“The cloud” has become as ever-present as cumulus clouds gathering on the horizon outside my home office window. Google’s Drive. Drop Box. Sky Drive. Even consumer electronics maker LG has announced its own cloud for customers’ photos, videos and music
Cloud-based storage is taking the tech community by storm, says Brian Chamberlain, VP Marketing and Sales for iTwin. As more business owners consider using Internet-based services to store their files. But what are the dangers, and are there safer alternatives?
Cloud storage providers store your documents on the Internet, rather than on your computer, so that you can access those files from where ever you are, using just a password. Superficially, this seems like a good thing. It makes file access more flexible, and it also allows multiple users to work on the same document collaboratively. But the main feature of cloud-computing may also be its undoing.
Cloud-based services rely purely on passwords for access. Passwords are a notoriously insecure security mechanism. People often use obvious ones so that they are easy to remember. The most popular passwords among thousands found on hacker forums in 2011 was simply the word “password”. Passwords can be discovered using brute-force attacks, or in many cases simply stolen, either by hacking the cloud services provider, or using malware on a user’s computer
In addition, users of cloud-based systems don’t know how their data is stored. Can they be sure that others (perhaps even inside the cloud hosting provider) aren’t accessing their files? Governments and private individuals all have reasons to access certain users’ data. In some cases, files may not be stored in an encrypted format, and even if they are, it is difficult to prove that others don’t have the key. Files may be stored in a country with different legal frameworks that may allow them to treat that information with less care. That can be a legal nightmare for businesses storing sensitive information such as accounting documents or client data.
iTwin is a secure alternative to cloud-based storage and file transfer, in which user files remain on your own computer, but are accessible from anywhere using a hardware-based token. This is likely to benefit small businesses with virtual teams or clients that need to share files. A small accountancy practice might use iTwin ‘Multi’ to securely share large accounting files with multiple clients. Members of a field sales team could remotely access confidential client information located on the sales admin’s computer back at headquarters. In addition, small businesses make a one-time purchase of each device as needed, and don’t have to use cloud services and pay monthly fees. When you start adding salaries, office rent, VoIP phones, mobile phones, internet service, office supplies, postage, all of this overhead combined adversely effects the bottom line of the small business.
When considering the options for storage and file transfer, make sure you understand the various options out there for securing your company and client data… It could mean the difference between an efficient business and one that suddenly comes to a grinding halt due to the loss of the very information that is vital to its success.
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