Google holds a special place in our hearts. Sure, it is a gigantic corporate behemoth, slowly positioning itself as the dominant online service, but we trust it because of that wonderful "don't be evil" slogan Google claims is the central pillar of its values. So why wouldn't we use it to store our data and files? Google Drive is Google's newest offering, and with its unveiling emerged the typical debates that always come up when people talk about cloud storage:
What will they do with my data? Will they own it?
Is it wise to entrust sensitive documents to a faceless corporation? The Terms of Service language is the biggest point of contention as it grants Google a "a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative work" - USAToday published an excellent article on this being standard 'legaleze' and that the average user has nothing to worry about.
But what about small businesses? An employee could upload corporate data to a cloud storage service to re-download at home, opening a myriad of legal complications for businesses that deal with sensitive data. To keep from being mired in data breaches, companies need to keep an updated policy on internet usage - one that...
Clearly defines what you expect from your employees
According to the USAToday article, the New York Times had to scramble to let its 1,000 employees know not to upload anything to Google Drive before they had a chance to understand what, exactly, the service could do with those files. That should never have happened - cloud computing is nothing new, and most services have very similar policies, so there is no reason why the New York Times shouldn't already have told their employees what they expected.
If you work with sensitive information, clearly lay out what your employees can and cannot upload to online applications or say on social media websites. Anything that has customer, employee, or corporate data should never be taken out of a company's network using unsecure means. Even if the Terms of Service controversies are unfounded, you don't ever want to be in a position where someone outside of your company can access that information.
Doesn't completely shut your employees off from internet-based services
Yes, you could go the authoritarian route and just place an outright ban on any internet based service - sites like Facebook, imgur, Twitter, and Google Drive would just be blocked and no one on the company network would be able to upload any data to anything. But that is a terrible idea because it ignores all of the advantages these services can provide. Social media based advertising, direct connection to your customers - even cloud storage can be monumentally useful if used properly. Plus, bans are terrible for office morale as it makes your employees feel like unruly children.
We don't ban matches because they can start fires, so you shouldn't ban internet based services because they could lead to trouble.
Has researched secure alternatives
Instead, use this policy to offer alternatives to your employees. Do a bit of research into cloud computing providers and see what secure options they have available for businesses. The chance for an employee to bring home a bit of work is very enticing, and cloud storage is the perfect bridge between a work and a home PC. The same goes for files that get attached to e-mails or put on thumb drives.
Any business that tries to ignore or ban significant developments to how people use the internet will soon find themselves stuck in the past, desperately trying to stay afloat amid draconian practices. Business owners worth their salt will be open and honest with what they expect from their employees, so keep your policies on data storage and internet use updated and transparent. That way, you'll be able to keep your company in the twenty-first century without having to worry about being sued because someone uploaded something they shouldn't have.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation, an online filing services company that specializes in incorporations and LLCs. Find her online at mycorporation.com and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation