Business Security

Is the cloud safe for small businesses?

Katherine Little, 15 October 2020

The cloud is popular with small businesses for storage and remote data access, but how safe is it?

Whether you’re launching a startup or have been running an SMB for years, you need to understand the technology that you use and the security measures you have in place. All businesses have the ethical and legal responsibility of keeping data secure – from staff’s private information to the data retrieved from clients. That’s why carefully selecting how your data is stored is crucial.

In this article, we will address using the cloud as a small business – from its benefits to how secure it is.

What is cloud storage for small businesses?

The cloud is used as a form of data storage that sees digital information stored in logical pools, rather than on a physical hard drive in your office. While physical servers are used to store cloud data, they are located in data centers that are managed by the host supplying the service to you (if you opt for public cloud). You can access the data server using the internet (on a web-based interface) – retrieving or uploading files in either a manual or automated fashion. 

When using cloud storage, you can access your data from anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the internet, and as many members of your team can access it as needed. 

Public and private cloud

There are two options for cloud storage services: public or private cloud. While you access the data in the same way – on the internet – the services are operated by different people.

  • The public cloud is operated by a third party. You pay for the service, and the host is responsible for storing the data, creating an interface for access, and keeping the network secure.
  • If you opt for the private cloud, you are responsible for storing and accessing the data, and keeping it safe. You will manage the server that holds the information, but this will still be accessed online.

How do businesses use the cloud?

As a small business, you can use the cloud in multiple ways – whether it’s for data storage, data backup, remote working, or information sharing. The flexible nature of the technology makes it highly adaptable to most business environments and ways of working.

What are the benefits of using the cloud?

Now that we understand how the technology works and what it is used for, let’s take a look at the benefits of using the cloud as a small business.

Scalability and flexibility

Scalability is important for small businesses – your company may start to rapidly increase in size as it grows. All of a sudden, you need a much larger storage solution to house the data of new employees, new clients, and new projects.

With the cloud, you can easily upscale your business storage to suit your needs. This works the other way too – downscaling as and when you need it. The solution can flexibly adapt to your changing environment and meeting your capacity.

Remote collaboration

With the cloud, you can easily control who has access to what data. You can grant certain members of staff with higher access, and everyone can upload or retrieve any required information whenever they want, from wherever they are.

This is perfect for collaborative working and file sharing. Employees can share and co-author computer files, helping teams work together as flexibly and efficiently as possible, even when apart. 

Automatic backup

When using the cloud, you can either upload data manually or automatically. Automatically backing up your data can help you prepare for unexpected internet downtime or even ransomware attacks. This is crucial when running a small business, as any drawback can have a worse hit on SMBs. It’s always best to be prepared.

Not only does the cloud keep your data secure, but the automatic service can also help you use your time more efficiently – making for a more productive business. 

Reduced costs

Cloud storage can help you save money in multiple ways – from improving ways of working to ultimately driving revenue, to helping you avoid expensive data breaches.

The cloud can help you run operations more smoothly, with automatic systems helping efficiency and productivity – which can see you save money in the long run. It can also help improve you and your team’s ability to work remotely, saving on overhead like office space and equipment. 

Using the public cloud is usually more cost-effective than the private cloud. Although you will have to pay a third-party for the service, this is much cheaper than creating your own infrastructure.

What is the best cloud storage?

There are plenty of companies that offer cloud service solutions, so it’s best to do your research. Look into the history of their security, ensuring you are comfortable with the measures they have in place. Opt for encrypted cloud storage for better security.

There are varying price points, so find an option that works for your budget.

Pros and cons of cloud computing and storage

There are several pros and cons to storing your data on the cloud. Let’s recap on what we’ve discussed:

Pros

  • Scalability – your cloud service solution grows as you do
  • Remote working – allows you and your team to work together, no matter where you are
  • Automation – helps you run your business more efficiently
  • Back up – keeps your files safe, no matter what

Cons

  • Security breaches – public clouds are often the target of cybercriminals
  • Paying a monthly fee – an additional cost each month, but one that could help you save in the long run
  • Too many choices – lots of businesses to pick from, which can be overwhelming.

How secure is the cloud?

The security risks associated with using the cloud differ, depending on if you use public or private.

With the public cloud, you rely on the service provider to keep your data secure. This can be both a pro and a con. While relying on someone else to secure your private information – and your company’s wellbeing and reputation – can be a daunting premise, you’re putting your trust in the hands of professionals.

Additionally, if you are not experienced or trained enough to provide your own security, this is the better option. 

Running a private cloud may feel like you have more control, but this also places more responsibility on you to keep data secure for your employees, customers, and business partners.

However, because you are relying on a public service and are not the only business doing so, public clouds can become a target for cyberattacks and security breaches – this is one of the disadvantages of cloud computing and storage. Cybercriminals are going to be more interested in a cloud that holds the data of thousands of customers – and their customers’ too – than a private cloud with the information of a sole business. That said, there is no 100% safe option for cloud computing. Regardless of whether you use a private or public cloud, you must protect your business with a cloud-based antivirus solution. 

One way that cybercriminals can try to breach the security is through the remote nature of the cloud. For example, cybercriminals exploit ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policies, where workers use their personal devices to access, store, or send data. As there are typically fewer security measures in place on home computers or laptops, and these devices may be taken out and used in public spaces – accessing the cloud using public Wi-Fi - your data is more susceptible to security breaches. That’s why your priority should be to keep your network secure and all endpoints (devices) protected.

Endpoint protection

No matter which cloud service you opt for, it’s crucial to have endpoint security in place for the devices used to access your cloud network. Whether people are working from home, in a shared workspace, or the office, when using their own devices or ones provided by the business, each endpoint must be protected.

Protect your workplace today

Avast Business offers Small Office Protection for small businesses, delivering complete next-gen online security to keep devices and data protected against the latest cyberthreats. It provides robust, real-time protection that’s easy to install, cost-effective, and reliable – so you can focus on running your business with confidence and peace of mind.