Consultants, Do You Make This Common Mistake?
Despite the growing use of the cloud, the truth is most people are concerned about privacy. TRUSTe Privacy Index has found that just “20 percent of U.S. consumers believe the benefit of smart devices outweigh any privacy concern about their personal information.”
Americans aren’t alone, as only 14 percent of British consumers believe the benefit of devices outweigh privacy concerns. Furthermore, “Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust” states that 80 percent of Germans are reluctant to share their personal data. They put a high value on their privacy.
Many people use Google, iCloud, Office365, Outlook.com, and other cloud services. Yet a lot are uncomfortable with it. Part of the problem stems from computer and devices automatically connecting to cloud services when you take them out of the box. It takes work to break free of the cloud.
In working with iCloud, one consultant said that she didn’t realize that she would lose control of all her data on her computer. She contacted Apple support and they could not help move her data from the iCloud to her computer. Support said they work with Apple products and can’t help when it involves non-Apple products.
Because an IT consultant has confidential client appointments that absolutely must not be stored in the cloud, he syncs Outlook calendar with his Samsung Galaxy S6 and other devices using AkrutoSync. The only way he could store information in the cloud is by having the client sign an agreement. That’s an extra step and another thing to manage in his already busy workload.
How the law can affect your information
Storing client data in the cloud could open their information to potential search warrants. Considering the information in the cloud isn’t stored locally on your company’s network, the search warrant could apply to your cloud service provider.
Recall that communications companies have made news because they’ve complied with the NSA’s search warrants. Microsoft had a situation in which the U.S. government served a search warrant on a Microsoft web-based email account under the Electronics Communications Privacy Act of 1986. But the data lived on a server in Dublin. Thus, the law would fall under Ireland’s purview.
Whether a search warrant is enforced depends on where the data lives. Let’s say you’re a consultant in Boston and your cloud vendor is in Dallas. Which location has jurisdiction for a dispute based on data in the cloud? When you store private information locally, you’re less likely going to worry about a search warrant.
There have been enough cloud exposures to justify the need to keep sensitive information off the cloud. Moreover, there are a lot of threats with cloud services.
Risks of using the cloud to store information
Cloud service providers must follow privacy and security requirements. Can you actually trust the cloud vendor to secure your confidential information? It only takes one mistake or one disgruntled employee to expose your clients’ information. Relying on the cloud takes control away from consultants and small businesses like yours. And they want to be in full control of their data.
Remember celebrities’ deleted photos from iCloud were hacked and restored? You know that data you delete from the cloud isn’t always gone forever. There have been enough hacking incidents to scare consultants and small businesses away from using the cloud to protect their most important asset: data.
One consultant said that he won’t use the cloud to sync because it’s not secure enough and it’s asking a lot to trust the cloud vendor. Using cloud services means more than just trusting the company. It also requires trusting all of the cloud provider’s employees who come in contact with server housing your data.
Storing data in the cloud means you have to rely on both the Internet and the cloud vendor. Maybe you don’t have an Internet connection. Maybe the power is down. Maybe you’re traveling in a low or no service area. Maybe the cloud vendor’s power is down. Maybe the cloud vendor has been hacked. Maybe the cloud vendor stops offering the service.
Maybe you’re dealing with any one of these:
- Unreliable service.
- Services and data not available.
- Security problems.
- Cloud vendor not complying with regulations.
- Subpar service performance.
- Lack of standards.
- Lack of customization.
- Vendor lock-in.
That’s a lot of maybes and no vendor can promise those maybes won’t happen. That puts your small business at risk. Consultants work hard to become their clients’ trusted adviser. All that can be gone in an instant if one of those maybes happen.
How to protect your information
Juniper’s “The Future of Cybercrime & Security: Financial and Corporate Threats and Mitigation” estimates cybercrime will cost businesses over $2 trillion by 2019, four times more than the breaches in 2015. Imagine the cost to a consultant or small business if any information stored in the cloud gets out.
Completely avoiding storing information in the cloud may be unrealistic. Instead, consultants and small businesses can be more selective about what they save in the cloud. Even cloud supporters don’t recommend using the cloud for everything.
One step to take is education. You can have all the technology in the world, but it can’t protect you from the weakest link: people. “According to PwC, employees and corporate partners are responsible for 60 percent of data breaches,” Christian Anschuetz writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Verizon’s research suggests the number is even higher, at almost 80 percent.” This speaks volumes about the importance of training employees, requiring strong passwords, and limiting access to client information.
Another way to gain some control is to save your data locally. You won’t need to rely on the Internet to always be connected in order to access your information. You won’t have to rely on the cloud vendor to stay in business. You won’t have to rely on the cloud provider to offer the services forever. (For example, Google ended a cloud-based service, prompting people to look for a Google Calendar Sync alternative.)
If you must use the cloud, then do your due diligence in researching providers of cloud services. Anyone using Google Mail, iCloud Mail, or Outlook.com / Office365 email may want to switch to computer-based email like Microsoft Outlook.
Consultants and small businesses value their calendars and contacts. And it’s more helpful when they have this information on their devices. One way to do this is to through Microsoft Exchange Server. However, the cost is out of reach for some consultants and businesses. If price were no object, the server can be more than they need.
It’s possible to get the benefit of Microsoft Exchange Server without the price or the frills. Using Windows PC software like AkrutoSync, you gain the ability to privately and automatically sync Outlook calendar with iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android devices. It does not use the cloud.
Taking small steps go a long way in protecting your clients’ information and putting you in control of the data.