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Securing Your Place in The Cloud

Are you in the Cloud? There are many benefits of cloud computing: accessibility to storing and retrieving data from anywhere at any time, easy replacement, reduced IT costs and the list goes on. If it is so wonderful, why isn’t everyone adopting it? Large companies are increasing their use of the cloud while small to medium businesses (SMBs) are hesitant.

SMBs could see a large benefit to adding the cloud to their mix.  Field sales reps would be able to access and store data from anywhere. Reduction in IT costs: less hardware required, less staff required to manage data storage and less IT training needed. All of this with predictable software license fees.

So…what’s the hold up? What the SMBs, and most others, know is that there are real risks involved when storing data to the cloud.  Even though we talk about “The Cloud” as if it is a magical place with an infinite amount of storage space where our data lives virtually dancing among unicorns and rainbows, the reality is that the data is still stored on hardware somewhere. “Where?” is the question. It is difficult to protect your data if you do not know where it is located. Also not knowing who has access to your data is also an issue. There is a risk of data being unintentionally exposed by providers, administrators and other cloud users. Being we are a data recovery company, we cannot forget the risk of data loss in the cloud. Yes, even alongside of unicorns and rainbows, data loss still happens in the cloud.

Could an SMB reduce the risks associated with storing data in the cloud? The answer is YES! With some fore-thought and planning before entering the cloud, risks can be reduced.  Also, a company can create an emergency plan just in case disaster strikes to efficiently deal with an issue and reduce the damage.

Choosing a Cloud Provider Wisely

Here is a list of questions to be asked when choosing a cloud provider.

Technical Questions:

  1. What is your company’s plan for dealing with data loss or the inaccessibility of data? Do you partner with a third-party data recovery provider or could we select our own?
  2. What type of data storage does your company use? (RAID, Hyper-V, VMware, etc.)
  3. Does your data center and do your employees have any certifications?
  4. What are your back-up protocols?
  5. What is in your service agreement about data recovery and liability for loss?
  6. Can the data, where appropriate, be shared among different cloud providers? Can it be easily transferred to a new provider if necessary?

Data Security Questions:

  1. What steps does the provider take in order to protect your data?
  2. If data is marked for deletion, is it permanently erased, including copies?
  3. What is your data encryption philosophy? How is the data encrypted and who manages the keys?
  4. Does the client retain ownership of the data when it is in the cloud?

Legal Issues to Consider:

  1. Does the back-up policy of the provider correspond to the back-up policies of your company?
  2. What is in the provider’s privacy agreement? What do they guarantee?
  3. Do you or your external data recovery company, extract data for legal disputes in a legally sound manner?
  4. Where exactly are your data stores?  Are they local to the US, or off-shore?

Finding the Right Data Recovery Company

Be sure to select a data recovery provider experienced with cloud recoveries.  Data lost in the cloud isn’t necessarily gone forever. We have seen many successful cloud recovery cases. The company you choose should have experience recovering from complex RAID, SAN, Virtual and cloud environments. In addition, they should be able to repair and restore corrupted files including emails, databases and office applications. Lastly, the data recovery company must have tools for the recovery of encrypted data and the ability to return it in an encrypted form.

I feel like an after-school special when I say, “Knowing is half the battle,” but the more you know about your cloud provider upfront, the easier it is to secure your data and recover it if need be.  Like with any new technology, testing is key. If you are hesitant, maybe trying just a sample of non-sensitive/non-business critical data first is the way to go.  Most companies are using the cloud as just one part of their data storage solution. Reaping some of the benefits and reducing some of their IT costs. So those pictures of unicorns and rainbows your employees are storing for a motivational pick-me-up, maybe those should be the first items sent to the cloud.

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