Security Questions To Ask Your Cloud Service Provider
Moving software, websites, hardware needs and important services to the cloud is not without its risks. While cloud service subscribers can save a lot of IT budget funds in areas like software licensing, hardware costs, power charges and staff salaries, close attention must be paid to risk management. From general risks like not knowing who you’re really dealing with to very specific dangers like security and encryption, cloud customers must comprehend exactly what they’re dealing with and how to ask the right questions. This will allow them to choose the cloud service provider that will limit their risk and present the best possible service.
This isn’t exactly a risk. It’s more of a rule of thumb right out of the gate. A cloud service provider must offer complete transparency, honestly answering all questions and supplying all information the client requests. So much of the risk management tips to follow flows from this need for transparency. There are questions to ask and if the cloud provider refuses to answer or is vague, it’s best to move on.
Who is Managing My Data?
From the engineers who manage network performance to the policy makers who direct IT departments, companies have the ability to scrutinize their prospective workers before hire. Background checks, calls to referrals and employment history verification can all be conducted by the employer beforehand. That ability is somewhat surrendered by moving to the cloud, but cloud customers are well within their rights to inquire about the qualifications and backgrounds of the cloud company’s staff, including qualifications and backgrounds. These administrators have privileged access to your data and you should know who they are.
What Access Controls are in Place?
Flowing from the need to know who manages your data is the need to know how and why. By moving to the cloud, companies give up their ability to limit physical access. Just because physical control is being transferred doesn’t mean companies give up their right to know what controls are in place to limit risk, though. Cloud companies need to disclose the exact data access control processes that dictate their administrators’ actions. Cloud subscribers should have a full understanding of who can access what data and under what conditions.
Is the Data Secured?
Security concerns don’t just come from people. Cloud providers can offer cost savings in part because, by nature, cloud storage environments are shared. Your company’s data, hosted web site, applications and more will usually live on the same server and storage area as many other companies’ information. A good cloud service provider needs to clearly explain how vital business data is segregated and secured. Encryption is a good start, but the provider must provide evidence that their encryption and other security methods have been tested, fine-tuned and proven effective.
Can they Pass Muster with Auditors?
Every business has certain conditions they must meet for regulatory compliance. This is especially true for law offices, accounting firms and companies who do a fair amount of business with local and federal governments. Regulations need to be met and annual IT audits must be performed to satisfy security concerns and ensure compliance with regulations. Customers need to find out whether the cloud provider conducts regular security audits and what their processes are for accommodating the needs of the customer’s auditors as well.
Where is the Data Actually Located?
The Internet has made the world smaller and has broken down barriers to entry in many fields. Cloud computing is one such industry. Anyone can buy shared hosting, put in some administrative time and offer server space and cloud services. Do you know what country your data actually lives in? You should, especially when it comes to local privacy laws and regulations. It’s important to find a cloud provider that will commit in writing to the specific storage location you need in order to ensure the data privacy requirements of your given jurisdiction.
Are they Here to Stay?
What happens to your data if your cloud service provider goes out of business or is bought out by another company? This is a crucial consideration, especially in a volatile economy full of shut downs, mergers and acquisitions. What guarantees can your cloud provider give regarding its long-term viability? What mechanisms are in place to guarantee the return of your data in the event of a bankruptcy or other business shutdown or turnover? Just like all the other risks outlined here, lifetime data assurance must be explained and put in writing to mitigate risks before any service agreement can be made with a cloud computing provider.
By Arthur Clyne
Arthur is a Montreal-based web and technology consultant for several local area businesses who occasionally handles freelance writing for local tech and telecom companies.