What is cloud security? Risks and best practices

Data security is an important topic in today’s digital age. Making and keeping cloud services secure for users seems to be one of the biggest challenges. But what exactly is cloud security and how can you use cloud services safely?

What is meant by cloud security?

Cloud security refers to all measures taken to protect data that is stored in the cloud. Cloud security applies to both cloud hosting, where applications are hosted on virtualised hardware, and traditional services from cloud storage providers like Google Drive or Box, which provide customers with preconfigured webspace. When it comes to cloud computing, cloud providers are typically responsible for ensuring the security of the data. As such, it is essential for customers who have data security concerns to choose a provider that places a high value on the security of their cloud. As much convenience as the cloud offers, it is still often seen as a risky option. To minimise the risks associated with using cloud services, it’s important to first know what the risks are.


With software like ownCloud, you can easily set up a self-managed cloud and take care of cloud security yourself.

What are the biggest cloud security risks?

Cloud infrastructures are complex, highly interconnected systems that use multiple interfaces to provide convenient access to cloud resources. With this convenience comes certain security risks that make having a comprehensive cloud security strategy crucial. The three primary threats associated with using cloud services are:

  1. Cloud hardware failure
  2. User errors
  3. Third-party attacks

Cloud hardware failure

The importance of cloud security often becomes apparent when a cloud server is unavailable. The problem isn’t, however, restricted to service outages, which results in users being temporarily unable to access data and projects. If the provider’s hardware fails due to a defect, power outage or for some other reason, it can result in permanent data loss.

User errors

Ensuring robust cloud security is not, however, solely the responsibility of the cloud service provider. Even if they implement the best security measures, it doesn’t guarantee 100% protection. Instances where cloud services are used incorrectly or improperly are outside of the realm of their control. For example, a misconfiguration of access rights could lead to unauthorised individuals being granted access to your cloud environment. Likewise, an employee could accidentally share a link that provides access to sensitive company data with all of their contacts. When it comes to cloud security, human factors should not be underestimated.

Third-party attacks

The human element is also front and centre in the third risk on this list. The more sensitive or valuable the data and projects you store in the cloud are, the more enticing they become for malicious hackers. Digital data theft has become an extremely lucrative business for criminals, making cloud security all the more important. Criminals employ techniques such as phishing and pharming to acquire login credentials, allowing them to gain access to users’ digital secrets, often without being detected. Other attack methods like DDoS attacks aim to incapacitate cloud services, causing harm to both providers and their customers.

What are cloud security best practices?

Providers employ a range of measures to ensure the security of a cloud and cloud services. However, as the risks above illustrate, the behaviour of individual users is also crucial for optimal cloud security.

To achieve both a high level of security and convenience, it is not enough to only have robust protection mechanisms in place for the software and hardware being used. Cloud security also involves responsible data handling and making all attempts at accessing the cloud or cloud service as secure as possible. Preventive measures for potential failures and data recovery features also belong to an effective cloud security package.

General protection of cloud data can be achieved in various ways. Access to the cloud can be secured, for example, through two-factor authentication. The use of VPNs is also a highly popular security measure. Providers can also ensure increased cloud security through tools that detect and block unauthorised access attempts and malware. In the event that data is intercepted, encryption ensures that attackers cannot make use of the information that they have obtained.

The following measures can be implemented to enhance cloud security beyond baseline protection and ensure business continuity in the event of service unavailability or data loss:

  • Data redundancy: many cloud service providers store data at a minimum of two different locations. This allows for optimal mitigation of hardware failures.
  • Backups: creating backups of projects and documents is an important factor for increased cloud security. Should data loss occur, comprehensive backup strategies are typically capable of ensuring complete restoration.
  • Policies and training: particularly for businesses, it is important to establish policies for the proper use of cloud services. Regular trainings can be carried out to educate employees about the risks associated with using the cloud.
  • Data privacy: protecting your data from prying eyes goes beyond safeguarding it from third parties. If you want to ensure that the provider doesn’t have any sort of claim to the data you store in their cloud, it’s important to read the terms and conditions, and choose a provider that prioritises data privacy.

With HiDrive cloud storage from IONOS, you can rest assured that your data is safe. With frequent backups and two-factor authentication, this cloud option is highly secure.

What can I do to improve the security of my cloud data?

Whether you use cloud services privately or at work, the more importance you place on cloud security, the safer your data will be in the end. Below we have summarised helpful tips for increasing security in the cloud.

Tip 1: choose a responsible and reputable cloud provider

In most cases, you will be using cloud services that are provided by an external provider. This means you’ll be entrusting a significant portion of the responsibility for your cloud security to the provider, making it all the more important to choose a provider you can trust. Before you decide on a company, it’s best to check which measures they take to ensure the security of their customers’ data.

It’s also a good idea to choose cloud services with servers based in the UK or the EU. This not only ensures faster performance but also guarantees compliance with strict data protection laws.

Tip 2: secure login process

Logging into a cloud service is one of the most crucial aspects of cloud security. The more secure the login process, the less likely it will be for third parties to gain access to your data. The first step is to choose a strong password, making sure not to share it with others. You can further enhance login security by using multifactor authentication.


In order for a login process to be secure, the end device needs to be secure as well. By using anti-malware software and a firewall, you can prevent your device from getting infected with harmful software. For work environments, you can strengthen the security of end devices by using a VPN and monitoring the software that is being used on the devices.

Tip 3: define user permissions for different users

When sharing cloud services with others, the user permissions should be clearly defined. This is particularly crucial for companies. With access control, you can determine who is allowed to make configuration changes, who has access to subdirectories, who is subject to restricted access times, and who has view-only rights. User permissions should also be reviewed regularly. When an employee leaves the company, it’s vital that you revoke all of their access rights.

Tip 4: encrypt data

When storing data online, it’s always best to encrypt it. There are numerous encryption methods available, some of which are technically complex. Most users rely on the encryption software provided by their cloud service provider. With an external encryption tool, however, the quality of the encryption method isn’t solely left up to the provider. Instead, you as the user can decide which encryption method is best for enhancing the security of your data and with that, the security of the cloud you are using.

Tip 5: create backups

Even the strongest cloud security package cannot provide 100% protection against data loss. That’s why it’s important to develop a robust backup strategy that allows you to prepare for potential emergencies and easily restore lost data when needed. Many cloud providers offer backup solutions, but for optimal protection, it is advisable to have an external backup solution. With an external tool, you don’t have to rely on a single provider for your backup strategy.

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