How Nonprofits Can Ensure the Security and Compliance of Sensitive Data

Data security and compliance may not be the first thing on your min, but check out how simple the first few steps can be.

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Ever since cloud computing became one of the primary solutions for companies to manage their data, integrate their processes, and ensure elevated digital security, even non-profit organizations have started migrating to the cloud. Still, the rise of such technology comes with increased capabilities of hackers and malicious organizations, as well, so they pose a risk for companies storing and exchanging sensitive information online, the cloud included.

Then again, internal disasters with data management can be as risky as external breaches. That said, before you rush to move your non-profit data systems to the cloud and leverage all of the inherent perks of this technology, you need to make sure that you have found the right cloud provider that comes with superior security measures and ensures your compliance. Let’s cover a few key steps you should take when moving your non-profit business to the cloud, so that you can protect your most sensitive data as well as processes from malicious attacks and security breaches.

Regulate user access to your cloud apps

Do all of your employees need access to all of your databases or cloud-based applications? In most non-profit organizations, collaboration can be empowered without granting access to every single employee, so you can mitigate risk and make your cloud more secure by carefully granting access to your employees based on their rank, security training, and role in your business.

Communicate your compliance needs with your cloud provider, but also make sure that your employees understand their rights to handle and access sensitive information. By covering all of your bases in terms of compliance, you’ll increase your chances to get the funding and grants you need for your organization.

Ensure network security

The cloud requires your employees to work in an online environment, which means that they need a secure network connection to access the cloud and all of your data and apps in a secure manner. For that reason, in addition to choosing a trusted cloud provider, every non-profit organization also needs a comprehensive network security solution to reduce and eliminate the risk of data breaches and leaks.

Elevated network security means regulating inbound and outbound traffic, as well as filtering access to unauthorized websites, so that your employees won’t unwittingly compromise your databases. Multi-layered authentication to your business network, and thus to your cloud environment enabled through such solutions also helps your employees confirm when they want access to your sensitive files. Reinforced by a hardware firewall combined with malware protection software, your network security will turn your cloud into an impenetrable fort.

Smart disaster recovery plans

Even though advanced cloud solutions and network protection plans are built to prevent security breaches and leaks to begin with, you also need to think and plan ahead. In case disaster does strike, you need to have your data backed up on alternative storage platforms, and you need a recovery plan in place to be able to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Look for a comprehensive cloud solution that includes access to back-up servers and a range of automated backup processes to simplify everything for your teams. You can also use hard drives to store copies of your most sensitive data and files. Regular testing and analytics in your cloud environment will help spot threats or attempted breaches, so that you can increase security in your most sensitive areas if need be.

Security as part of onboarding and offboarding

When you’re looking into the qualifications of a potential employee, you’re likely sticking to the skills they need in your particular sphere, be it education, scientific research, or IT. However, you should also consider their competency when managing highly sensitive data and processes. If they don’t have the necessary experience, you can provide them with optimal training so that they know exactly how to use your cloud data centers safely, and how to manage their cloud accounts.

On the other hand, when some of your employees leave, they cannot retain their right to access your databases or sensitive information. In case you, like so many other non-profits have a hard time with managing this process, you can let a professional handle the process, an expert in HR and onboarding as well as offboarding procedures. Every time an employee is about to leave your organization, go through a set of predetermined protocols to revoke their access to your apps and databases.

Employee training

Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning people can make mistakes, and those mistakes can cost your non-profit organization dearly if they lead to a data breach or leaking sensitive information regarding your partnerships, clients, or employees. That is why your cloud solution is only as good as the people using it on a daily basis. Since you store a variety of applications and tools on the cloud, you also need to make sure that your teams know how to properly access their accounts and how to exchange data in a safe way.

The added supervision of your network monitoring solution will help, but you should nip security risks in the bud, at least those that come from your in-house teams. Educate and train your staff to use strong passwords and follow security protocols when discussing sensitive matters or exchanging sensitive information.
Their behavior will greatly affect the overall security of your cloud-based processes and applications alike. By recognizing and averting phishing scams, by recognizing unauthorized communication attempts, and by using preventative measures, your employees can maximize cloud security every single day through their own actions.

Every cloud solution has its own built-in security protocols and preventative measures that both your business network and your entire organization will benefit from. However, as a non-profit organization, you need to make sure that your own data processing protocols and compliance are in line with your government’s regulations and that your employees are fully equipped to manage data properly.

From proper backup solutions, regular software updates, all the way to stringent monitoring and system analysis, you will be able to maximize your cloud’s potential to increase data security and compliance across the board.

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