Cloud failures will happen. Are you ready?

cloud data disaster breach

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Despite all the hype about the cloud, one thing is for sure: It’s not foolproof. Even if you only use the most reputable cloud services and products, things are bound to go awry from time to time so it’s crucial to be prepared for failures. Mitigating the risk is as simple as being adequately prepared.

The first thing to check is the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of your cloud service contracts. Some cloud providers, for example, really go the distance when it comes to addressing data backup and recovery, while others hardly address the issue at all. Does your cloud provider store data in multiple data centers to minimize a single point of failure? If not, you might want to think about switching providers as quickly as possible to avoid a potential disaster.

But while multiple data centers and high-quality backup and recovery services are useful, they can also give you a false sense of security. In other words, there’s still a lot more you could — and should — do to protect your data. Don’t leave matters solely in your cloud services provider’s hands. Here are a few things you can do on your end to minimize the consequences of possible cloud storage outages:

* Back everything up. When it comes to advice about backing up data, conventional wisdom today insists you should use a cloud solution. That’s a smart move, but the same is true in reverse as well. If you store everything in the cloud, you might not be able to access your data when outages and other failures occur.

While it’s true that most major cloud providers tend to get things up and running again quickly, that’s not going to be much help when you need access to your data now. Furthermore, when all of your data is stored in the cloud, you run the risk of losing it forever. Unfortunately this does happen every so often, so the best way to sidestep this issue is to back up at least your mission-critical information to a local server.

Get into the habit of saving data to a server whenever you save it to the cloud. This may sound cumbersome, and it certainly can be. However, there are many applications that will automatically do it for you, with data export settings that are easy to manage. It may seem like overkill to save files all over the place like this, but it’s well worth it if it means avoiding the potential of losing your data forever or even just losing access to it when you need it the most.

* Encrypt data you save to the cloud. Perhaps your company doesn’t store a lot of sensitive information; however, there’s sure to be some internal data that could cause problems if it fell into the wrong hands. The cloud is very secure, but there have been times when things have gone wrong. In the case of highly sensitive data, it’s important to encrypt it before storing it in the cloud. You may assume this involves jumping through a series of hoops, but that’s not the case at all. Here’s why: You can use Boxcryptor or similar programs to quickly and efficiently encrypt data that you decide to store in the cloud. It’s compatible with most popular cloud services, plus it’s free and easy to use.

* Have a backup for streaming media too. If your business uses streaming media technology and services such as YouTube, Netflix or Spotify, when those services have issues you might be out of luck. A great workaround is to save important video and audio files and other media to a hard drive and then use a server to make this content accessible on multiple devices. You can stream anything from your collection to mobile devices, other computers, smart TVs, set-top boxes and more in the event where you have issues with your streaming service partner.

* Business interruption insurance. Can your business afford to lose access to data or to go offline for even brief periods of time? If not, you might want to consider business interruption insurance, which can cover some of the costs incurred in the event of data outages/losses. This insurance may also cover the subsequent loss of profits, too.

With the right insurance, hard-drive backups, encryption and other techniques, you can drastically reduce the potential consequences of cloud storage failures and keep your data safe and your business operating. Plus you’ll be able to use the cloud with an even greater degree of confidence.

Grady is currently responsible for products within the XO Connect and XO Compute portfolios at XO Communications. In his current role Grady has helped launch multiple cloud computing services.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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