Whether we’re aware of it or not, most of us are on the cloud. If you share files using DropBox or Google Drive, you’re on the cloud. If you use Gmail, you’re on the cloud. If you send and receive money through PayPal, manage projects with BaseCamp, manage your accounting via FreshBooks or even seek funds to grow your business with Fundbox, you’re on the cloud.
In 2018 alone, it’s projected that roughly 3.6 billion internet users will access cloud computing services, up from 2.4 billion users in 2013.
So, if you’re not using a cloud computing service right now, it’s only a matter of time until you will be. Wondering how it works and how safe it is? We’re breaking it down.
What Does it Mean To Be on the Cloud?
Back in the early aughts, the vast majority of software came in a box and was purchased from a store. You popped a CD-ROM into your computer, followed installation instructions and, voila, you were in business. Every keystroke you entered using the software was on your computer’s hard drive, which automatically made you chief IT security officer. If your house or place of business caught on fire, all of your files went up in smoke with it.
The contemporary solution to traditional software in a box is software as a service (SaaS). This is also known as cloud-based computing. Instead of paying for software one time, you purchase a subscription or simply pay for what you use. In the case of social networking services like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you don’t pay a dime… but you’re subjected to advertising.
The selling point of cloud-based services is that they are cheaper, easier to use and more accessible than software that comes on a disk. And in that way, cloud accounting has removed many barriers to entry that made it difficult to start and run a business.
What are the Advantages of Being on the Cloud?
There are plenty of advantages, including:
Remember that thing about your files going up in flames? Cloud-computing puts the fear of natural disaster to rest. Your office or even your computer could be destroyed, but if your files are in a cloud-based computing service, they’re as safe as if they were in an airtight vault. When you shift to the cloud, you no longer have to be your own IT expert. Most cloud platforms manage security, including spam proofing and file back-ups.
Need to make a tweak to a file or check on the status of a project while you’re out of the office? Cloud-based platforms are available to you on your laptop, tablet and phone – wherever you may be. As long as you have access to an Internet connection, your files are with you.
In the old(er) days, software companies would release new versions every year to fix glitches or introduce new features. That not only delayed the shipment of those updates, but locked users into future, expensive purchases.
In contrast, cloud-based apps are built and updated regularly based on user insights and demands – and at no extra cost. You have the peace of mind of knowing you’re always using the latest technology. No updating or upgrading required.
4. Price and ease of use
Cloud-based platforms are generally less expensive (even free!) than traditional software. They work with your existing devices, both desktop and mobile. And you have choice: You can purchase monthly, annual or pay-as-you-go subscriptions at different usage tiers. They’re also known for their user-friendly interfaces, which are intuitive for most users.
What Are Security Features to Look For?
Now more than ever, there’s a strong focus on security and privacy when it comes to digital information and identity. The most basic step is ensuring security is checking that it’s SSL encrypted – there should be a lock icon in your browser whenever you’re logged in.
Most reputable platforms have commercial-grade security measures that go beyond simple protection. Here are some standard ways SaaS companies safeguard customer information:
- DropBox splits all files into discrete blocks and then encrypts them using a unique code.
- FreshBooks uses an Intrusion Detection System that monitors all traffic entering and leaving its network.
- Basecamp instantly writes all data to multiple disks, backs them up every day and stores them in multiple locations.
In general, the cloud-based service you’re considering should have a page on their website devoted to outlining their security measures. Look for information about:
- Vulnerability scanning
- Data center security
- Multiple servers and data locations
- Regular backups
What Can You Do to Help Secure Your Information?
Even though you don’t have to manage the details of software security, you do have a part to play in protecting your information.
Follow best practices like these:
- Check your computer for viruses and malware regularly.
- Enable a two-step verification. Most cloud-based apps offer this feature to add another layer of security.
- Use a unique password and protect it. Never tell anyone or write it down.
- Be aware of phishing scams in which hackers send emails that look like they come from a SaaS you’re using. If something looks off, it probably is. Don’t answer and call the company to be sure.
- Avoid logging in using public computers. If you must, be sure to log out of the app and clear forms, passwords, cache and cookies.
- Keep your apps up-to-date – bug fixes and updates are constantly rolled out. The newer versions of apps tend to be the best!
We’re hearing more and more conversations about data security and privacy. Whether it’s your browser history, social media activity or financial records, it’s wise to always be vigilant about what you’re sharing and with whom.
However, if you’re using software from a reputable company that has robust security measures, your data is safe in the cloud. Security breaches are rare and you’ll have access to a host of benefits you wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy, including mobility, fewer costs associated with IT infrastructure and maintenance and the ability to be responsive and flexible with your customers.
With the huge number of people flocking to cloud-computing, if nothing else, you can take comfort in knowing you’re in good company.
This guest post was written by Heather Hudson of FreshBooks for Fundbox. FreshBooks makes invoicing and accounting painless for millions of small business owners.