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Cloud Etiquette 101

Horrible house guests — we’ve all had them. Whether it’s that annoying family member that overstays their welcome or that old college buddy that leaves beer cans and potato chip crumbs all over your couch, if you thought that was bad etiquette, you’ve yet to see the worst. 

 

Imagine coming into the office and finding that your current work has gone missing, your valuable data has been completely disorganized and all your important files have been put in the trash. What would you do? I’m not referring to your paper trail, I am talking about what most businesses today share – the cloud.  

 

Cloud computing, particularly file-sharing, has its own essential and unwritten code of ethics. No one appreciates an ill-mannered cloud partner. For those reasons, we have put together a few etiquette tips to help you not overstay your welcome when utilizing the cloud.  

   

Rule #1: Make Your Names Clear and Concise. Be as specific as possible when naming a file or a folder so that everyone sharing it has a good idea of the contents without having to dig into the file itself. When you’re creating sharable folders, name them for the project rather than the people involved, so your colleagues don’t end up with a bunch of folders in their repository all carrying their name. Consider creating a specific file-naming convention that your business uses and make sure every employee understands it to avoid any confusion. 

 

Rule #2:Ask Before You Delete! When deleting from the cloud, the files aren’t just deleted from your computer - they’re deleted from everyone’s computer sharing that file. Make sure to never delete files or folders without asking. Better yet, don’t delete anything that you didn’t create yourself. You may think that you’re clearing up some extra clutter, while in reality you’ve just killed the report your officemate has spent hours creating. If you do happen to delete something you shouldn’t, you typically have about 30 days (depending on software) to recover the file. After that, you’re on your own to deal with the missing data and any angry glances your coworkers shoot your way.   

 

Rule #3: Size Matters. Be aware of the size of your files. Don’t add a massive 3 GB mega-file that’s going to take up all of that folder’s storage space. Bear in mind that just because you have unlimited storage does not mean everyone you’re working with does. Also, be sure to keep your data organized to avoid annoying others with unnecessary clutter. Do you have a habit of creating and sharing a bunch of notes that lead to a final project? Go ahead and delete those notes after the project’s completion, but only if you created them. See Rule #2. 

 

Rule #4: Create Clear Permission Protocols. Not everyone in your office should have access to every file. Make sure you have clear rules when it involves sharing. File-sharing willy-nilly is akin to a house guest just handing out all of your clothes to your neighbors with no documentation about who they went to and if they’ll ever be returned. When in doubt, don’t share unless you’re the owner of a folder or file.  

 

Rule #5: Maintain Accountability. Cloud computing works best when there is accountability. Sometimes there will be many individuals working out of the same project. It is important to keep track of who is working on which file and when, so you don’t end up with a bunch of overlapping edits or changes that you have to sort out later. Clarify out who is responsible for final updates and ultimately responsible for the files themselves. 

 

Working together is the only way we can make #thecloud a better place. Don’t be the person no one wants to share their cloud with. Simply follow these simple etiquette tips. 

Transitioning to the Cloud

Are you considering moving your company to the cloud? There are a lot of perks. First, it allows your company to scale up and down based on system needs more easily. When you host software onsite, you have to invest wholly in the server required, whether or not you’re utilizing that server fully. If the software is in the cloud, on the other hand, you only pay for what you use. Second, you have access anywhere you choose to be at any time, which opens up tremendous opportunities for remote work and greater efficiency.  

 

Finally, consider security. Data loss is not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when. And, unfortunately, it happens to companies of every size. More than half of businesses locate their disaster/backup systems in the same physical location as their primary system – red alert! If you only have one copy of your system’s backup at your office and your hardware fails or a breach occurs, then a backup is completely useless. In a bit of irony, it turns out that the safest place to be during a storm (whether literal or figurative) is “in the cloud.”  

   

So, let’s say you’ve finally agreed that it’s time to move to the cloud – where do you start? 

 

Here are some recommendations that can help you though the process: 

 

  • First off, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process. Companies that weren’t “born in the cloud,” meaning any company more than a few years old, need a plan for transitioning to the cloud. Establish the plan, let your data trickle into the cloud and take your time. No need to jump in headfirst. It is perfectly fine to keep your business operating in a hybrid cloud environment (some items on site, some in the cloud) for as long as you need, perhaps indefinitely.  

 

  • Make sure you know your data. Truly understand what is going on before you begin to move your data and applications. Say you’re going to sell your house — you first need to clean and organize your belongings before putting them all away in storage. The same exact concept holds true when it comes to transitioning to the cloud: clean and organize before you store. You may find that while a software works in the cloud, it may experience extensive lag and downtime. Knowing this before you make a move will significantly reduce frustration.  

 

  • Know your options: Public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud? Refer to our previous blog (To Cloud, or Not to Cloud) to learn the difference between these types of clouds. How much storage, bandwidth and support do you want to pay for? Make sure you tailor your cloud service to best fit your company’s needs. What works for someone else might not work for you.  

 

  • Do your research. Here’s the reality: we have heard and experienced the effects of far too many subpar cloud solution horror stories. Companies that were put up on a half-built cloud solution eventually had to return to their on-premise solutions. With unreliable cloud partners, comes hidden costs such as unexpected fees for the overuse. Choose a reliable provider. 

