Nowadays, companies rely on cloud services for everything from storing data to handling their entire workflows. That makes the cloud-based tools they use more important than ever. However, what works for one company might not work for another, so cloud service providers have been tasked with creating tools that are flexible enough to appeal to many users, but at the same time secure enough to protect them from threats. Many cloud services tout flexibility and security as their best features, but perhaps none live up to those standards as well as Microsoft’s Office 365 and Azure platforms do.

Microsoft has always been a major player in the software industry. Nearly anyone who’s used a computer in the past two decades has used Microsoft Word or Excel, but with the rise of cloud computing and SaaS (software as a service), times are changing. Office 365 is the Redmond company’s 21st century, cloud-capable answer to that change. The Office 365 suite lives in the cloud, so workers can access the programs they’re familiar with from anywhere in the world. This includes some well-received additions, like real-time collaboration and integration with other online services like social networking and email. Azure, on the other hand, is Microsoft’s cloud computing service, which businesses can use for more advanced technical purposes, such as storing data and hosting websites and apps.

Naturally, the concept of cloud computing makes some business owners uneasy. Some may be wary of trusting another company to handle their sensitive data, especially in light of recent, high-profile data leaks. However, businesses of all sizes, from agile start ups to established multinationals, trust Microsoft and its cloud services. After taking a brief look over the company’s security measures, it’s easy to see why. The lengths Microsoft goes to protect their user’s data makes their cloud computing platforms exceedingly safe. These are some the highlights of Microsoft’s cloud platform security.

Microsoft Maintains and Secures Its Servers

All businesses differ in how they store and manage their IT infrastructure. While one company might have a single server rack kept away in a closet, another may utilize an entire room of servers that are under constant supervision. There are benefits to maintaining your own local infrastructure, but there are plenty of downsides, too. Mostly notably, you’re responsible for the upkeep and security.

On a physical level, a company’s data could be safer in the hands of Microsoft than it is on-site. Microsoft secures its hundreds of data centers with barriers, fencing, alarms, security cameras, and security staff that guard the locations at all times. And because Microsoft enforces a two-factor authentication access control, even those who have credentials to enter the facilities are unable to reach any areas that are off limits. Only the largest companies that can afford an astronomical IT budget could replicate Microsoft’s data center security.

Microsoft’s data center security isn’t limited to human threats. For companies that run their own IT infrastructure, a natural disaster, from a fire or flood to something as simple as a power outage, can prove disastrous – even fatal – to a business. Microsoft’s cloud services use multiple levels of redundancy, so that even if one data center was compromised, user data would still be available at another location. Again, these disaster recovery methods are probably out of reach of most small to midsize businesses otherwise.

This is nothing to say of the numerous digital protections Microsoft has in place to guard user data. Network and data isolation, encryption, DDoS protection, and antivirus security are among the various methods the data centers use to protect the servers. The major benefit here is that the user can expect their data to be safe under the watch of trained Microsoft employees using cutting-edge cyber security technology.

Services Are Always Improving

The world of technology is in a state of constant flux, so if you aren’t ahead of the times, you’re behind them. On the simplest level, no business should want to use antiquated software or hardware, especially when there are newer versions available that would make work more reliable and efficient. For end users, Office 365 and Azure are ideal because updates are made server-side, meaning Microsoft takes a greater part in handling the tricky issues that come with updates – including compatibility and security.

Vulnerabilities are more likely to occur on a system that’s not up to date, which is why it’s so important that companies constantly review and improve their security measures. Businesses that use Microsoft services offload some of these burdens to a professional team dedicated to handling potential threats. Microsoft’s “red team,” which consists of cyber security experts, regularly test data center security under real-world conditions to ensure that the cloud services can handle any potential threat. And when a breach attempt actually does occur, Microsoft has a five-phase action plan to prevent such a breach from occurring again. Sadly, SMBs are often blindsided by an attack, and worse, don’t know how to prevent such an attack from happening again.

Hackers Are Interested in Easier Targets

Microsoft’s cloud services offer features that not many other services can match. As such, it’s been able to obtain many high-profile clients, including GE Healthcare, NBC Universal, and 3M. According to Microsoft, 80 percent of the Fortune 500 uses its cloud services. Naturally, this makes Microsoft’s data centers a good target for hackers, but with the rigor that Microsoft tests and maintains its security, data kept on the Office 365 and Azure platforms is difficult to breach.

This might explain, in part, the recent surges in cyber attacks on small businesses. Across the country, hackers have waged everything from ransomware threats to straight-up DDoS attacks on community services that are understaffed and unprepared to deal with such attacks. A 2013 National Small Business Association survey found that 44 percent of small businesses have been hacked, costing the companies an average of more than $8000. For SMBs with tight budgets, that’s not a figure to be taken lightly.

Improved flexibility, agility, and convenience are among the main reasons businesses make the switch to cloud computing – and Office 365 and Azure are perhaps the best tools in the cloud. However, it’s the security measures, many of which go far and above most SMBs’ abilities, that make this configuration worth it. With the greater protection against threats and money saved as a result, what business can afford not to make the switch?

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