Few can deny that cloud computing is changing how we do business. On-demand data access, lower storage costs, and more streamlined IT administration create lasting efficiency gains – and that’s a good thing.
But does that make the cloud an optimal solution for all business-related file transfers and data sharing? Recent failures of popular cloud services suggest that the cloud isn’t the great data panacea many of us believed it to be. Think twice before storing the following files in the cloud:
1. Critical Business Documents
Want to access business-related files from any device? You know, things like tax forms, bank records, and litigation strategies? Storing them in the Dropbox might seem like a good idea. It is all encrypted, or so they say.
Sadly, a lot of Dropbox users – people who thought their data were safe – experienced a wake-up call on June 20, 2011 when every document in their cloud drives suddenly became available to the open internet.
It seems an authentication bug made it possible for anybody to access a subset of Dropbox accounts using any password. The company quickly took care of the bug, but it’s hard to know when the next time a similar breach will impact Dropbox, Box.com, SkyDrive, or another consumer-grade cloud syncing service.
Many of us have hundreds of passwords to remember, and we’ve resorted to measures like encrypted spreadsheets, local password management apps, and even (this isn’t recommended, by the way) just using the same password over and over again in an attempt to streamline our digital lives.
Some people even use cloud-based password managers to simplify things. However, unless you have a really high risk tolerance, you might want to avoid these.
Consider LastPass, one of the more popular password managers. In May of 2011, that app’s administrators got wind of a possible security breach and advised all customers to change their “master passwords,” which are the ones they have to enter to access the app.
While LastPass may very well be a “best of breed” cloud solution, that doesn’t make it invincible. And storing passwords in the cloud definitely isn’t a fail-safe option.
3. Confidential Employee Data
So, what if it wasn’t your own confidential data that was compromised, but someone else’s? Would that be just as bad?
Could it even be worse?
A hack into Sony’s cloud-based Playstation Network a few years ago exposed personal information, including credit card data, of over 70 million customers. This example certainly isn’t the only time hackers have accessed shoppers’ banking info, but the incident just goes to show that even major, international brands aren’t immune to sophisticated cyber attacks.
What if your employees’ background or payroll info was exposed via a similar incursion? The liability repercussions could be quite serious, indeed.
4. Time-Sensitive Files
Let’s say you’re on your way to a prospect’s office to perform a sales presentation. You’ve got a PowerPoint file saved to one of your department’s shared drives, and, per usual, you’re going to open it after arriving at your destination.
Except that you can’t. You’ve got a great wireless connection. Everything seems to be working fine, but the file just isn’t there. Neither is the folder it lives in.
Herein lies the “other” weakness of business cloud services: availability. Even if your data stays safe from cyber thieves, that doesn’t protect you from server outages that could leave you stranded and without the files you need. It happened to Rackspace, and it can happen to any cloud provider.
Just think twice before trusting the cloud with your time-sensitive files. They might disappear when you need them most.