Making the Leap to Cloud? Six Steps to Keeping Your Data Safe

Cloud securityDoes your HR department operate in the cloud? If not, you are in the minority, according to the 2015 North Bridge Future of Cloud Computing Survey. The survey reports that an astonishing 73.5% of HR and payroll activities are performed in the cloud. That number is extraordinary, especially considering that just five years ago the HR industry ranked as the third least likely to migrate to the cloud.

But with that increased usage comes a corresponding increase in concerns about security. With data breaches holding the potential to put financial information, health records, and trade secrets at risk, companies need a robust risk management plan to effectively manage access and train employees in data safety.

Is Your Data Safe?

Cloud computing has historically been viewed with trepidation by many organizations, so much so that CIO put out a list last year of 20 common cloud security myths based on the experience of industry experts. Among those myths are the ideas that the cloud is inherently insecure, that it is less secure than an on-premise solution, and that cloud security is the sole responsibility of the provider.

The reality is far more nuanced than that. Because cloud has become so pervasive, it’s nearly impossible to avoid outside threats altogether. The key is to develop internal processes and policies designed to minimize the threats that still create very real security risks for companies operating in the cloud.

It’s About Access, Not Location

Experts argue that security is less about where you store your data and more about how you manage access. On-premise servers face just as many security threats as cloud-based solutions do, and in many cases they have fewer security protocols in place. But even with the most conscientious cloud provider, it’s still up to each organization to protect data from a standpoint of access and management. Here’s how:

  • Choose a provider you trust—Choose a provider who conducts regular security audits to remain up to date with the latest standards rather than relying solely on security certifications and compliance policies.
  • Train employees in data safety—By making data safety a regular conversation within your organization, you can keep employees aware of common phishing techniques, password safety threats, and access weaknesses. Prohibit password sharing and conduct regular administrative audits to make sure individuals aren’t placing data at risk—even inadvertently.
  • Focus more on risk management and less on perimeters—We are beyond the days where firewalls and proxies are enough to protect your information. Comprehensive risk management should provide several layers of protection including technology, processes, and training designed to combat hackers and other threats.
  • Create robust backup protocols—Hosting your data in the cloud doesn’t mean you can forget about backup. A technical glitch or malicious attack on the cloud provider can still result in lost or compromised data. Always maintain clean backups either onsite or with another cloud provider to ensure that your data remains safe.
  • Institute mobile content management policies—As BYOD becomes more pervasive, mobile content management solutions including intelligent mobile apps, mobile device policies, file locking, and content version control, must take high priority.
  • Perform due diligence—Make sure you understand what your provider does and does not do to ensure security, and take a close look at liability and protection so you’ll know what steps you should take to minimize risk. Cloud providers typically cover their data centers and network, but organizations are also responsible for taking internal steps to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Concerns about data safety can sometimes prevent organizations from realizing the many benefits of working in the cloud. Don’t let it happen to you. The reality is that nobody who operates online is completely safe from outside threats. Most businesses already send information outside the organization when they conduct routine payroll, benefits, and tax operations. If you’re considering a cloud-based HR software solution, weigh your security budget against the potential for economic damage and take the necessary steps to keep your data safe.

And then make the leap.

Published by Susan McClure

Susan McClure is our resident content editor at She writes about the search, selection, and implementation of HR technology. When she isn’t writing, you might find her researching trends in social media and online marketing, browsing shelves at the library, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.

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