By now, you’ve heard of cloud technology, but many pest professionals still seem insecure about their understanding of it. In elementary terms, cloud technology is using the Internet for data storage and access to online programs — basically, any computing or file saving that’s not done on your local hard drive or server. The cloud uses the Internet to connect people to other people, storage space and online applications. It’s become an important component of doing business for many companies because it saves time, money and server space by making much of what you need available online, rather than on your server or desktop storage.
There are countless benefits to cloud technology: It’s faster to deploy, doesn’t require a mastery of technology, offers endless available space for data and costs less than most on-site technology. But like almost anything that makes life easier, there are pitfalls — such as concerns about data theft and compromised security — if you don’t do your homework.
Most people simply don’t realize Facebook, Twitter, Gmail or Office 365 are using cloud technology. Add personal online banking and shopping to that list, and one begins to understand how ease, low cost and increased productivity go hand in hand with the cloud concept.
Here are four factors to keep in mind to help ensure you, your company, your employees — and all related data — remain safe and secure:
1. Passwords might be the most important and most overlooked aspect of working within the cloud. This is especially true when mobile devices are involved. Secure passwords should be used by all employees and changed regularly; many experts suggest once a month. Auto-fill features increase the risk of security breaches, so make sure your employees know not to shortcut around keying in the password. Many online sources provide guidelines for creating a strong, secure password. Just Google “creating secure passwords” for tips from the security pros.
2. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are essential if your company employs mobile devices as a component of doing business. By definition, mobile technology is always on the move, so VPNs should run across every mobile device used by your company. During the past few years, VPN technology has advanced; there are plenty of platforms that are inexpensive and easy to integrate. VPNs are especially essential if your employees use their own personal devices in the field —which, by the way, segues nicely into No. 3.
3. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are a must. If you allow employees to use their own mobile devices for work-related business, know you’re opening your company to security issues too numerous to list here. The ideal plan of action is to arm employees that require a mobile device to get their jobs done with uniform mobile devices. However, if you can’t budget for company-issued devices for employees this year, make sure to have a security policy in place that addresses how BYOD can affect the safety of your business data (see No. 4).
4. Developing a security policy is essential for any company that makes use of cloud technology. There are several things to consider: What kind of data is moving between mobile devices and home base via the cloud, and how is the data accessed? Some data is more sensitive than others, and don’t require the same sort of lockdown as financial records, employee files, customer info, etc. Don’t forget to consider what specific mobile technology your employees are using (easy enough if it’s company-issued), and do research to ensure you’re tailoring your policy to those device types and brands. Conducting an audit of your company’s data and placing different types of data into groups of different security levels can be helpful and serve as the building block on which your security policy is built.
You can reach PMP Senior Editor Will Nepper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-706-3775.