Any device you connect to the Internet has the potential to be hacked. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. The cloud isn’t 100 percent secure, but neither is your smartphone or laptop. So just how safe is cloud storage? There are two components to keeping your data secure: making sure it’s always available when you need it, and protecting it from anyone you don’t want accessing it.

Maintaining Availability
Cloud storage is safe and reliable enough that Google and Microsoft not only provide cloud storage, but also use third-party cloud storage. Many, if not most, large corporations use cloud storage because cloud providers can offer the security these clients demand for far less than it would cost each client to build the same level of availability.

The key to availability is redundancy. Normally a bad thing, redundancy is actually crucial for keeping your data secure and available. If your information is stored on a single hard drive, a failure of that drive could cause you to lose everything. Because of this, providers store copies of your data on multiple drives, sometimes in multiple data centers in different locations. This way, even if the entire data center is crippled, there’s a backup at another center. Redundancy is built into storage, power supply, Internet connectivity, and other network features to make sure your data is there when you need it.

Maintaining Privacy
If all you know of cloud security is the celebrity photo hacking scandal from 2014, then you may have a negative view of the cloud’s level of privacy. However, as awful as that breach was, it was only possible because the victims chose poor, easy-to-guess passwords. The breach relied on a combination of an Apple security flaw and the fact that the victims’ passwords were among the 500 most common of all passwords, making them vulnerable to brute-force attack.

That’s not to say the victims deserved it, of course, but it does illustrate the fact that you’re as responsible for your data’s security as anyone else. Apple has fixed the flaw on its end, but the first step in improving every aspect of your online security is choosing better passwords.

What Security Features Are Available?
One thing you don’t have to worry about is the strength of online encryption. In fact, it’s so strong that some law enforcement agencies are concerned it jeopardizes their ability to investigate crimes.

All online service providers offer encryption, but if you want to make your cloud-based data even more secure, you may want to seek out providers with extra security features. For example, logging into your account with McAfee’s Personal Locker cloud storage service requires a pin code, answering personal security questions, facial recognition, and voice recognition. If these security features won’t put your fears at ease, you may want to consider any online connection anyway.

Two-factor authentication is something you should definitely look for. This feature ties individual devices to your cloud accounts, preventing data thieves from accessing your accounts even if they have the password. DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive and other consumer-oriented cloud services offer two-factor authentication. It’s also available for many other online services, including social media.

One policy worth considering, if you’re really serious about added privacy, is zero-knowledge storage. In some cases, cloud providers know what kinds of files you’re storing, even though they don’t actually access those files. But with zero-knowledge, or client-side encryption, the data itself is encrypted, and the only thing the storage provider knows is the file size. In other cases, the provider doesn’t know your password. That means that hackers can’t gain access to that data through flaws in the provider’s internal security. Even if the government subpoenas your password, the provider wouldn’t be able to turn it over. A subpoena for data would yield only encrypted files.

Find a Better Connection
A faster Internet connection may not make your data any more secure, but if you’re storing a lot of data in the cloud, you’ll appreciate the time that faster uploads save you. Consider the faster downloads, browsing, and better online video welcome side effects.

Or view all providers