In the past, people didn’t always trust their banks. They wondered why anyone would be foolhardy enough to place their hard earned valuables in the hands of someone else – instead, they chose to stuff them in the mattress, hide them in a safe, or just invest cash straight away. Nowadays we don’t have bandits roaming the streets, and the idea that our homes are safer than the banks is almost laughable.

However, when it comes to data, companies are often carry this old-fashioned mindset, choosing to store data on personal servers rather than entrust it to the cloud. Are they right? Is it safer than other options? And finally, what can you do to maximise your security?

How secure is the cloud?

The term “the cloud” is a little misleading, hinting at an intrinsically fluffy nature. However, the security of cloud based systems is generally regarded by IT experts to be safer for businesses than legacy systems. Not only is the data more physically secure, sitting within remote, guarded data centres, it’s also highly encrypted, making it impossible to comprehend without an encryption key.

A huge benefit of cloud storage is that at least three copies of your data will be kept on at least three different servers. This built-in redundancy means that all the servers would have to fail simultaneously for the data to disappear, the odds of which make a lottery win look pretty likely in comparison. Even if this were to happen, the data can be normally be recovered in a couple of days.

Who owns the key?

The cloud should really be called “some clouds” or, more accurately, “a disparate collection of independent remote servers of varying security”, to reflect the fact that there are a number of companies able to store your data. Unfortunately, neither of these terms are quite as catchy and so the myth prevails that one rule applies to all systems. In reality, the owner of the encryption key will vary depending on the provider. Most companies will keep the key themselves, allowing their systems to access their data for indexing. This means that you’re able to search through your documents whilst using their servers, as well as access them with the simple provision of a password.

For those who wish to trade convenience for an additional layer of security, certain companies will hand ownership of the encryption key directly to the user. As part of this trade-off, users are required to upload and download files through service-specific client applications, many of which contain encryption functions.

It should be noted that neither system is truly impenetrable, keeping your keys at someone else’s house always carries the risk that they can be taken without the owner noticing. Likewise, if you lose the keys (or your password) while they’re with you, all your data will be rendered irretrievable.

How best to protect yourself

When it comes to protecting your personal data, a good approach is to use your own encryption software to safeguard your files before uploading them to a service that keeps ownership of encryption keys. This way you get the best of both worlds, combining convenient access with peace of mind. If you truly want to maximise your security, consider using authenticated encryption – this requires some technical knowledge but allows you to see whether any modifications have been made in the metadata of the file.

Bear in mind that sharing and collaborative services will be rendered unusable by additional encryption. It’s up to you to decide whether the risk is worth the reward. Just bear in mind that the majority of businesses rely on the cloud providers to provide security – the vast majority encountering no issues.

What other options are available?

Keeping physical backups seems to go against the whole principle of the cloud. After all, isn’t the cloud essentially one huge backup? However, think of the cloud more as a means of reaching your digital files no matter where you are. An addition to, rather than a substitution for existing storage solutions. What the cloud can’t do, however, is house your existing physical documents. Fortunately for you, Flexible Storage offers all the benefits of cloud based storage, just from the confines of high security, CCTV-monitored, security grade, hardened steel vaults. When needed, documents can be retrieved by vetted professionals, scanned and securely sent, regardless of location.

At the end of the day, how you store your data is entirely up to you. The cloud is becoming larger and more popular with every passing day, and can be a valuable tool businesses of any size. However, it’s always worth keeping your own copies files safe and sound, just in case the worse comes to worst. Failing that, you could just stuff them in the mattress…

With various packages on offer alongside data management, scanning, and shredding services, our priority is to meet the long and short term needs of your company while keeping all your documents as safe and secure as possible. Feel free to get in touch to make an appointment and discuss your requirements with one of our friendly storage consultants.

May 10, 2018