Any business using the cloud for storing data will know the benefits – efficiency, speed, flexibility and productivity to name but a few.  But in spite of its benefits, storing data in the cloud brings with it significant security risks.

According to government sources, the average cost of a cyber breach is £11,000 for an SME  – a cost that usually culminates in a business folding within the subsequent six months. But even if your business doesn’t succumb to a cyber attack, the operational disruption, the reputational damage, and the general uncertainty among your staff and customers, are all things you can do without.

So, if you choose to keep your business data in the cloud, here’s what you need to do to keep it secure. 

How secure is the cloud anyway?

When you opt for the cloud as your data storage solution, there are good reasons for doing so: it’s cheap, flexible, fast, and scalable. But for all its benefits, the one major drawback is that it’s a public – and therefore insecure – environment. 

The storage you effectively rent from the cloud is run on virtual machines, and that hardware is also shared by other customers. And when your cloud provider allocates resources to you when you need them, you don’t actually know where your data is sitting. When you access your cloud data, it could be sitting in any location in the world. 

There are obvious security problems with this, particularly if the sector deals with classified information – healthcare, law enforcement, justice, or military, for example. As such, it’s crucial that you can be sure that only you and your authorised employees have access to the information you store in the cloud. And this responsibility lies with you and your cloud service provider. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question to use the cloud. There are plenty of opportunities to proactively secure your data if you set your mind to it:  

Train your staff

Mistakes happen in any business, but when sensitive data is involved, the consequences can be catastrophic. Poor security hygiene and lack of knowledge and awareness can contribute to security vulnerabilities, leaving you wide open for data corruption or theft. 

The good news is that this is a relatively easy thing to remedy. With sufficient training, either in-house or with an IT security expert, you can ensure that your staff are up-to-date with day-to-day security habits from two-factor authentication and good password management through to what to do if something looks suspicious in their inbox. Making security training and awareness a cultural part of your organisation will stand you in good stead. 

Secure your endpoints

As businesses are increasingly moving away from office-only work environments to flexible work-from-home and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) options, they face greater threats inherent in connecting to unknown networks.

As a result, it’s increasingly important you secure their endpoints, both digitally and physically. This means that all devices – laptops, desktops, phones, tablets and printers, need to be kept secure. 

Simply including antivirus and firewall protection is a good start. In addition, it’s important that multi-factor authentication becomes part of your company-wide policy. 

This being said, each of these endpoint security solutions has its vulnerabilities, which is why you might consider using an IT support provider to cover you with an advanced endpoint security solution.  

Have a backup and recovery plan

It makes the most sense to avoid a security breach occurring in the first place, but regardless of how much security you establish, there’s always a risk of a successful cyber attack. For this reason, it’s vital that your business has a robust recovery plan to minimise the extent of the damage should a security breach occur. 

First and foremost, regular data backups are essential so that data can be restored from the most recent point in time. 

A backup strategy is your second priority, giving you a plan for when the worst should happen. Your strategy should consist of a disaster recovery solution, which you may wish to outsource to an IT specialist to manage for you. 

Encrypt your data

By encrypting your data, you add an extra layer of security between the cybercriminal and your information. And because only authorised users can access the encrypted data, you can rest assured that it stays out of the hands of data thieves. 

When you’re looking for a cloud service provider, opt for one that automatically encrypts your data when it stores and backs it up, and when your data is in transit. This not only secures your data in the cloud but also when it sits on your hardware. 

Become Cyber Essentials accredited

Most businesses are beginning to come to terms with the enormity of the daily threat of data theft and how catastrophic a successful security breach would be. That’s why we’re noticing that many of our clients are asking us to help them get their Cyber Essentials accreditation. 

Cyber Essentials is a level of certification and a set of tools and protocols that help your business stay protected against cyber attacks. And the results speak for themselves. Becoming Cyber Essentials Certified has been said to reduce a company’s cyber risk by a massive 98.5%. 

If you would like to find out more about how Equity can help you become Cyber Essentials Certified, please get in touch and we can discuss your options.