How safe is your vital data when it’s in the cloud?

Fireproof Data SafeThe current push to ‘cloud computing’ and storing vital personal and company data ‘in the cloud’ encourages us to ignore one simple but very important truth – the cloud has a physical location.

And because it has a physical location, the sophisticated IT arrangements to which you entrust company information and old wedding photographs is arguably at as much of a risk as whatever storage arrangements you might have on your own premises, if you’re thorough. The cyber-risk could be even greater, because it’s highly likely that as you read this, somewhere in the world a member of the hacking community is working to breach the security of whichever data centre holds your information.

As the amount of data held expands exponentially – its is forecast to at least triple in the next three years – not only will the prize for the potential hacker grow in perceived value, but the chances of some kind of IT ‘hiccup’ will also grow. Furthermore, a recent study has suggested that your cloud-stored data may not be immune from being seen by others using the same provider. However, this blog is intended to highlight not cyber-threat potential, but physical problems facing ever-larger data centres, and to suggest some advice as a result.

It’s not necessarily malicious attacks that we should consider. Employees, who are as human as the rest of us, make mistakes. Natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes can happen, power supplies can be interrupted, fluctuating temperatures (and IT can generate lots of heat) can cause problems.

Best then, as a business, to audit a data centre just as you would audit any other business service, or have a specialist do it for you. They would check all manner of things, no doubt based on the EU Code of Conduct for Best Practice in Data Centres, and looking for:

• ISO accreditations
• business continuity management to BS25999-2:2007
• the payment card industry’s PCI-DSS
• IL3 status for governmental systems
• power and temperature readings
• disaster recovery capability
• hardware efficiency
• thermal capacity
• airflow management
• physical security

All of which serves to highlight the level of risk faced by data centres, and by association, your data. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be using data centres for storage. However, we do need to be aware of any potential shortcomings, and to think of the sentiments of a man with no experience of data centres whatsoever; American inventor Benjamin Franklin. He said that distrust and caution were the parents of security. It’s the same thinking behind the phrase ‘belt and braces’ that we’re all familiar with.

And on that basis, perhaps you should be thinking of backing up business data and treasured family pictures and documents on your own secure storage device, and keeping it in a locked fireproof filing cabinet, as well as on the cloud? Software is readily available today that will do the backing up for you, quietly and in the background, throughout the time your computers are running. Large amounts of storage are found on stand-alone devices smaller than a paperback book, and therefore easily capable of being tucked into secure fireproof data safes or home safes. With two potential sources of recoverable data, there would be no need to worry about any loss of data, which would all be secure and to hand whatever the eventuality.