Is Google Apps Safe?

Some feel that having their data in the cloud, such as with Google Apps, makes it less secure. But this article shows if cloud data can actually be more secure for your business, school or charity. Let’s see – is Google Apps safe?

Google Apps Security

Google Apps for Business, Education and Non-profits is more secure than storing your data locally.

Over the holiday season I was chatting with someone about Google Apps. “But it’s not really safe is it?” she said. “I mean, the documents on my laptop are safe” she continued, “but not those stored by Google.”

The main point was that documents that were available from anywhere were less safe, than those stored locally (at home or at the office). If the data was only protected by a password, then surely this could be hacked.

However, I do believe (NSA aside), that storing data wtih Google Apps is much safer, and here I will show why:

1) Password protection. Everything is now protected by passwords, so the password has to be pretty good to be safe. I advise everyone to use easily remembered unique long passwords – at least 8 characters for online services, and over 15 characters for locally stored encrypted data. To remember these unique passwords (as they should all be unique), then something like Lastpass should be used – you can read more about this on an earlier blog.

So how do those who wish to steal your passwords, do it?

  • A common one is to use a brute force technique where every password possibility is tried (starting with the obvious such as “password”), and for locally stored data this may be possible. However for online data this is usually impossible as too many attempts are blocked.
  • Another way, is to infect a computer to record passwords (keyloggers), so remember to ensure your computer is secure – contact Otter IT if you require more information on this. Point 2 below can protect you from this.
  • Yet another way, is to use human error, and trick you into revealing your password (such as using a fake web page). Again point 2 below can help to protect yourself from this.

2) 2-step authentication – The next slice of security is 2-step authentication. Google Apps fully supports this, and I certainly believe this is an important requirement to protect your data. This will basically not allow you to log into a new machine with your password until you have put in a special number which is sent as a text to your phone. To find out more visit this page: http://www.google.com/landing/2step/ or contact Otter IT and we can set this up for you.

3) Change the password – and of course, at any time, you can change your password. Indeed, this is recommended, and you can even centrally require staff to change their password in Google Apps.

4) Backup – Your data in Google Drive should also be backed up. This can be done in a variety of ways, from server to server backup, to backing up downloaded Google Drive on your computer. However, it’s the server to server style of backup which is really valuable, not only backing up Google Drive, but also all those calendar appointments, emails and and your contacts. This is all done automatically in the background without any effect on your network or computers.

5) Your data – you can also download your data at any time. It is yours after all, so you can keep a local copy (in case Google goes bust – not likely right now). Just head over to https://www.google.com/settings/takeout and click on Create an Archive. Emails, documents, contacts and calendars can also be transferred to other providers if needed, as there is no restriction on moving away from Google Apps. Furthermore, staff who leave suddenly, their data can be accessed, including any backups taken, ensuring that valuable documents are not lost.

The main problem with data stored on laptops, servers or backup drives is that it can be stolen. And the only way to protect the data is to encrypt it (let Otter IT know if your data needs to be encrypted). If it isn’t encrypted, then your data is easily available to the thief. If your computer is stolen, then change your Google Apps password immediately. In addition you can force any other computer where you were signed in, to be signed out.

Now if you’re only using data in the cloud, including your Google Drive documents, and you lose your laptop (such as a Chomebook), then no data is lost, and no data can be stolen.

Indeed, the more data you store in the cloud, the safer your data becomes, especially when, through Google Apps you ensure that staff do have those long passwords, 2-step authentication, and consistent backups.

For more information, on Google Apps, and how it can really improve data security for your business or school, contact Otter IT.

p.s. For schools, I looked at security for Google Apps for Education specifically – check it out here.

p.p.s. This is a great video by Google which explains some of these points and a few more in under 2 minutes: http://youtu.be/4GgAbUhKNCE

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Note: “Google Apps”, refers to Google Apps for Business, Google Apps for Education and Google Apps for Nonprofits. Otter IT is able to advise, setup, install and manage Google Apps for you. Otter IT is an official Google Apps Reseller.

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