Small Business Cloud Security: How to Audit Your Cloud Applications
More companies are using cloud applications because it makes them more agile, helps them better serve their customers, and enables them to better manage data complexity and an ever-growing volume of data. According to Blissfully's "2020 Annual SaaS Trends Report," the average company leveraged between 102 and 137 business apps in 2019—a 30% increase from the previous year. That growth is likely to continue surging as businesses across the world adapt to remote and hybrid work environments in 2021.
Small business cloud security is crucial for risk management. Although technology can be a key business enabler, the financial and security risks can proliferate unseen if you don't properly audit all the applications your team uses—especially in the cloud, where data is stored on virtual servers beyond the company's network oversight. With more device and customer touch points also comes a broader attack surface. And employees will sometimes use applications your company hasn't officially approved to support their productivity, making a complete risk assessment even more elusive.
Auditing your current suite of cloud services and solutions can protect the data you collect and potentially prevent a cyberattack that disrupts your business.
Auditing cloud applications
Cloud apps require continual monitoring. Every app your business uses provides a potential entry point for hackers, and sometimes they aren't as secure as they should be—either because there's an unforeseen security gap or because an existing database has been poorly configured. To capture the full picture of your company's cyber risk, complete a thorough audit of your cloud apps.
First, before you sign up with any cloud provider, ask them about their security processes. Find out if they embrace industry standard security protocols; what kind of monitoring, auditing and data governance policies they have in place; and how often they roll out software updates and security patches. As you implement new apps, you'll also want to maintain a list or registry of the applications you're using and their individual risks and policies.
Then, check in periodically on how and how often these apps are used. Poll your workers to learn about their preferred technologies and understand how their most popular features might overlap and become redundant. Ask them which apps they use least often and what other productivity tools might enhance their work.
For example, your employees may use Google Workspace applications like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Meet every day, so it may not be worth maintaining your Zoom subscription. But maybe they need a stronger customer relationship management software. These insights will help you optimize your total suite and security by leveraging only the most necessary apps.
Likely the most difficult segment of your audit will be reviewing your company's "shadow IT"—or unauthorized applications and systems. If your workforce is in the process of returning to a common workspace, you may be able to monitor the company network for any unexpected apps. But if you're still working remotely or in a hybrid environment, this will be a greater challenge.
To combat this, you'll want to have a clear cybersecurity policy for employees and have them undergo regular cybersecurity training. One part of this curriculum should demonstrate to employees the business risks—and potential consequences—of downloading unauthorized apps. Then, follow up with an anonymous survey about shadow IT usage to expand on the insights from your general cloud app needs discussion.
Leveraging the cloud to build a better business
As with any productivity tool, there's no specific cloud app that will suit every business. The most important consideration is whether these tools serve your most critical business needs, such as making it easier to collaborate in a remote work environment or enhancing customer service.
The cloud has transformed how businesses operate. However, to take full advantage of these benefits, you need to focus on small business cloud security. Choosing cloud apps that are secure by design, taking steps to monitor both authorized and unauthorized applications, and creating a cybersecurity policy will empower your business to benefit from cloud services without increasing your security risks. Speak to a trusted risk management partner about how to strengthen your security oversight.
Financial insights for your business
This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.