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Cloud Expo: Article

Cloud Security Checklist: Make Sure Your Data Is Safe

Cloud resources are becoming a must-have service for businesses since they offer scalability

Recent reports of a massive data breach affecting popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo have many companies rethinking security practices and wondering how to protect vital data. If your company uses cloud services to conduct business and manage data or is contemplating a hosting partnership, it's natural to wonder if your service provider is taking all the steps necessary to keep your confidential information secure.

It's an important issue: Cloud resources are becoming a must-have service for businesses since they offer scalability without requiring a massive investment in hardware. But before choosing a cloud service provider, it's crucial to make sure the company can deliver the security your business needs. Here are some questions to keep in mind when making an evaluation:

What kind of physical security does my cloud hosting partner maintain?
Assess your cloud service provider's physical security safeguards, including controls on facility entry, login access restrictions, CCTV monitoring capabilities, limits on who can access internal systems and administrative functions.

What assurances does the provider offer around confidentiality?
A reputable hosting partner will conduct background checks on employees who handle confidential data and require staff to sign confidentiality agreements. They will also restrict credentials so that only employees who need access can handle your data.

How are firewalls structured, and what other network security measures are in place?
Virtually all hosting providers have a firewall infrastructure in place, but it's a good idea to ask about how it's configured and whether there's an additional charge for the service. Also ask how frequently audits are conducted and what additional network security is in place.

How does the cloud service provider keep software secure?
Many security breaches occur due to software issues, so ask your hosting partner about auditing and find out how often they update security patches. Inquire about automatic update installation and reboots as well to see if these are permitted.

Does the cloud hosting company submit to audits from independent agencies?
One way companies can demonstrate compliance is by submitting to independent audits. SSAE 16 standards verify that an independent auditor assessed the company to make sure their service description matches their organization system.

What backup and redundancy capabilities are available?
Another good question for cloud service providers is what volume of backup space they maintain and how long they keep stored data. Also ask about the cloud infrastructure - specifically inquire about performance levels and system availability as well as failover capabilities and use of redundant clusters.

What kind of protection is available for data during transmission?
It's crucial to make sure confidential information like passwords and client information remain secure during transmission. Ask the company about how firewalls protect this information and if data is protected by VPN encryption. Also inquire about remote access and the use of SSL for logins.

Is it possible to connect physical and virtual resources?
To maintain tight security, potential hosting partners may require safeguards for physical servers that interact with cloud assets. Ask if this can be configured so that you can use both solutions in a single environment for greater efficiency.

What kind of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are offered?
It's important to pay close attention to the SLAs a cloud service provider offers since this is how providers define their services and describe the performance levels you can expect. Make sure your hosting partner backs promises up with SLAs.

Companies are increasingly using hosted cloud services because it enables them to do more with less and expand capabilities without huge investments in infrastructure. But hacking is on the rise, so it's crucial to make sure a prospective cloud provider offers robust security.

If you're currently using cloud services or thinking about partnering with a hosting provider, take the time to investigate the security measures the company uses to keep client data safe. It takes a bit of time and effort, but it's well worth it to avoid a costly data breach.

More Stories By Jim Potter

Jim Potter is Vice President of Product Management at Hostway. He leads the product management and product marketing activities for the cloud hosting service provider.

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