Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of the Cloud

Startups can ensure that their data is stored safely and avoid the risk of cyber theft while saving on the cost of installing their own infrastructure.

learn more about Tim Maliyil

By Tim Maliyil

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The cloud is still safe really!

With all these major breaches constantly gracing the evening news, it might be hard to believe. But the truth is that most cloud services are built so as to ensure the security of data.

Security breaches happen in the same way that burglaries and con games happen, but luckily the end user can take precautions. And for startups in particular, the cloud can offer major advantages that make these services more than worthwhile.

Related: Why Uncovering a Network Security Breach Can Take Weeks or Months

Anyone who's started a business knows that intelligent capital spending is critical for success, and the cloud essentially provides access to enterprise-level architecture without enterprise-level costs.

Cloud-based software often has advanced security features that a company couldn't otherwise afford. Two-factor authentication, for instance, can be expensive to set up and maintain, but cloud services make it affordable and, in many cases, free.

In, in 2009, my company, AlertBoot, was suffering due to the recession and needed a $2 million hardware update to sustain its operations. So the company shifted its infrastructure to the cloud and shaved $85,000 from its monthly operations expenses, letting the organization focus more on product innovation instead of maintaining a data center.

Coud storage means minimal downtime and it significantly reduces the possibility of losing data because rather than storing it in one physical location, information is placed in several servers in multiple locations. So if one server goes down, the data doesn't disappear.

These features essentially make the cloud a godsend for cash-strapped startups. Services such as Amazon Web Services have made it possible for companies to scale up faster at a fraction of the cost. Cloud storage is convenient, and with the right precautions, it's about as secure as keeping the data on-site at all times.

The major thing to remember is that security is a two-way street. While cloud-services companies should avail themselves of every precaution possible to keep data safe, startups should also take advantage of every security feature available to protect sensitive information.

Here are four steps to take to safeguard a company's data:

Related: CEOs Can No Longer Sit Idly By on Cybersecurity

1. Take advantage of everything the cloud service offers.

Many cloud services offer additional security options on top of the basic bundle. Be sure to leverage each one. Two-factor authentication can be a pain but it beats experiencing losses due to a security breach.

Take the story of Code Spaces as a cautionary tale. A hacker broke in and permanently deleted customer data, causing irrevocable damage to the company. If Code Spaces had simply implemented two-factor authentication, the data would have been out of reach.

2. Encrypt everything.

Any cloud service a startup uses should implement encryption on the server side. Even if the cloud infrastructure were to be compromised, a hacker would only be able to access encrypted gibberish and no data would be stolen.

3. Have a strong password.

While the death of the password as a security linchpin is long overdue, it's still the easiest point of access for users and hackers. Be sure your passwords are at least 15 characters long and include numbers, letters and special characters if possible.

4. Start early.

The reason major chains such as Home Depot and Target tend to be susceptible to security breaches isn't simply because they're high-profile organizations. Larger, more complex companies have a harder time implementing comprehensive security solutions than do smaller, more nimble companies.

Put security protocols in place while the infrastructure is still manageable so security can scale with the company instead of playing catch-up. Additionally, if the company targets regulated industries such as health care, proof of meeting data-security-compliance requirements will be needed for conducting business.

Data breaches don't so much reflect an inherent insecurity in cloud services as they do a problem with how the available measures are implemented. Cloud services have allowed startups to thrive and scale at a fraction of the cost of companies running their own server farms. Use cloud services to build end-to-end security so as to get back to focusing on the important things: the company's products and customers.

Related: Best Practices for Employees to Protect the Company From Hackers

Tim Maliyil

CEO and Data-Security Architect for AlertBoot

Tim Maliyil is the CEO and data-security architect for Las Vegas-based AlertBoot, which protects customers from data breaches through full-disk encryption, email-encryption and mobile-security services.

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