 

  • Define key roles. Who will have access? Who can add, delete or modify data? What responsibilities belong to who and how will this change with the cloud? It is crucial to know your staff’s access limitations. 

 

  • Add encryption. Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your encryption keys. Who controls and has access to these encryption keys? What data is being encrypted and when? Ultimately, you decide how safe your solution is. 

 

While the road ahead may be tough, with these tips in mind, you can begin moving your business processes to the cloud safely and efficiently with the support of the right IT services team. 

To Cloud, or Not to Cloud

Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days and for good reason. The cloud is revolutionizing how computing power is generated and consumed. Cloud refers to software and services that run on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. When tech companies say your data is backed up “in the cloud,” it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. Your data isn’t actually up in the cosmos or floating around in space. It has a terrestrial home. It’s stored someplace — lots of places, in fact — and a network of servers find what you need when you need it and then deliver it.

Cloud computing, if done properly, can make your business much more efficient. However, a cloud solution is only as good as the quality of the research, the implementation and the follow-through. So, how do you know if moving your business applications and data to the cloud is the right answer for you? There are few things you need to know about the cloud first. 

What exactly is the cloud? This is a tricky question in and of itself. Just like the clouds in the sky, there are many clouds when it comes to technology. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the internet instead of your computer's hard drive. It is using a network of computers to store and process information rather than a single hard drive.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid? Not all clouds are the same. You have options with public clouds, private clouds and even hybrid clouds. Choosing the right options for your business comes down to the needs and the amount of control you would like to have.

  • Public clouds: owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider which deliver their computing resources such as servers and storage directly through the internet. With a public cloud, the hardware and software are owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser. 
  • Private clouds: unlike the public cloud, the private cloud is used by only one organization. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.
  • Hybrid clouds: combine public and private clouds, which allows data and applications to be shared between them. Data and applications can move between public and private clouds as needed, offering better flexibility and more deployment options.

HaaS or Saas? Just like there are different types of clouds, when it comes to cloud computing, there are also different types of cloud services. Most commonly used cloud services fall into two categories: HaaS and SaaS. 

  • Hardware as a Service (HaaS) basically refers to leased computing power and equipment from a central provider. The HaaS model is very much like other hardware service-based models. Clients rent or lease rather than purchase a provider's hardware. 
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) utilizes the Internet to provide applications to its users, which are managed by a third-party. Unlike HaaS, this is a web-based model where software providers host and maintain the servers and databases eliminating hardware investment costs. 

Is it safe and reliable? As mentioned before, cloud computing is the way of the future. We know it is easy and inexpensive – but is it safe and reliable? What good is saving money and switching to a cloud solution if it will bring additional risks to my business? Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your own encryption keys. So, in reality, you ultimately decide how safe your solution is. As far as reliability goes, in many cases, cloud computing can reduce the amount of downtime to seconds. Since there are multiple copies of your data stored all throughout the cloud, there is no single point of failure. Most data can usually be recovered with a simple click of the mouse. 

In the end, though, companies shouldn’t make decisions entirely based on what they are comfortable with or what is cheapest. What should be most important is deciding whether or not transitioning into the cloud will work for your business.

To cloud or not to cloud? The choice is all yours. Do your research and ask the right questions.

Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees

You can have every piece of security hardware in the books: firewall, backup disaster recovery device, and even anti-virus. However, your employees will still be the biggest vulnerability in your organization when it comes to phishing attacks. How do you mitigate as much risk as possible?

  1. Create and Strictly Enforce a Password Policy: Passwords should be complex, randomly generated, and replaced regularly. In order to test the strength of your password go to howsecureismypassword.com. (This is a perfectly safe service sponsored by a password protection platform that tells you how long it would take a hacker to decode your password.) When creating a password policy, bear in mind that the most prevalent attacks are Dictionary attacks. Most people utilize real words for their passwords. Hackers will typically try all words before trying a brute force attack. Instead of words, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the password, the stronger it is. While it’s difficult to remember passwords across different platforms, try not to repeat passwords. This will protect all other accounts in the event of a breach on one of your accounts.
  2. Train and Test Your Employees Regularly: Educate your employees on how they can spot a phishing attack. Then, utilize penetration testing (this is a safe phishing attack orchestrated by your IT company to see how employees respond) and how well they do. If employees fall for phishing attempts then send them through training again. We recommend doing this on a quarterly basis to ensure that your employees stay on their toes and you should provide education on the latest attacks.
  3. Create a Bring Your Own Device Policy and Protect all Mobile Phones: You can safeguard as much as humanly possible on your network, but your employees are all walking in with cell phones. Are they allowed to get work emails on their phones? What about gaining access to the network remotely? Cell phones create a big black hole in security without proper mobile device management and mobile security.
  4. Perform Software Updates Regularly: Make sure that your software is up-to-date with all the latest security patches. Holding off on updates means that you’re leaving yourself open to vulnerabilities that have been discovered and addressed.
  5. Invest in Security: Security is not something for cost savings. Home-based hardware is not sufficient, and you, at the very least need a quality firewall and backup device. Invest in your employee’s training, ongoing security updates, and maintaining a full crisis/breach plan.

There are two things that aren’t going away in any business, employees and security threats. Make sure that you’ve taken care of everything you can to avoid falling victim to these attacks.