Security in the cloud is one of the most common topics with new customers. Business owners are often nervous about moving to the cloud because they can no longer see their servers that hold their valuable information.
The irony is that cloud services such as Google Apps are in many ways much more secure than the typical office server.
For example, data stored in Google’s data centres is spread across many servers so that if one or more servers fail you can still access your information.
In technical terms this is called high availability. Google Apps promises that it will operate 99.9 percent of the time. This equates to nine hours of downtime every year, which is far above the reliability of an office server. You can check whether there are any performance issues by looking at the Google Apps Dashboard.
Google data centres have extremely high security with guards patrolling the premises 24 hours a day. Protecting these are various security measures including access controls, surveillance and guarded fences. Even though all your data is not stored in the same place, the level of physical security makes it even harder for someone to access even a small portion of your data. Google publishes a map showing the locations of Google’s data centres (the Sydney data centre is operated by another company and so isn’t on the map).
Complementing the physical security is the IT security team. As you can imagine Google can afford to hire the best security professionals worldwide. This team of high-level engineers, many recognised as leaders in the industry, have the highest level of qualifications in security.
Who would you rather look after your data? Highly knowledgeable experts or your local IT guy?
There are also some specific security implementations that are relevant to Google Apps. For example:
Updates. When vulnerabilities are discovered in Google Apps Google can update the program instantly while millions of users are using it and not need to take it offline.
- Encryption. Browser sessions when using Google Apps is encrypted.
- Single Sign-On (SSO). Google Apps users can either log on with Google’s authentication service or use another provider’s.For example SSO can be used to force users to update their passwords for Google Apps every month.
- Two-factor authentication: Google Apps can use smartphones and tablets to provide a second password for Google Apps users. It works just like those digital tokens some banks require for business accounts.
- Administration tools. Google Apps Administrators can easily monitor their users. This includes an overview of accounts, usage and provisioning as well as audit logs to see who has accessed and edited docs in your domain.
There are also various Third Party Applications that help secure your document data further. For more read How to Secure your Documents in Google Apps.
Google Apps is best used with the Google Chrome browser which ensures your data is protected not only on Google’s servers but also on your laptop or desktop. By using both products you can protect your data more efficiently. Here are a few ways that Chrome improves the security of Google Apps.
- Auto update. When Google finds a vulnerability and pushes out an update, your Chrome browser will see this and update your browser in the background.
- Sandboxing. This stops programs installing themselves on your computer and stops applications affecting what happens in another tab in your browser.
- Warnings. Google Chrome will pop up with a warning detailing why it thinks you shouldn’t visit a web page known to host dangerous content.
These are highlights from the full list of Google Chrome’s security features.
It’s important to remember that nothing is 100 percent secure. But when it comes to security in the cloud, Google Apps is far more secure than the vast majority of businesses.
Image credit: Google