Cloud Storage for Campus Environments, Advantages and Risks

Cloud Storage for Campus Environments, Advantages and Risks

The cloud has become a digital storage solution for many organizations

Cloud storage and backup providers have expanded their reach from businesses and individuals to campuses around the world. From dayto- day student use, to faculty and employee collaboration and storage of electronic files, the cloud has become the digital storage solution for many organizations. According to a 2018 study by McAfee:

  • Ninety-seven percent of organizations use cloud services (public, private, or a combination of both), up from 93 percent one year ago
  • Eighty-three percent store sensitive data in the public cloud
  • Sixty-nine percent trust the public cloud to keep their sensitive data secure
  • One in four organizations has experienced data theft from the public cloud
  • One in five organizations has experienced an advanced attack against its public cloud infrastructure

Whether your campus is a high school, university or healthcare provider, technology is moving at a rapid pace offering advantages and risk. For many, the need is for improved data storage and access that comes via cloud storage. Let’s take a closer look at cloud storage and what it offers, but also the security issues that must be addressed.

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage is a service where data is remotely maintained, managed, and sometimes even backed up. The service allows users to store files online, so that they can access them from any location via the internet. While there are many storage solutions available for specific use cases, just because they are available via the internet and a service provider doesn’t necessarily make them a cloud storage service. There is a simple way to tell the difference. Cloud storage tends to suggest a large object storage-based service which is typically accessed via application programming interface calls or file storage which is accessible via a share. High performance storage is usually block based and is accessible via cloud computing but is not cloud storage.

Now, that we understand what is and isn’t cloud storage, let’s look into some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Cloud Storage

Usability. Cloud storage services have desktop folders for Mac’s and PC’s. This allows users to drag and drop files between the cloud storage and their local storage.

Bandwidth. You can avoid emailing files to individuals and instead send a web link to recipients through your email.

Accessibility. Stored files can be accessed from anywhere via internet connection.

Disaster Recovery. It is highly recommended that businesses have an emergency backup plan ready in the case of an emergency. Cloud storage can be used as a backup plan by businesses by providing a second copy of important files. These files are stored at a remote location and can be accessed through an internet connection.

Cost Savings. Businesses and organizations can often reduce annual operating costs by using cloud storage; cloud storage costs about 3 cents per gigabyte to store data internally. Users can see additional cost savings because it does not require internal power to store information remotely.

Disadvantages of Cloud Storage

Usability. Users need to be cautious when using drag/drop to move a document into the cloud storage folder. This will permanently move your document from its original folder to the cloud storage location. Instead, a copy and paste should be utilized to retain the document’s original location in addition to moving a copy onto the cloud storage folder.

Bandwidth. Several cloud storage services have a specific bandwidth allowance. If an organization surpasses the given allowance, the additional charges could be significant. However, some providers allow unlimited bandwidth. This is a factor that companies should consider when looking at a cloud storage provider.

Accessibility. If you have no internet connection, you have no access to your data. Data Security. There are concerns with the safety and privacy of important data stored remotely. The possibility of private data co-mingling with other organizations makes some uneasy. Software. If you want to be able to manipulate your files locally through multiple devices, you’ll need to download the service on all devices.

Understanding the Benefits

While there are several potential risks in utilizing cloud storage services, enterprise consumers can enjoy different benefits as well. These benefits are not just limited to storage of files. They can include an increase in work efficiency.

Having a cloud storage provider can help the organization have a disaster recovery plan in place. While it probably will not be the only component of the overall recovery protocol, it can be a useful tool to help get the organization get back on its feet in the event of a natural disaster or system meltdown. In addition, those who archive their information in an off-site location do not have to worry as much about potential natural disasters.

In the event of a fire, flood, or some other disaster, as the information is not located onsite, it will be accessible and safe even if campus damage has occurred. Once repairs are made, administrators can retrieve the information via the internet and restore their servers to working order.

While cost can be a risk, it can also be a benefit. Instead of having to purchase and maintain hardware in order to back up all the systems, that cost is absorbed by someone else. The company will only pay a subscription fee which will help the provider offset these costs. Organizations can actually save money by allowing someone else to maintain their storage facility.

When it comes to making the company work more efficiently, the cloud offers the benefit of anywhere access. Documents and data can be accessed via the internet from any location, allowing users whether employees or students to work while traveling or at home if necessary.

The same technology also allows users to work together on a project, saving time and endless email revisions. Many enterprise level cloud storage providers offer tools that will allow users to collaborate on documents at the same time even if they are not at the same location. Managers can also monitor work using the same tools.

Security concerns can make the cloud sound like a risk. However, there are also some security benefits to using the cloud. These include:

  • Most cloud providers offer 128 or 256 bit AES encryption
  • They also offer zero-knowledge security
  • Anywhere, anytime accessibility (depending on your internet connection)
  • Cloud providers have a redundancy in place to ensure files are not corrupted due to lack of access
  • Cloud storage providers have security in place to ensure a physical site is secure, whereas external hard drives and USB drives are susceptible to theft

Making a Successful Move to the Cloud

Utilizing new technologies does come with a risk, however, with adequate research and understanding, many of these problems can be avoided. IT administrators should take plenty of time to research potential vendors prior to making any commitments.

Areas that should be monitored include reliability, security, and location. In order for a cloud storage solution to be successful for an enterprise-level consumer, a few areas should be considered prior to selecting a vendor.

  • Cloud storage management must be a priority
  • Ensure good security measures to save sensitive data
  • Location of cloud storage providers’ physical servers
  • Scalability of service to ensure enough storage space

Most of the cloud vendors only provide a platform with a well-defined service—migration and management require the companies to either build/acquire the capabilities or to engage IT service providers that deliver professional services or managed services. So, companies have to select the right partner to accompany them, with right business knowledge, accredited certifications and strong references. When done right, using a great cloud platform with the support of a good IT Service Provider will bring you the best outcome at the best cost.

Conclusion

By taking time to weigh the risks and benefits of cloud storage solutions, campuses can find a service or product that will work best for them. This is not something that should be taken lightly and all of the risks should be understood prior to purchasing a subscription. While the cloud offers many convenient and useful tools to help businesses grow, it is something that should be studied and researched before making a commitment.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - September October 2019

    September/October 2019

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