The cloud

Cloud computing provides computing services, such as storage and processing, over the Internet. Cloud computing works by connecting your device to a “central host” that stores your programs and files on a distributed network. There are many cloud computing services, and they can be based anywhere in the world.

Businesses have been using cloud services for some time. Many available email services use the cloud model. What has changed is the growing use of cloud services for offsite storage and running software. The business advantages of using cloud-based systems are clear:

  • Convenient access from anywhere in the world
  • Lower setup and maintenance costs, simple to expand
  • Ease of collaboration

However, the cloud presents some security and privacy concerns you should be aware of. If your business uses the cloud services of a company, you are entrusting them with any data you put on the network. This raises several considerations about your data, such as:

  • Control. While your business remains responsible for your customers' privacy, you will not have any direct control over the security or privacy procedures of the service provider.
  • Access. Cloud services allow for convenient access over the internet, but you will not have physical access to the drives storing your data. You may not even know where they are physically located.
  • Jurisdiction. Your business has responsibilities under Canadian law, but the service provider may have their servers in another country where a different set of laws apply. These laws may be weaker than Canadian laws.
  • Ownership. The use of cloud services can create some ambiguities over the ownership of your information. Ownership of stored data is straightforward. But other data, such as metadata is less clear.

The concerns listed above do not mean that cloud services cannot be trusted. Canadian businesses do make use of cloud services. However, you can protect your business when using cloud services by taking the following precautions:

  • Research. Look into many different service providers and choose one that is reputable, responsible, and well recommended.
  • Have a clear contract. Make sure your service provider gives you a contract with service and accountability details.
  • Encryption. If your business intends to store sensitive information on the cloud, consider encrypting it first.
  • Limit access. Control who in your business has access to sensitive information on the cloud. Maintaining access logs can help keep people accountable.    
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