What factors should you consider before moving to the cloud?
In the professional services sector, firms are entrusted with a great deal of confidential client data. This means those in charge of overseeing this data have to scrutinise its location, and how it is handled, particularly closely.
The trend towards cloud storage has allowed for more efficient remote working and collaboration. The ability to access data from anywhere, negating the need for on-premise servers taking up expensive real estate in the office, has created the perfect case for those working in professional services to use the cloud for their data storage.
At Beaming, we work with many professional services firms to secure their data, however they need to access it. This has allowed us to put together a list of key factors that should be considered when deciding whether your professional service firm should move its servers into a private or public cloud.
- Security: when deciding which cloud storage provider or data centre to use, evaluating their level of security has got to be at the top of your list when handling data. Look out for adherence to standards and frameworks (such as ISO 27001), and see how the provider performs in independent audits and reports by third parties.
- Physical location: If using a data centre to host their own servers, in the form of a hybrid or private cloud, a company will know where their data is held but if data is stored in the public cloud, the cloud storage provider still has to have a physical location. UK-based businesses will want to ensure the cloud system they use is GDPR compliant and conforms to the Data Protection Act 2018 – so should check the service level agreements (SLA) to see where data will be stored.
- Support: It is important that all members of staff are able to use and access your cloud storage system securely and with ease. In case of issues, it’s also important to have the appropriate level of IT support to ensure you’re back up and running as soon as possible.
- Access control: Not every staff member will need access to all of your data – so the ability to restrict access to certain areas is an important feature for those working with sensitive information. Maintaining the integrity of the information is also key, so if you do wish to collaborate on documents, changes are made successfully with version control in place.
- Scalability: As demand may fluctuate for certain cloud services, you should be able to easily increase the amount of cloud storage or licenses you have. This increases cost-effectiveness, ensuring you’re only paying for what you need. With a hybrid solution in a data centre, you pay for the rack space and power you need on an ongoing basis but most importantly your initial hardware specification should have enough headroom for the predicted growth in the amount of data you will hold before you retire that piece of equipment, to ensure the best return on investment. This can then fluctuate as needed but through careful capacity planning you avoid running out of disk space.
- Backup and disaster recovery solutions: If the solution provides data backup and replication, its important to ensure that files are replicated, and that there is also a process in place to restore them following a catastrophe. These scenarios should be regularly tested. Read our blog on what to do if your cloud platform goes down.
If you have decided to use a cloud platform, here are other factors to consider:
Internet/network connections: You will be connecting to the cloud over the internet, so your connection will determine how quickly you are able to access the data you have placed in the cloud. Having a connection that is not only fast, but also secure and reliable, will help you to make the most of your cloud storage.
Private infrastructure: Having private infrastructure for a cloud service would mean you have your own dedicated hardware, and therefore are fully in control of where your data is at any one point.
It all depends on the cost and the data that your business is holding as to whether it is an alternate choice for you, as setting up a “private cloud” can be more costly than the publicly available solutions, but depending on how it’s configured, it can be more secure.
Password policies: Have a company policy in place to ensure that the passwords your employees use to access the cloud are as secure as possible, to minimize the risk of your data being breached. Using a password manager is advisable to keep your data protected. Download Beaming’s Business Guide to Password Managers here.
MFA: Multi-factor authentication (sometimes called two-step authentication) requires users to provide at least two verification methods to be able to access data, such as a password as well as a code sent to their email. Requiring MFA can prevent malicious sign-in attempts. Learn more about MFA here.
Data retention: Firms have to decide for themselves how long they wish to store files for, taking into account statutory provisions such as limitation periods, as well as internal procedures and specific contracts.
There are many factors you will have to consider when choosing a cloud storage solution. By choosing the right solution, the benefits from the cloud include: reduced downtime, higher levels of data security, increased productivity and more efficient communication – all resulting in increased profits for your firm.
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