Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cloud storage? What's the price of free space?

The advent of cloud storage services has been a huge revolution for consumers. With the exponential growth of data, smartphones, digital cameras, we keep consuming local storage at an ever increasing rate. Cloud storage is a god send and helps relieve some of the “pain” associated with storing photos, videos, documents, and large files which we want to keep, but which we don’t need to necessarily store on our own devices. It’s also probably safer to store these photos on cloud storage accounts, which are typically unlikely to fail (unless the cloud data gets seized, remember MegaUpload? – but that’s a different story for another time). Our hard disks and devices are much more prone to fail, break, get lost or get stolen, or otherwise die on us. The concept of relieving storage headaches may also apply to companies which can now outsource some of their storage to the cloud, however there are several risks associated with this. Here are 3 reasons why cloud storage can become a nightmare:

1) Employees using cloud storage to intentionally or unintentionally leak confidential information – this is a risk which can cripple any business. Anything from leaking product development plans by mistake, leaking customer data or client lists to competitors for monetary gain, or leaking financial data or documents – there is a very high risk of losing confidential information to cloud storage

2) Downloading malicious software via cloud storage – whenever a user accesses files from cloud storage accounts, especially from accounts which they don’t own, they are creating a serious security risk. This is especially so, if the cloud storage accounts are being used to store cracked software, which are typically booby-trapped with trojans and other malware. The risk to your company’s security is not to be ignored

3) Draining your bandwidth – isn’t it comfortable to upload the contents of your SD card to cloud storage whilst you are at the office? With larger and larger file sizes for photos, uploads to Cloud storage can easily hog the upload stream of a company. And although typically the upload stream is not used much by most companies, a hogged upload stream typically causes slowdowns in the downloads too. Any download requires a healthy non-hogged upload stream, so if the upload is being hogged, downloads are being affected for EVERYONE! Large file downloads from cloud storage are also likely to hog bandwidth.

Your employees should be educated first and foremost on the risks associated with cloud storage. This however, is usually not enough. Web monitoring software can quickly help you identify how cloud storage is being used and / or abused. It can help your track and report on how much bandwidth is being used by cloud storage, and who are the users who are accessing these services. You can then determine whether you want to allow this or not, but isn’t it better to be informed?