You might have received prompts from your smart phone to back up your phone "on the cloud". This allows you to retrieve your pictures, messages and contacts even if you lose your phone.
Cloud technology is more pervasive than you might realise. When you upload photos onto Facebook or Instagram, or when you work from home through web-based email, it is cloud technology at work.
In 2014, the term "cloud" gained instant infamy when almost 500 private pictures of celebrities were publicly released after their iCloud accounts were hacked.
What on earth is this "cloud" that has got almost every magazine on the newsstand, from tech to tabloid, buzzing?
For the uninitiated, cloud computing is like renting a car, based on your plans and needs, rather than purchasing a brand new vehicle which will cost exorbitantly.
Data, such as pictures and emails, is conventionally stored on a local server in the office or a personal computer. This requires the purchase and maintenance of a server, providing processing power to allow access to the data, and setting up security to safekeep the data.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, is using a remote network of servers to store, manage and process data. This allows users to free up their processing power, reduce the need for office space and lower costs significantly. In addition, users enjoy the convenience of being able to access the data from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Many businesses have credited cloud technology with helping them reduce costs and improve operational agility. This allows them to scale up and compete with larger competitors on a more equal footing.
As the 2014 iCloud hacking will attest to, security is one of the main concerns of using cloud technology. After all, if personal data was stored in a place named after hardly-there vapour floating in the atmosphere, how safe can it be?
Fortunately for the many cloud users, cloud computing's security vulnerability is vastly overstated.
US-based cloud and on-premise security provider Alert Logic's 2012 State of Cloud Security Report found that hackers hit cloud and conventional systems almost equally, 53% and 44% respectively.
But conventional systems were successfully breached more than twice as many times.
The argument is that cloud security businesses have more secure IT environments because they are subject to more rigorous standards. But on the other hand, they are an attractive target because they hold large amounts of valuable data.
Be it cloud or conventional systems, security is only as good as security strategy devised, and the rigor in implementing it.
Should you decide to go with cloud-based services, here are three measures that you can adopt to mitigate the security risks.
1. Implement Cloud Encryption
Encrypting your data that is stored in the cloud to a non-readable ciphertext adds one more level of protection. Even if hackers gain access to your data, they will not be able to make sense of it without the encryption key.
2. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Using two or more authentication factors is widely recognised as one of the most secure methods to ensure that the people accessing the data are authorised.
3. Employ Trusted Third Parties
By doing so, you can ensure that your cloud provider is following the industry's security standards, and that your data stored in the cloud is not at risk of falling into the hands of cyber criminals.