How to Keep Your Financial Info Safe When Switching to Cloud Solutions
By Matt Hoverman, CISA; Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD
Cloud solutions have reshaped the modern business landscape in countless ways, but many company leaders are still hesitant to maneuver toward cloud-based storage when it comes to their financial data. While cloud providers strive to offer secure storage, various data breaches over recent years have given pause to companies that rely heavily on sensitive financial data. Careful thought and consideration should be given when determining if a move to the cloud is right for you.
What Are Cloud Solutions?
Many misconceptions abound about “the cloud.” The reality is that cloud solutions are simply data storage options that minimize the need for onsite data storage and physical storage hardware. Instead of investing in large, expensive data storage servers, companies are shifting toward outsourcing their data storage needs to cloud-based providers. Ultimately, cloud solutions offer greater flexibility to modern companies that rely heavily on data but want to streamline operating expenses and minimize internal overhead and physical storage needs. If IT isn’t a core competency of your company, why not partner with a provider for which it is?
Benefits of Cloud Solutions
One of the primary benefits of investing in cloud-based IT solutions is convenience. When your company decides to purchase cloud storage, you will have access to all your data from any approved terminal in virtually any location. As long as users have the required credentials, they can access the cloud from anywhere at any time. Cloud solutions also minimize paperwork requirements. Cloud storage allows easy uploading of important documents, keeping them secure until you need them.
Internal data storage can easily become outdated or near capacity, requiring consistent updates and upgrades to meet your company’s data storage needs. This can be very expensive and an unintended consequence of keeping your data on premise. Investing in high-quality cloud storage solutions virtually eliminates the need to worry about updates; your cloud storage provider will handle all this on their end. Ultimately you will pay for what you use in an environment that grows with your company. For companies conducting business in the United Kingdom, shifting to cloud solutions can help them stay ahead of the curve for the coming Making Tax Digital requirements.
Two of the most important benefits that come with high-quality cloud solutions are financial savings and security. Cloud solutions provide a fantastic return on investment, offering modern companies a cost-effective solution to their data storage needs. Additionally, the best cloud storage providers have robust security systems in place to maintain client data as securely as possible. Threat assessment and rapid response are cornerstones of the security end of the cloud solutions industry.
Trusting the Safety of Cloud Solutions
All the data you store on the hardware kept within your company’s physical offices and data centers is your responsibility to protect from cyberattacks, viruses, and other malicious software applications. It is also vulnerable to physical theft. For example, if an employee forgets a company laptop in a restaurant with sensitive files and documents saved within it, that data could potentially compromise the company in unexpected and highly damaging ways. Cloud storage could eliminate this danger. When you keep your sensitive information secure in the cloud, you access it whenever you need it from an approved device with authorized credentials; nothing is actually saved to a physical device unless you want it to be. Cloud providers are well versed in cyber threats and benefit from the economy of scale when implementing processes, tools and technologies to protect client data.
Data backups are also an essential part of keeping your data secure in the modern world. Natural disasters, fires, cyberattacks, and countless other dangers could potentially destroy onsite data. Unfortunately, many companies have not adopted the multiple backup strategy of keeping more than one backup. This is cumbersome and difficult to maintain without cloud solutions. Unless you maintain your data backup in the cloud, you must physically update every backup at regular intervals and ideally keep them in multiple locations.
Cloud solutions not only make it simple to coordinate and maintain multiple data backups but also keep it secure. Whenever you upload data to your cloud server, the cloud service provider encrypts the data before it transfers from your device to the remote server. The same process initiates when you retrieve data from the cloud, ensuring that every data exchange is entirely secure.
Questions to Ask Your Service Provider
If you’re planning on investing in cloud solutions for your business, especially when it comes to sensitive financial data, it’s essential to ask a few questions before agreeing to a cloud storage provider’s service:
Q: How Many Data Centers Do You Operate?
Just like it’s important for you to store your data in multiple locations, you should have some reassurance that the cloud service provider has multiple data centers so your data is secure should one data center experience any type of disturbance.
Q: What Type of Physical Security Do You Have in Place at Each Data Center?
Make sure the cloud provider has strong physical security controls at every data center that will host your company’s financial data. At a bare minimum, the company should have 24-hour monitoring 365 days a year, flood protection, fire protection, backup power supply, and video monitoring throughout the entirety of every data center.
Q: What Is Your Data Backup Schedule?
Data backups are crucial for companies that handle sensitive financial data. Make sure the cloud provider has an acceptable update schedule for data backups. If anything happens, you need to ensure you will have the most up-to-date version of your backed-up data possible.
Q: What Type of Encryption Do You Use?
If the cloud provider offers anything less than 256-bit SSL encryption, it’s probably best to find a different provider.
Q: Who Will Have Access to My Data?
Carefully review the company’s privacy statement so you know exactly how much access the provider’s team will have to your data.
Q: What Type of Cyber Threat Protection Does Your Company Have in Place?
Ensure the cloud provider has robust virus protection and firewall structures in place. The provider should also be able to provide details of their response protocols when they detect an unauthorized intrusion or malicious software.
Q: Do you have a System and Organization Controls (SOC) report?
The cloud provider should issue annually an internal controls report on the services they provide giving valuable information that users need to assess and address the risks associated with an outsourced service. This should not be a “nice to have” but rather a requirement for you to do business with them.
For more information, visit Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD online at https://gjmltd.com.
About the Author:
Matt Hoverman leads Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD.’s risk consulting practice. He has spent his entire career helping companies of all sizes and industries think through their IT and strategic risks, building a roadmap for investment, and executing a plan that aligns with the goals of the business.
About the Business:
Established in 1996, Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD (GJM) is the largest public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio. With offices in Maumee and Findlay, the firm serves clients across Ohio, Michigan and beyond. Locally owned, GJM offers cloud-based accounting and provides comprehensive services including assurance, business advisory, tax, risk advisory, healthcare management and outsourced accounting. The Firm’s professionals specialize in industries including construction & real estate, healthcare, manufacturing & distribution and utilities.