Storing in the cloud securely: 30 services compared

Cloud storage services for personal and business use from the perspective of the CIO

Who owns the data?

Well, you do—until such a time as it may suit another party—perhaps. If the Megaupload case teaches us anything, it's that the inherent risk with cloud storage services isn't necessarily that they are not secure, but simply that once data leaves your network it is, by definition, beyond your control. And, while most services will clearly detail their commitment to keep your data safe, this may be no more than ink on a page when government or law enforcement comes calling—especially when you consider the data is likely to be stored offshore in jurisdictions with different laws from our own. The Patriot Act and  Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the States, for example, has exemplified the vulnerability of data stored on US soil. Under the Patriot Act, there is no requirement that you be informed your data has been accessed, so you wouldn't even know. And DMCA guidelines can be found on many cloud storage sites for accelerating the submission process.

This may seem like a non-issue—after all, your business data isn't likely to raise the ire of law or government one would hope—but there's no guarantee when you don't even know where your data physically resides: many services use geolocated data centres, which makes it nigh impossible to determine what rights you have should a legal request—justified or not—be received by the service provider. The posterboy for cloud storage, Dropbox, for example, clearly states that employees can access your data if legally required to do so (though to be fair, this is true of most services, not just Dropbox).

Which raises another issue: how far do you trust the service itself? What's stopping abuse of access by administrators or other employees of the service? Would you even know? And this says nothing of a service being hacked through a vulnerability or socially engineered, or if it should be bought out by a third-party—then you'd be at the whim of the third-party as to the sanctity and sovereignty of your data.

And all of this is possible because, even though a service may clearly state that your data is encrypted both in transit and at rest, the fact remains the service provider usually has the keys. If they have the keys, the data can be decrypted, so you ultimately don't have full control over what happens to it.

It muddies further when you realise that many cloud storage services rely on outsourced networks such as Amazon's S3. While on the one hand this could work in favour of a given service if you know the pedigree of its partners (one provider even proclaims in its literature that its data centres are patrolled by armed guards!), it's yet another layer apart from having control over your data.

And this is the crux of the issue. IBM recently made the news when it announced that the use of Siri was banned for employees. Why? Because in processing voice requests, the audio is sent to Apple data centres—and while we like to think Apple wouldn't data-mine it, let’s face it, this is business (nothing personal, as the saying goes). For IBM, this is about limiting the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information—a description equally apt for describing employee use of cloud storage services too. No surprise then that IBM has also banned the use of Dropbox and Apple's iCloud.

This is not to say cloud storage services can't play a role in your business, and most services offer specific enterprise class accounts with more features, but even with these you need to consider what data is to be stored with them, and most importantly, how secure it will be.





Love the content of the article but have two notes...

1. The table doesn't seem available to me. The embedded table link does not resolve (chrome on Mac). Is there a direct link available?

2. I appreciate the discussion of platform compatibility but I think you missed touching on one important element for my use case - cloud storage support for network storage units (backup especially). Of the services mentioned in the body of the article (remember - I can't access the table), I think only ElephantDrive and Mozy offer on-board NAS support. I know Egnyte does as well, but I didn't see them mentioned. In any event, we've find it very useful to have one solution that covers not only the workstations and laptops, but also the NAS.

CSO Publisher



Hi Martin

Please check again for comment #1 as we have tested our end and you should be able to see the table on page 4 fine now. Please let me know if you cant.



For security, Gartner has started tracking a new category - cloud encryption gateways. Encrypts data before sent to the cloud and some can work with mobile apps. Encryption and keys stay behind the firewall. One to check out is CipherCloud.



@Anonymous - I'm not sure if it was on my end or your end (probably mine), but the table is rendering correctly for me now. I was able to view and to download.

Thanks for checking and apologies if I raised a false alarm.

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This is the only time I've been to your website. Thanks for explaining more details.



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Stock Profits


all the time I see smart investors
taking large profits from placing savings
into OTC stocks. A Majority
can eventually witness large scale big money from
following educated day traders. Superb Post.

Always remember the biggest money is made with
attention to detail



It is definitely a detailed comparison, really appreciate your time and effort. The only thing that disappoints me is that the list missed out SyncBlaze which we are currently using it in our organization and suits the needs of small and medium businesses. Thanks anyways.

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