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Cloud Computing Systems Pose a Threat to Data Protection

Published on 02 October 2013
Cloud-based computing systems - or simply systems that are stored and run from the internet (like Google Drive) - are being adopted by many businesses as their benefits are becoming more widely recognised as net infrastructure develops.
When everything is stored online, it’s much easier for employees to access should they need to work from home or from a difference office. It also means that processes can be combined to make a single more efficient system that runs automatically.
However, despite the many benefits of cloud computing systems, it has its drawbacks. Many people are concerned about data protection in relation to businesses that use cloud systems, but why?
Risk of Hacking
When customer and employee data is stored on a cloud-based system, there is the risk of it being hacked into. For example, companies that use internet payslip systems or databases could be leaving their employees and customers vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. Localised data stored on a computer hard drive is much more difficult to hack into, meaning personal details stored locally by a company are much safer.  
Lack of Trust
With cloud-based computing systems, there’s also an element of trust required when a customer or client leaves a company with regard to their data being destroyed. The physical element to locally stored data psychologically puts people at ease, but when data is stored online, it’s much more difficult to keep track of.
Responsibility Falls On the User
When data is stored in the cloud, it is often assumed that the responsibility for the protection of that data falls upon the provider of the software. Users of cloud-based software need to realise that the responsibility lies with them, and they need to check that the software provider can provide assurance regarding the physical security methods they use to lock down data. The advice from the ICO is to take precautions to protect the data as well as asking for a written agreement from the software provider, although in some cases this could be incredibly difficult.
Is There a Solution?
Despite the concerns about data protection associated with cloud-based computing systems, it seems that businesses are going ahead and using it anyway. It’s true that the benefits can make a significant, positive difference to the way business works, but storing everything on the cloud could prove dangerous.
One solution is that companies could take to storing extremely confidential information on localised hard drives that can be destroyed when necessary, whilst using cloud systems for less sensitive information.

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