September 10, 2013

3 Major Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Cloud

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Over the last few years, cloud computing has become one of the most useful, reliable and popular tools for individuals and businesses alike. The positives of using the cloud are obvious: you can store an unlimited amount of data; it provides an incredible amount of flexibility; many processes can be streamlined; and it reduces capital costs with no need for hardware.

Most importantly, however, you have peace of mind knowing your information is backed up in a safe place.

On the surface, it seems as if choosing a cloud service is easy; that said, there are some significant pitfalls users tend to fall in. These pitfalls can have detrimental repercussions and could cost you or your company an incredible amount of data and money.

Below are three of the biggest mistakes people make on the cloud, and explanations on how to avoid them:

1. Focusing on the wrong kind of security

Every user/business has their own needs when it comes to defending their files. A student probably doesn’t need a whole lot, and on the other end of the spectrum, a large enterprise may need a wealth of security to guard their highly-valuable (and possibly confidential) information. One of the easiest mistakes when using the cloud is to sign up for the wrong kind of security — either giving yourself too much or too little.

While “too much security” may seem like an oxymoron, it can still be a mistake when it comes to cloud computing. If you require little to no safeguarding on your files, spending a lot of money on encryption can be an irresponsible use of funds.

On the other hand, too little security can leave you exposed. As hackers have proved time and time again, people often underestimate how effortless it is to infiltrate a server and uncover classified information.1

How to avoid this mistake: Each cloud service offers different levels of security; often times the options are flexible and can be customized to your needs. Before signing up with a company like Dropbox, Crashplan, etc., think long and hard about how prized your data is, and give yourself the level of protection that makes sense.

2. Failing to monitor performance

It would be easy to sign up for a cloud service and not give your judgement a second thought — and many businesses won’t. But failing to keep track of how well your cloud is performing could mean big problems down the road. As your company grows or contracts, the amount of data you need to store will change; this is inevitable. And while your original choice for a cloud service may be able to cater to your changing needs, it may no longer be your best option.

For example, say you sign up with a cloud service for a yearly fee. You use 100 GB of data, and the cloud you use gives you a great deal. But then your profits skyrocket and your business grows…all of the sudden you need to store 10x more data than before. While the service you initially signed up with may be able to set up a new arrangement, it may be in your best interests to make a switch.2

How to avoid this mistake: Be sure to regularly keep track of how your storage needs are changing; and if any major changes are required, re-evaluate your cloud service decisions to be sure you’re getting the best product for your company.

3. Assuming local laws apply world-wide

This is a big one, and often overlooked. When computing on the cloud, you’re opening up your data to be accessed at virtually any place in the world that has Internet access. Just because your data is protected by law in New York City doesn’t mean it has that kind of security in Europe, South America, Asia, etc. Jeff Castillo of Computer News Middle East explains:

Data that is secure in one country may not be secure in another. In many cases though, users of cloud services don’t know where their information is held. Currently in the process of harmonizing the data laws of its member states, the European Union favors very strict protection of privacy, while in America, laws such as the US Patriot Act give government and other agencies virtually unlimited powers to access information belonging to companies.

Always know where your data is held. If necessary, store your data in more than one location. It is advisable to choose a jurisdiction where you will still have access to your data should your contract with the cloud provider be unexpectedly terminated. The service provider should also be able to give you flexibility on where you want your data to be held.3

How to avoid this mistake: Simple — do your research. Find out where different cloud services are located and use that information when comparing and contrasting different options. If a service that looks good is based in an area that has sketchy privacy laws, you may want to go in a different direction.

1. Linthicum, David. “3 common mistakes in cloud migration.” <<>>
2. “The top six cloud computing pitfalls to avoid.” <>
3. Castillo, Jeff. 13 August, 2013. “Top 5 mistakes you should avoid when embracing the cloud.” <>