One of the most valuable assets in today’s virtual world is the data that is associated with your organization, whether it is customer lists, financial information, product telemetry, or intellectual property. As your data and applications migrate to and through the cloud, it is understandable to have a fair amount of fear and uncertainty about the process and the level of security. I know that the cloud community is focused on providing the best security and privacy for customers. But there are some important steps you can take that will reduce your anxiety and ensure the privacy and integrity of your data.
When vetting a cloud or SaaS provider, it is imperative that you do the groundwork and find out how they handle data security and privacy. The first recommendation is to fully review the terms and conditions of the service provider for each and every service that you plan to utilize. This may seem obvious, but people are sometimes intimidated by the small print and legalese, make assumptions about what is and is not covered, or quickly scroll through and click accept. However, this is a foundational step as the security and privacy policies for each service may be different. There may be minimal information, unclear disclosures, or a wealth of details about what the service does (and is allowed to do) with your data.
The next action is to ask questions about these policies, to clarify terms or expand vague conditions. I call this the data declaration disclosure. For each service you intend to use, ask the provider the following questions:
- Who has access to my data, both physically and virtually?
- Do you outsource any of your data storage?
- How do you handle legal requests for data review?
- How and when is my data deleted?
- What is your data architecture, and how is my data isolated from your other customers?
- What certifications and/or third-party audits are performed on your service?
- What data do you collect from my organization, and how is it kept private?
- What is that data used for?
- How long do you retain that data?
- Do you encrypt the data in any manner?
- Where is the data stored?
- Do you roll up data and transmit it to other internal or external entities, and if so, how is it transmitted and to where?
- What is your database and storage architecture redundancy model?
- What is your backup frequency?
- What is the recovery time from failure: minimum, average, and maximum?
- How can I access or download my data from your service?
- Do you provide any analytic tools for my data?
- In the event of data corruption, what is the maximum data loss that I can expect?
These are good questions to ask yourself, even if you are not leveraging cloud solutions yet. This is your data, and you have the right to fully understand what it is used for, how it is secured, how it is kept private, and how well it is going to be managed. We continue to see progress in this area, as technology, regulation, and cloud adoption evolve. I expect that as a group, cloud providers will be able to offer better security and privacy for data than individual organizations can for themselves.