April 06, 2015

Security Blanket


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“Trust, but verify” — Ronald Reagan

This simple yet effective quote from our President is something that we really need to embrace in this age of mobile computing. Security over our data and our customer’s data is imperative in this digital age. The number of hackers that are trying to disrupt your business and embarrass you are growing by the minute. There seems to be an article everyday telling us about the latest company that has had its customer’s data hacked into. Large companies like Target, Home Depot, Staples, Neiman Marcus and Michael’s have had their customer data on file exposed. Even Apple has taken a PR hit on their security in place as part of the fallout of several celebrities having their accounts hacked and “personal” photos being posted on Internet.

You may be thinking “my information is secured on the cloud so I have nothing to worry about”. This, unfortunately, is not 100% accurate. While cloud computing does have its cost and operational advantages, you should be looking at your cloud network provider and asking yourself these questions:

  • How much does it cost? Is it based on the amount of data stored or is it a flat fee? Does it include data redundancy and data management
  • What type of data do you want to store on the cloud? If the data sets you are storing are complex then cloud storage makes sense. However, if you have relatively simple data sets or if the information is customer sensitive, you should probably not store it in the cloud for business and risk reasons.
  • Do you use encryption when you store data? It might be annoying or inconvenient to have to type eight to twelve keys when you open your data set, but how inconvenient is it to recover data stolen from your competitors? Or restore master data on your customers that is your source of revenue?
  • Does your cloud provide meet the provisions outlined in Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16? You should be asking for a copy of this letter from your prospective cloud service provide before negotiating any deal.
  • How quickly do you need your data in the event that all of your data disappears? If you need access to the data overnight, then you need to ask your cloud provider if they use a tape backup so that your data can be restored on your servers as soon as possible. Unless it is specified in the service level agreement, it could take several weeks to have your systems up and running.
  • How easily will you be able to move your data to another cloud provider? It may be an awkward question to ask at the outset of the relationship, but you should know what fees you will be charged for changing providers and how long it will take to transfer the data over.

Technology strategy and execution is not easy. There is a lot to consider and it is easy to make a decision without considering all the risks and scenarios involving the loss and exposure of your customer’s data. If you are not sure that you can completely trust that you are making the best decision for your company, verify your information on your company’s data storage by speaking with your trusted finance and/or technology advisor. Technology is transforming the way that we are doing business today, but without the proper checks and balances in place you may end up spending many unproductive hours recovering your customer data and goodwill.

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