With cloud storage becoming the standard in file storage and the uptick of cyberattacks in the last year or so, a debate is now emerging between using a public cloud, a private cloud or even a hybrid cloud, which combines both. Most of this is, of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with record numbers of employees working from home and a record number of hackers with time on their hands.

 

Making Sense of the Cloud

Before comparing public cloud storage with private clouds, let’s review the commonalities. Cloud storage performs the same role, whether you’re using a public or private cloud. Files are stored on a central server, which can be accessed by multiple people over the internet, regardless of where they are. Most cloud services allow you to collaborate on the same documents at the same time and will have software in place so that changes to the file are synchronized for everyone accessing it. 

 

It’s with synchronization that you see a blurring between cloud storage and cloud computing. To clarify this, cloud computing uses the server resources (memory, processor and software) to run applications from the cloud. Cloud computing services always include cloud storage, but cloud storage doesn’t always include cloud computing. As a simplified example, if you’re using Google Drive to store files, you’re using cloud storage. If you’re using Google Docs to write, you’re using cloud computing and cloud storage. 

 

There are three general categories for cloud computing services, as follows. 

 

  • Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS): These are hardware and software tools used for cloud computing, such as Heroku and Windows Azure.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): These are monthly services used for cloud storage, networking and virtualization, including Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): This is software that is available over the internet, like Microsoft Office 365 and other web apps.

 

Few cloud services today fit neatly into one category. This is primarily because they each offer a variety of features and tools that traditionally belong in another category. While the main feature of Dropbox and Google Drive, for example, is storage, they each use software like virus protection and web apps. 

 

Even a no-frills storage solution requires some software so users can log in, authenticate and access their files. Nevertheless, how a cloud service positions itself, as a PaaS, IaaS or SaaS will give you a good indication of the features it provides.

 

Public Cloud Storage

Public cloud services are exceptionally popular today, with both consumers and businesses. In fact, cloud services represented 9.1 percent of the  global enterprise IT spending market in 2020 and, according to Gartner, this will increase to 14.2 percent by 2024. Public cloud services generated $257.5 billion in 2020 and should reach $304.9 billion by the end of 2021. 

 

Using public cloud storage is much like renting office space in a high-rise. Everyone using the service shares a part of the cost of infrastructure, while keeping each company’s documents separate and secure from the others. 

 

Private Cloud Storage

Private cloud storage comes in two varieties. The first entails putting your files on a server owned by your company, in your server room, with files accessible over the internet. The second way entails renting a dedicated server from a data center, with no one else using that same server. Hybrid clouds use a combination of both, with in-house servers connected to a public cloud service. 

 

As you can imagine, a private cloud is much more expensive than renting from a public cloud. Not only is the infrastructure cost more expensive, but you also need highly trained security experts on your payroll to ensure your files are adequately protected. Even if you bring in the best security experts who can give you the same level of protection that Google, Amazon and Microsoft have, this will only give you the same amount of protection as a public cloud service. 

 

Clouds and Secure Data Storage Issues

Sharing infrastructure in a public cloud isn’t really a problem when it comes to security, provided you trust the company offering the service to you. Firewalls and data encryption protect files from being accessed by anyone without your login credentials. If someone does get into a neighbor’s folders on a public server, there is little chance they could then get access to yours. 

 

This effectively means that there is no greater degree of protection using a private cloud compared to a public cloud. The primary reason for this is that server-level security isn’t your biggest security threat. In fact, it only represents five percent of the problem. 

 

Approximately 95 percent of all cybersecurity incidents are due to human error outside of your IT department — like employees giving their passwords out over the phone, or opening malicious emails. 

 

User Security Issues

When you take a good look at user security issues, the number of potential breaches is staggering. Each person you share a sensitive file with represents numerous potential points of access. However, these can all be put in two categories: user error and user targeting. 

 

Human error involves all the mistakes people make when securing their own computers and login information. You can educate your own employees, but other organizations, like business partners, suppliers, clients and all of their families sharing home computers, are practically impossible to police. At the most basic level, for example, you have no way to ensure that everyone does the following: 

 

  • Uses strong passwords 
  • Uses unique password for each account
  • Keeps their passwords private
  • Properly uses two-factor authentication 
  • Never shares confidential files with others
  • Never downloads confidential files to a computer or other device

 

Two-factor authentication is when you receive a text message to your phone with a code in order to access an account after you have entered the password. Properly using two-factor authentication means using one device (a computer) to log in and a different device (a phone) registered to receive the codes. If your login information is on the same device receiving the SMS messages with the code, two-factor authentication becomes meaningless.

 

A second security issue with each user is that they can become a potential target for hackers. This probably isn’t a serious threat for an office memo or your aunt’s carrot cake recipe, but if you are storing valuable information, the risk increases considerably. If someone is motivated to get your financial records, it can be very difficult to stop them.

 

On top of all of this, if an employee’s account is hacked, you may not find out about it for weeks. And if 68 million Dropbox passwords are hacked and released to the dark web, it might take a few years to find out.

 

VDRs and Heightened Secure Data Storage

A reliable virtual data room provides all of the security you will find on the best public cloud services, while integrating additional security measures into the platform. Multi-layer security firewalls and premium-grade encryption with TLS cipher suites are just the beginning. Caplinked’s ISO 27001 Certified VDR is compliant with the most exacting certification bodies, including HIPAA, PCI SAQ-D, and FISMA.  

 

Enhanced user security and monitoring tools ensure that no one can gain access to your documents without authorization and that what they’re able to do with those documents is limited to your specifications, like downloading or copying files. If you ever do suspect a user’s device has been compromised, you can rescind access immediately, including access to files that have already been downloaded. Digital watermarks embedded in every document will also ensure you can trace back a leak to its source. 

 

To evaluate Caplinked’s VDR security features and its group permissions interface, log in for a free trial. 

 

David Weedmark is a published author and e-commerce consultant. He is an experienced JavaScript developer and a former network security consultant.

 

Sources

Gartner: Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Grow 18% in 2021

CDNetworks: Public Cloud Security vs Private Cloud Security

RedHat:  Types of Cloud Computing

CheckPoint: What is Cloud Security?

Microsoft Azure: What Are Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds?

Fortinet: Key Principles and Strategies for Securing the Enterprise Cloud

BigCommerce: IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS Enter the Ecommerce Vernacular

CMSWire: Cloud Service Models (IaaS, SaaS, PaaS) + How Microsoft Office 365, Azure Fit In

Heroic: 68 Million Dropbox User Accounts Hacked and Released to the Internet

Cybint: 15 Alarming Cyber Security Facts and Stats

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