updated 8/18/2012 12:17:35 PM ET 2012-08-18T16:17:35

More businesses are relying on cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Apple's iCloud to store, process and share their important documents. It can be a convenient and cost-effective alternative to managing tons of data in-house. But the recent hack of a journalist illustrates how working in the cloud also comes with risks.

Wired writer Mat Honan effectively had his digital life erased. Hackers tapped into his Apple iCloud account and deleted his email and social media accounts, as well as all the data on his mobile devices.

As a business owner, when you hand all of your firm's most critical files over to another company to manage, you have to wonder how secure  they will be. Are your remote employees sharing them appropriately? Will your data wind up in the hands of hackers or competitors?

There are steps businesses can take to mitigate those risks. Anthony Kennada, a senior manager of cloud products at Mountain View, Calif.-based security company Symantec, offers three tips for keeping important business documents safe in the cloud:

Related: How Cloud Computing Saved My Business   

1. Lock down access to your data.
While most cloud vendors have standardized their approach to security, it's important for individual businesses to discuss who has access to their files and when they can access them.

"IT should press vendors on how their data is protected at all layers," Kennada says. "How are encryption keys managed? Are the right controls in place to prevent employees at the vendor site from unauthorized access?"

2. Keep corporate and personal information separate.
As more companies are allowing their employees to bring their own devices to work, more are using those devices for work duties -- including accessing documents in the cloud. Business data on personal devices raises red flags for IT managers if those devices are lost or stolen.

"In order to avoid this, Kennada says, "IT needs clear visibility into corporate data stored on personal devices and the ability to easily revoke access to that data when appropriate."

3. Make sure to back up your files.
File syncing -- by which files in two or more locations are updated -- is not as effective as backing up your files on a separate external device. What happened to Honan drive that point home.

"Although most file-sharing vendors enable access to content from any device, it is clear that they're not immune to clever [hackers]," Kennada says. Businesses should focus on both file sharing and backup solutions in order to hedge against something similar happening to them, he says.

Related: Why Google Drive Won't Be a Dropbox Killer 

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Copyright © 2013, Inc.


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