Popular cloud storage and backup solutions deliver lower total cost of ownership and more convenience for SMEs, but are cloud backups secure, asks Gareth Tudor, CEO of Altonet. 
Many South African organisations don’t feel comfortable with the perceived parting with control of their company information. The data centre is after all the heart of their business, and not something to be handed over without any guarantees of full privacy and security.
However, organisations are faced with growing amounts of data, new compliance regulations with regards to archived storage, as well as viruses and hackers – which raises obvious questions about the integrity of their data. In addition, there are multiple reasons for data loss and, by far, the most common is data corruption followed by equipment failure.
Other causes include total or partial data centre destruction and theft.
Employees are more mobile and the risk and costs associated with data loss for an organisation are becoming significant. Companies need a backup solution that takes care of everyday storage growth and backup needs while lowering repetitive administration tasks of key staff.
Will users have secure access to or backup of stored data no matter where they are or what happens when they backup in the cloud? Are there flexible security configuration options to cater for niche business needs in a stagnant economy?
Storage in the cloud requires a threefold approach to security: data security; the user interface; and physical security. Each of these aspects must be addressed by a service provider that has extensive hands-on experience with managing customer information in order to ensure its customers’ data is truly secure in the cloud:
* Data security should include unique encryptions for each user, guaranteed end-to-end integrity (passwords, SSL encryption and VPN tunnelling) between the authorised user and the server. Data needs to be safe, available and unaltered. Realtime, 24/7 monitoring of servers should be in place to detect any latent issues before they can cause problems.
* All hosted and cloud services use a user interface for employees to interact with the service, gaining access via secure passwords and codes.
* For all but the largest and most trusted service providers, enquiries should be made about the physical security of the data centre where the data is stored. Further questions in respect of mirrored sites, dual power sources, and full redundancy of bandwidth sources should also be asked, as well as how issues such as fire and water protection are handled.
Lastly, having satisfied themselves about the security of the cloud storage facilities, organisations need to ensure that their data is easily recoverable through Web interfaces.
This ability to access and recover data from any location regardless of the source location is critical. It is essential that such data recovery is simple, efficient and quick to minimise or eliminate financial losses as a result of lost productivity.
With backup and data protection in the cloud, organisations can leverage great benefits from simpler, less expensive and more powerful data protection and recovery solutions. By choosing a service provider that meets the most stringent security criteria with a solid track record, enterprises can leverage the capabilities of the cloud for a significant long-term strategic advantage.