These days, businesses all around the world have come to depend on cloud platforms for a variety of mission-critical workflows. They keep their CRM data in the cloud. They process their payrolls in the cloud. They even manage their HR processes through the cloud. And all of that means they're trusting the bulk of their privileged business data to those cloud providers, too.
And while most major cloud providers do a decent job of keeping data secure, the majority of business users take an upload-it-and-forget-it approach to their data security needs. And that — needless to say — is dangerous.
In reality, cloud providers can only protect a business's data if the business does its part by adhering to some cloud security best practices. And fortunately, they're not that complicated. Here are the four most important cloud security best practices businesses should build into their cloud operations right away.
Never Skip Selection Due Diligence
The first cloud security best practice for businesses to follow is to always conduct adequate due diligence when choosing cloud vendors to work with. It's important, of course, to investigate each provider's reputation. But it's also just as important to scrutinize their security practices and the specifics of their user agreement.
At a minimum, businesses should find out how and where their data will be stored by the provider, as well as the details around how the vendor works to keep unauthorized users out.
And, they must also check to see if the vendor offers any guarantees or technical assistance in the event of a data breach. And if any of that information is either unclear or unsatisfactory, it's best to move on to a more reputable provider.
Create a Bulletproof Access Management Strategy
The next cloud security best practice is to devise and implement a unified access management strategy. One of the big security issues that cloud-dependent businesses face is that they rely on fragmented authentication and access management systems. And that often leads to poor credential management and permissions creep.
To put a stop to those issues, it's advisable to unify their authentication and access management through a single sign-on (SSO) provider. And at a minimum, all accounts — regardless of platform — should require multifactor authentication and undergo frequent access rights reviews. And lastly, it's important to take steps to prevent identity theft. This problem is on the risel, so be sure to take proactive steps in that regard, before anything bad even happens.
Elevate User Education and Deploy Malware Protection
At the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility for data security rests with those trusted to access that data. And without proper education and training, most users are just an accidentally opened spam email away from enabling a data breach. That's why it's an essential best practice of cloud security to insist on proper training for all users before they're given access to any critical business systems or data.
And as a second line of defense, it's also best to deploy a malware and threat protection solution that's designed for cloud deployments. Such solutions offer protection in the form of uploaded data scanning and proactive threat defense to keep unauthorized users from getting into cloud-hosted data. And while they're no substitute for a well-trained and security-aware user base, they make for an excellent insurance policy against inadvertent human error.
Practice Data Minimization
Last but not least, it's a good idea for businesses to take steps to minimize the data they're entrusting to their cloud providers. After all, you don't need to protect data that's never uploaded in the first place. The idea is to refine business processes to collect only the data required to make them work.
For example, managing a deal pipeline in the cloud will require the storage of some personally identifiable client data. But it doesn't require any hard financial data or anything much beyond contact information to be effective. So, it's best to codify that and make sure that all users avoid adding anything unnecessary.
That goes a long way toward building a policy of data minimization that reduces the business's vulnerability in the cloud. And, depending on the type of data involved, it may also be a regulatory requirement that businesses must observe. In any case, reducing the data stored on various cloud platforms simplifies everything about data security — from management, to access control, to curation — and should always be at the core of everything businesses do online.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, cloud platforms and apps now play a critical role in business operations for organizations of all sizes. And they're not going anywhere. But with the online threat environment continuing to get more challenging each day, it falls to businesses to use those platforms in ways that minimize risks and avoid taking chances concerning data security. Failing to do so has doomed many a business — and will continue to do so. But by taking data security seriously, beginning with the four best practices laid out above, today's businesses can avoid that fate.