IT Security | Cloud computing & Security

“Cloud Computing” is a popular term which is commonly used to describe IT services delivered over a network or Internet connection. Any service where the software and data storage does not exist on your own computing device and where you connect remotely via a network or the Internet is a cloud service.

Do you use any cloud services?

There’s a good chance you’ve already used some form of cloud computing.  If you have an e-mail account with a web-based email service like Hotmail or Gmail,  if you use Dropbox or Google drive  to store files or if you post data to social media sites like Facebook Instagram or Twitter  then you’ve had some experience with cloud computing.

What do I need to know about the cloud?

Cloud services can provide a significant range of benefits including increased solution choice and flexibility, however, the cloud also presents new challenges.  As a user there a number of things you should consider before you start using a new cloud service to store or process your data:

1) Have you read the small print?

When you sign up for a cloud service even a free one you will usually be asked to sign up to terms and conditions of service, this is effectively the contract between you and the cloud provider company. You should read the T’s &C’s carefully to ensure that you are happy with the service you are signing up to. Things to look out for include: where geographically will your data be stored and will the contract allow the provider to disclose any of the data to others without your permission?

2) Will your data be private and secure?

The Internet can be a dangerous place, and your data will only be as secure as the measures that the cloud company have put in place. The best companies will be able to prove that they have good security measures in place by producing an independent certificate.

If in doubt you should consider encrypting your data before storing it in the cloud as an extra precaution.

3) What happens in a disaster?

IT disasters including fires, floods and equipment failures happen from time to time, you should make sure that you know whether the cloud service provider has a backup and recovery plan. If not you may need to make other plans for the recovery of your data yourself in the event of a disaster.

4) Know your Exit Strategy

What will happen to your data when you cease using the service or if the cloud service provider goes out of business?

Again check the small print of the service contract to make sure you know what will happen to your data when you are no longer using the service, will you be able to get it back, and will the service provider delete it form their system or retain copies of it?

Can I put College data in the Cloud?

Any College data which is confidential, valuable or which contains details belonging to living individuals (and therefore falls under the Data Protection Act) needs to be properly protected from unauthorised access and IT disasters.

The processes involved in procuring and evaluating cloud services can be complex and subject to legal, ethical and policy stipulations. IS Services advise all College users to seek professional advice before attempting to store this type of data in the cloud.

Contact the IS Services Helpdesk where our staff can provide assistance and advice on the necessary steps to take.

And don’t forget..

For most cloud services the only thing preventing others from accessing your data is your account and password. Make sure to keep them secure and use good passwords.

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