It’s time for SMEs to combat the personal cloud

Time-pressured employees often don't have the opportunity to think about cloud-based security: so how can small businesses make sure everyone is working towards complete cyber safety?

For SMEs, life was very different a decade ago – the mobile working now gives employees the flexibility to work from home and on the move. While industry whitepapers speak wonders of the benefits of this golden age of mobility, productivity is driven primarily by online communications, collaboration and file storage solutions – many of which are cloud-based.

While these personal cloud services are great for ensuring that employees are equipped to carry out tasks irrespective of their geography, these tools are often accessed by public internet connections, which can have limited security layers in place.

For a time-poor mother, rushing to pick up her son from school, but also up against the clock with an email from the boss requesting a plan that was due a week ago, does she choose to organise a babysitter for her son and rush back to the office to email across the completed file from her desktop, or does she upload the file, which is already complete and sitting on her personal laptop, to one of the popular file collaboration tools and share it with her boss like this?

Security concerns and the consequences of such collaboration tools often don’t register with rushed employees, keen to meet deadlines and please their managers.

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The issue with these public cloud solutions is that you are compromising your company’s security by uploading potentially sensitive company data to the cloud, where the IT department no longer has control over it. It is now public data to all intents and purposes – the cloud provider has no contractual obligation to your company to keep it secure.

As an IT manager, it is imperative that this security threat be taken seriously.  The solution cannot be to simply ban all useful collaboration tools without providing alternatives to employees. Instead, IT managers should strive to make tools that permit flexible working available.

In the modern world, it’s unrealistic to expect time-pressed employees to perform every task from the office, and security issues should not stand in the way of flexible working. However, a personal cloud solution is not the answer – especially for files with sensitive data.

Small businesses can find it difficult to tackle the issue. One measure that some companies take is to circulate guidelines and policies about public cloud platforms, highlighting the security risks and encouraging employees to avoid them at all costs. This is often not enough to persuade employees to put the security of their data above the security of their jobs.

It seems to me that the solution for IT managers should be to take advantage of mobile working in a secure and controlled environment. The best practice is to give employees access to certain cloud-based collaboration tools that you have been vetted and are known to be monitored and secure. There are a whole myriad of options out there for SMEs – it’s just a question of finding a tool that fits the size of your business and the sensitivity and quantity of company data.

There’s no doubt that in an ideal world, employees would have access to and the ability to view files from within the company network from a mobile device, without the file leaving the company’s network. This way, the data will always belong to your business, not the individual. Ideally, IT directors should opt for tools with a user-friendly interface to help employees navigate the new tool with ease.

Ultimately, employees and businesses need to have the same goals and priorities in order for the company to be successful. Given that one of the benefits of IT is to help employees to work anywhere, anytime, IT directors need to ensure that there are solutions in place to facilitate this. Employees should be more mindful of security risks associated with handling company data, but ultimately, businesses must make data easy to handle – and in a secure fashion – so that the issue is no longer that of the employee.

Further reading on technology:

The pros and cons of DIY network security

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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