Data In The Cloud — What’s Safe, What’s Risky?

With cloud vendors now running the race to zero in an attempt to outdo one another for the buy-in price of service, it’s no wonder that companies are storing more data in the cloud. In many cases, running a local data centre simply isn’t cost-effective, let alone preferable.

Not all data belongs in the cloud

Yet the rush to offload local data means some information is ending up in the cloud that should never see the light of day; here’s a quick rundown of what’s safe and what’s scary when it comes to cloud data storage.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Safe in the cloud: Collaborative Documents and In-House Apps” user=”XOcomm and @comparethecloud” hashtags=”cloud”]

Safe: Collaborative Documents

The big benefit of cloud services? Employees can easily collaborate anytime, anywhere using the device of their choice. As a result, vendors have invested time and effort to make basic file sharing easy, fast and reliable. Instead of passing around presentations or spreadsheets using email or hard copy, employees can simply access the cloud service and make necessary changes. What’s more, IT admins can configure cloud apps to track changes, store all file versions and record which user made a specific change in the event of an audit or ownership issue.

Safe: In-House Apps

Many applications are now designed as cloud-native rather than PC or browser code repurposed to work in public or private stacks. As a result, it only makes sense to leverage public-facing applications such as CRM tools or social media management tools. Trying to manage the sheer volume of necessary apps in-house quickly eats available IT time, leaving no room for innovation or effective collaboration with other departments.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Risky in the cloud: Trade Secrets” user=”XOcomm and @comparethecloud” hashtags=”cloud”]

Risky: Trade Secrets

Have a unique marketing plan or product development strategy that forms the core of your business success? Don’t store it in the cloud. Doing so runs several risks: First is the possibility of compromise by a malicious third-party or former employee who effectively negates any competitive advantage your business enjoys. Second is the risk of damage or loss; these files are often impossible to replace.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Scary in the cloud: Personnel Data and Tax Information” user=”XOcomm and @comparethecloud” hashtags=”cloud”]

Scary: Personnel Data

As noted by Next Advisor, it’s never a good idea to store personally identifiable information (PII) in the cloud. This could include employee records, health care records in the case of medical firms, or litigation for lawyers’ officers. Along with the possibility of compromise or theft, there’s the risk of legal challenge if user data isn’t stored without explicit consent. There’s also the problem of audits: If federal agencies or industry compliance organizations ask for a detailed accounting of personal data in the cloud it may not be possible to provide. The result? Anything from warnings to sanctions or fines.

Scary: Tax Information

Never store tax data in the cloud. According to DZone, using the cloud to store tax information makes companies tempting targets for malicious actors. Plus, despite the resources at its command, the IRS may not be willing — or able — to help companies recover lost tax info. Your best bet is keeping tax information securely stored (and encrypted) on local servers where it can be monitored and regularly audited.

Not all data belongs in the cloud. Collaborative documents and public-facing apps make sense; trade secrets, PII and tax information are better kept under virtual lock and key.

Sheldon Smith is a Senior Product Manager at XO Communications ( is a leading nationwide provider of communications and IT infrastructure services including Hosted PBX Solutions. Sheldon has an extensive background in UC and process management.

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