Moving to the cloud: Which operations to keep on site and which to move

Johannesburg, 28 Nov 2019
Read time 5min 00sec

With more gig workers than ever and the growing popularity of distributed workplaces, cloud computing has become an essential part of the workforce toolkit. The cloud makes it easy and secure to store and retrieve files, but more importantly, it makes it especially easy to share and collaborate – a premium value in the age of remote work.

Collaboration can take a number of different forms. It can be a shared document viewed and edited by a team of workers with all edits visible to the whole team. Those workers could be collaborating from different branches of the company located in different continents. Or it can be a document filed from a remote location by an independent contractor that can be shared with management seamlessly, as though it were completed in-house.

The cloud makes it easy to display documents viewable by all, so even a large staff can have access to source files they may need to complete their projects. At the same time, limiting the number of people with access to sensitive documents is essential for security, especially when it comes to personal data that is protected by privacy regulations such as the GDPR in the EU and other related legislation.

The following is a short guide to what types of operations your office should move to the cloud and which operations to keep on the local servers you can control more intensely.

Top capabilities to move to cloud

For many people, the cloud makes security easier for a number of reasons, not least of which is that data is less exposed to misuse in the cloud than anywhere else. Most security experts agree, human error is responsible for the worst security breaches and there is much less risk of that in the cloud.

1. Payroll

For hackers, few targets are quite as appealing as payroll. There is not only a great deal of money changing hands, but also a great deal of personal information. We saw a payroll breach in the state of Florida this year, with hackers getting hold of $500 000 in government payroll earlier this year. The vulnerability was attributed to a possible e-mail-based scam, underscoring the need to ensure all sensitive data moves only through secure channels in the cloud.

2. Internal communications

Although collaboration is enhanced dramatically though the cloud, the increased accessibility for multiple users has other benefits as well. One important use is for internal communications. The cloud can keep internal conversations private and out of reach to hackers. It also serves as a good channel to pass sensitive data from person to person for the same reason. While e-mail phishing attempts can fool people or take advantage of people under stress and not so attentive to the source of the e-mail, all those problems disappear in the cloud.

3. Secure backup

There is more to file storage than simply the documents you work with on your computer. There are many sources of files, including your computer hard drive, external hard drives, portable disc drives and files that arrive through e-mail, WhatsApp or social media. A data backup to the cloud ensures all the files are available in case any of the files are difficult to locate; or in the case of external drives, if the discs are lost without a backup, the files are gone forever. At the same time, remember, once data is placed in the cloud, it is up to you to ensure that the data is protected.

Types of functions never to put in the cloud

The cloud offers many benefits – increased efficiency, accessibility and security. But it also has limits that make it less than ideal for some operations.

1. Enormous operations

When a company has a product that requires a particularly large amount of storage space, it is often financially smarter to create a small, personal “cloud” for the company itself through proprietary servers. For example, massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) take up so much space, the cloud hosting costs may be prohibitive. In such a case, security is not compromised because the servers will be dedicated to the product alone, ensuring no outside party has access to the data. Along the same lines, cloud-users may find that their product exceeds bandwidth limitations, leaving the company to set up its own servers to accommodate.

2. Classified information

It’s important to remember that when information goes in the cloud, it can be impossible to trace exactly who may have access to the data. With good encryption, it may be possible to severely limit the number of people who may have access, but since the back-end of the cloud is faceless, it’s impossible to know with absolute certainty the identity of everyone who comes in contact with the data. So, if your company deals with classified information of any sort, it should not go in the cloud.

3. Medical records or research

Some highly personal information should be treated much like classified information, though without the risk of criminal charges if the information falls into the wrong hands by accident. Medical records would fall into this category, as would results of clinical trials carried out in the name of medical research. In both cases, people have the right to expect the strictest confidence, and therefore, these types of records should be kept in a secure place, highly encrypted, away from any prying eyes that may end up on the technical team at the other end of the cloud.

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