Just How Safe is Your Cloud Data?
CPAs are migrating to cloud data for their clients’ storage. But how safe is their data, really?
The invisible, omnipresent cloud is taking over the world as we know. It sounds a bit suspicious, doesn’t it? You’re sending your files to some mysterious location that is not your computer and far out of your reach. It’s a little scary, as it feels like you’ve suddenly lost control of your data. Hold off on the panicking though because you haven’t in any shape or form lost your data.
You’re still in charge of what happens to your data, and most importantly, you still own it. You’re just basically putting your data into a kind of digital storage unit you’re renting. The typical storage unit rules apply, you own what’s inside of it and the company protects it from potential thieves or hackers. As an added bonus, since you’re not hosting your data at home anymore, a bunch of the dangers that originally threatened it disappear.
Using the cloud keeps you safe from a majority of things that can cause you to lose your files. You no longer have to worry as much about your actual computer. (Actually, do still worry about your computer some because those things are expensive and while the cloud will protect your data, it doesn’t let you watch cat videos like a computer can).
Let’s say your computer gets stolen from your car after you forgot to lock it while at lunch. Normally, you’d be at a complete loss, but with the cloud, you still have your files. Also, If you get a virus, your data doesn’t get destroyed or corrupted. Even if you spill your morning coffee on your keyboard and fry your computer, your files will be safe!
Some people worry about putting their files in someone else’s hands, but cloud companies, like Amazon Web Services (which Mango Billing uses), Dropbox, and Box consider it paramount that clients’ files and privacy are protected. In order to do so, they utilize a variety of methods, most of which are much more complex security methods than your average computer does.
Well, when it comes to protecting your data, cloud systems rely on a variety of encryption methods. Encrypting your files means that if someone tries to get into your files, they’ll just get a bunch of random letters and numbers with no significance rather than your data. Unfortunately, encryption isn’t 100% percent foolproof.
When the cloud service encrypts your files, only you, the original user, should be able to decrypt them, which means that you should have complete and total control over who can access your files. That said, someone can still decrypt them if they try hard enough. Doing so requires a lot of work, though. You need a lot of computer processing power and forensic software. On top of that, it requires a whole lot of time to decrypt files. Cloud services are always updating and improving their security and encryption too, which means that your data is consistently getting safer.
You can also help keep your data even safer in addition to the encryption services provided by your cloud servicer if you make strong passwords. You know the deal, write the name of your first born child, your second child’s social security number, your spouse’s blood type and birthday, your neighbor’s favorite color, oh, and throw in a couple of exclamation points and random capitals while you’re at it. Okay, maybe it doesn’t need that complicated, but the stronger you make your password, the less likely someone can hack into your account, pretend to be you, and thus decrypt your files.
Don’t worry too much about that, though. There is a whole second part to the security of your cloud data. AWS and similar companies utilize multiple data centers to store your data. These data centers are in several different geographic locations, meaning that if an earthquake or super villain strikes, you’re okay because there is a backup of your data in multiple locations.
The only way you could get your data safer would be to print it out, wipe the hard drive you created it on, put said printed data into a stainless steel lockbox and then stainless steel lock box, bury it in the woods at least 10-feet deep, hide the key in another lockbox in a different hole in a different country from the first, and then throw the key to that lockbox into the ocean! (taking a breath) It’d be safer that way, but you wouldn’t be able to access it ever again. Plus, with that lockbox method you’d have to spend the rest of your life praying that no meddling kids find the key, get curious, and go looking for what it unlocks. The nice thing about the cloud is it keeps your data safe, but also still useable. Oh, and it protects it from meddling kids. It’s the best of both worlds!
Tim Sines, CPA
Mango Billing, Inc.