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Your Cloud Compliance Checklist

Cloud security is a concern for companies that store client data.

While the cloud is making data management easier for many firms, it is also posing a challenge for businesses that use this technology to store client information. They need to revisit their compliance with various data privacy rules to ensure they are still in compliance. Entrusting your valuable data assets or part of your infrastructure to a third party adds another layer of risk to your organization's ability to meet the requirements of various regulations. Read on to evaluate whether some of your compliance efforts should be revisited.

Concerns Associated With Cloud Data Storage Growing
Data security has become a more prevalent concern in recent years, with large corporations, banking systems and government systems experiencing hacks. As more corporations justifiably become concerned about their confidential business information being accessed, they need to also consider the security of their clients' data. A company that admits to a security breach and tells consumers their sensitive information may have been accessed can lose standing with long-time purchasers and business partners and may see significant damage to their reputation.

But data breaches are only one concern for companies that store client data in the cloud - consumer privacy is also a growing worry. More purchasers are hesitant about the idea of granting companies access to their personal information, and these fears could only increase as consumers become more educated about the cloud and hear of incidents. This is especially true if they are not entirely sure what the information will be used for or don't understand how secure a company storage system is.

Aside from client-related concerns and the business risks associated with storage systems that aren't secure, companies must also take into account the growing number of rules that regulate how client data can be stored in the cloud. Failing to abide by these mandates can lead to serious risks for organizations that employ remote storage solutions, making it essential for them to be familiar with any requirements and ensure compliance.

What Are the Main Considerations When Determining Data Storage Compliance?
Regulations vary, and two companies may have vastly different compliance requirements when it comes to their remotely stored client data. For this reason, it is essential for businesses to stay abreast of the latest requirements in regard to this data and how it is stored. Organizations that store information on site may be unaware of compliance rules, but with cloud storage solutions a growing and popular way for companies to handle vast amounts of information, those considering making the switch will need to be aware of key factors that can make or break compliance efforts.

• Determine data residency. Data stored on-premise may be subject to different regulations than data kept off-premise, making it first essential for firms to determine where they currently keep their data, or how they plan to manage a system once they switch to the cloud. While this may seem like a simple way to ensure compliance, Forbes points out it can be more complicated for multinational companies. Health care groups with data in Europe and the United States, for example, may be unsure whether they need to comply with America's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules or the European Union's Data Protection Directive. For now, it's not entirely clear, as few related legal cases have made their way through the system to give companies clues as to how to follow the rules without getting into trouble from lawsuits. However, companies that comply with precedents set in similar situations or that choose a provider located in their region will likely be able to ensure compliance.

• Ensure client payment data is stored correctly. More organizations are ensuring compliance with the PCI Security Standards Council when it comes to customer transaction information. The organization recently released new guidelines that help business identify and address any security challenges and take into account new requirements when updating their systems. Guidelines that help companies ensure their clients' payment data is secure can alleviate any concerns customers may have about making payments and permitting their information to be stored by a business.

• Consider if reporting standards are up to date. Compliance with Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 is essential, and firms working with an outside cloud provider need to determine whether their vendors comply with the regulation. SSAE 16 was preceded by the Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70, guidelines that were growing increasingly out of date as technology advanced and businesses took up new data storage solutions. SSAE 16 serves as a reporting standard that refreshes compliance controls at service organizations, ensuring companies that employ cloud services partner with vendors that are taking all the necessary steps to protect data.

• Address future trends. While it's important for businesses that do store client data to comply with current requirements, they also need to they prepare for the future so that they aren't caught off guard when new requirements or security enhancements go into effect. One of the most recent trends in secure cloud storage is in regard to additional encryption, which could change how businesses store and access their data. Companies may need to enhance their encryption techniques for their own remote storage systems or discuss such options with their providers should suggestions for additional security measures become mandatory.

What Businesses Should Consider When Working With an Outside Provider
While companies that handle their own storage solutions can ensure their own compliance, those that employ vendors to handle storage will need to thoroughly vet potential partners to ensure they are compliant with requirements. Cloud storage providers should be asked about the measures they take to encrypt data, ensure SSAE 16 compliance, whether they abide by PCI guidelines and how they consistently work to better protect sensitive information.

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