Security in the Cloud—Key Points to Consider
There are many good reasons to move your hosting to the cloud. In fact, the cloud is secure and often more secure for small to medium sized businesses. That is – if you go with the right provider.
For this article, I’ll point out some potential problems and give you one solution that solves them all.
First, before you choose a hosting company, you need to consider the factors that can threaten the security for your data and the ways an experienced web hosting company has available to neutralize them.
Security online is essential, one of the key challenges for any business. The proof is found daily in the media:
- Celebrities have their social media accounts hacked
- Retailers have credit card data stolen, much to the anger of their customers
- Government agencies report theft of critical personal data that can be used for identity scams
- Consider offline security too… what happens if your businesses data center or offices are burglarized? Do you have data off-premise just in case of this?
The Advantage of the Cloud
Cloud hosting is fast and reliable. It makes your data and site accessible to anyone with an internet-enabled device. This makes it easy for firms that have workers in different buildings, towns and even countries to collaborate. Global managed cloud is indeed just that, access to data from anywhere in the world.
It is economical because you can immediately reduce your spending on IT infrastructure and reduce the number of staff that must focus on keeping your software up-to-date.
Many IT departments report major improvements in efficiency with the ability to adopt an agile approach to their online projects after moving to the cloud. This reduces costs, streamlines operations and encourages growth for your business.
But cloud hosting has security challenges that need to be met before you can be sure your data is safe.
The Good News About Cloud Security
For many small and medium sized businesses, the cloud environment is more secure than what they currently have. The reason is that a cloud hosting company will spend much more money to ensure security than a small to medium size firm can afford to spend itself on security measures for their in-house data center.
Since the cloud hosting company does just one thing, managing the data centers that handle your computing needs, they hire the most skilled and experienced personnel whose only job is to focus on security issues. A major mishap could put them out of business. It is to their benefit to do whatever it takes to keep your data safe.
So there is no question you can benefit significantly from moving to the cloud. But what are the challenges when it comes to security issues? Here is a look at three you need to consider before making the move.
Is Your Cloud Host Capable in Multiple Areas?
You can’t just put your data on the cloud and forget it. You need to be sure that the cloud hosting company is well versed with an array of critical issues, like scanning, monitoring, managing data and keeping up-to-date on technology, everything required for in-depth, reliable managed cloud hosting.
Scanning means checking regularly for vulnerabilities in the system. Finding out what is a potential opening for a hacker before he finds it lets the problem get fixed before an attack ever takes place. There are two types of scanning:
- Internal scanning looks for vulnerabilities from inside the firewall. The goal is to make sure the system is secure if by chance the attacker does get inside.
- External scanning finds weaknesses that come from the public internet, the outside of your firewall.
A reputable cloud host conducts ongoing file integrity monitoring, called FIM. This gives you a heads-up in case any of the critical systems or application files have been modified or replaced. This additional level of security is critical. It warns you as early as possible that your system might be compromised.
Log monitoring means checking and reviewing the detailed log information kept about servers and their devices that affect your data. This type of monitoring gives essential details about attempts to breach your security, about misuse of accounts and even about problems that aren’t security related.
Managing your data is what cloud hosting is all about. Be sure to look for hosts that have invested in personnel and infrastructure that is cutting edge and able to handle all your data needs quickly and efficiently. Find a host that has an array of choices, including dedicated servers, private clouds, public clouds and hybrid clouds.
It is important to find one that has a dedicated support staff that are easy to contact and provide quick answers to technical questions 24/7/365. You need reliable access to your data regardless of holidays or the time of day it is.
Does Your Host Have an SOC?
An SOC is a Security Operations Center, a team of expert IT workers who know how to implement changes, engineer solutions and maintain all security processes 24 hours a day. The best SOCs have staff with the latest certifications recommended by industry leaders, including CISSIP and CISA.
Many companies who have sensitive data often have complicated hosting needs. Web hosts with an SOC have the staff on hand in one place to deal with all types of emergencies and individual requirements on an as-needed basis.
It is important to make sure your web host has the latest and greatest when it comes to technology. In addition, be sure it has staff with the expertise to make the best use of the newest equipment, software and apps. Machinery without the ability to use it does not serve your security needs.
Is Your Host Compliant and Secure?
Find a cloud host who has all the features requested for specific types of compliance measures. Two of the most common are:
- PCI, or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which sets requirements for dealing with credit card information. All companies that process, store and transmit credit card data must do so in a secure manner.
- HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which involves protecting a patient’s healthcare data, puts the burden squarely on the people collecting the data. This is often paired with HITECH, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health.
There are other standards for compliance necessary in other industries. Make sure that your cloud host has the necessary staff and technology to handle the work required to meet the compliance standards.
In addition, cloud hosts should be SOC3 certified and submit to regular independent audits. Find a company that is comfortable with the auditing routine, works easily with outside auditors and helps them do their jobs quickly and thoroughly.
Security should be designed from end to end within a host’s data management system. Security and compliance standards and practices need to be built-in throughout the company.
How To Find the Right Cloud Hosting Company
Whether you are a small business, intermediate or large in size, you need to find a cloud hosting company that puts security first. Research the market. Network with managers in businesses similar to your own. Ask them about their experience moving to the cloud. Get recommendations. Take any of their bad experiences to heart and avoid those firms, however good the deals they offer.
Narrow your list and interview staff at each of the hosts. You are looking for ease of communication, calls returned quickly and clear, understandable answers. Ask them about compliance issues that affect your business. Make sure the host is up to those standards and is already following the industry requirements. Ask if they have an SOC.
Don’t worry if you’re not an IT expert. Feel comfortable asking questions about their capabilities for scanning and monitoring. Finally, request the names of recent customers. Then call them and ask about their reactions to the service and the level of expertise they have encountered at the web host.
One company with a solid track record is INetU, in business since 1997. They have a reputation for taking security and compliance seriously, as well as reliability and customer service that is second to none. Said one happy customer, “It was very important to use that they knew what HIPAA was and had all the security standards to comply with it. They are PCI-DSS certified which makes us confident that we can count on INetU to be very secure.”