are some other things to consider when choosing your cloud provider. A big contender is whether your small business or the cloud provider owns the data that you upload. To be sure, read over the provider’s terms of service, and get a clear understanding of data ownership.

If you’re already using a cloud-based service, and you’re unsure of its privacy policies — or still worried about hackers — try encrypting the documents before you upload them to the cloud.

Keep all of this in mind when you’re deciding whether you want to migrate to the cloud or whether you want to use it more or more sparingly.

Windstream Small Business offers various value-add packs, including a security pack and a la carte services, such as internet security and online backup and remote IT.

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