Abila, like so many other software companies, offer “cloud based” solutions and storage.  I never liked the term cloud because it brings images of some nebulous vapor that miraculously records and holds information, programs and data.  In reality, cloud based is really nothing more than a server somewhere that you access via some form of remote software that connects to that server.

The real question is, how safe is your data when it resides on a server that’s virtually accessible to anyone with an internet connection?  And what can you do to protect that data?  Here are a few ideas.

For your accounting an other data that’s included in an off-the-shelf program, such as Abila Fund Accounting 100, the answer is, not much.  You have to be sure that you’ve done your homework and checked out the hosting service.   Abila, for example, uses Rackspace.  Other hosting providers use Amazon, Google and a host of independent sites like nGenX.  Be sure you’ve discovered that they use appropriate firewalls, that you’re required to change passwords on a regular basis and that your data is secured from even other authorized users of that host service.

But it’s becoming more and more common for our regular data to be moved to this web storage platform.  Microsoft 360 offers anytime access to Office products such as Excel, Word and Outlook.  You files are synced with your network or desktop so you can work on the document you’re tinkering with while waiting at the car wash.  How do you protect these types of files?

There’s an interesting article in today’s LA Times (http://ow.ly/nLetk) discussing this issue with Thomas Trappler, director of software licensing at UCLA.  He suggests that companies consider, among other things, encryption methods and reliability of the storage computers. Other possibilities include background checks of the cloud provider’s employees and clear notification policies in the event of a breach.

If you’re considering moving to the “cloud” do your homework.  If there’s anything we can do to help, don’t hesitate to call.