It was called “the worst service disruption in Salesforce’s history.”

Yes, I’m referring to the recent Salesforce disaster that sparked over 3,000 outages and affected users across the United States according to CRN.

It’s a timely reminder that there are benefits and risks of cloud computing.

Cloud services—when operating optimally—can empower your business. Yet, as this situation with Salesforce reveals, the cloud isn’t immune to downtime, loss of functionality, or data security issues.  

Wondering whether cloud-based technology is right for your business?

To answer that question, you need to be fully informed of the risks and benefits.

When making technological decisions, it’s easy to be sold the pros without understanding and evaluating the cons. And that brings risk.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what happened to Salesforce and the insights this provides about the risks of cloud-based technology.   

Salesforce Demonstrates the Risks of Cloud Computing  

So, what happened to Salesforce last month?

According to Salesforce’s documentation, it began with a faulty database script. As Salesforce recounts, this script “gave users broader data access than intended.” In other words, tight access control went out the window.

In a secure IT environment, only certain employees have access to sensitive information. For instance, an admin will have far greater permissions than an entry-level sales representative.

But in Salesforce’s case, ZDNet explains that these accidental permissions meant employees could retrieve “all their company’s files” and even “[receive] write permissions.”

This was a big data security lapse.

Salesforce states that it “temporarily reduced permissions on instances and customer orgs which caused the service disruption.”

That’s a techy way of describing the situation. And it doesn’t truly paint the full picture of what it meant for businesses on the ground.  

MarTech Today puts it bluntly, writing, “Users were locked out for 15 hours.” What’s more, ComputerWeekly reveals that even after some normalcy was restored to Salesforce users, full service wasn’t available for over a week after this event.   

When it comes to the risks of cloud computing, this situation goes beyond a mere inconvenience.

In the past, we’ve written about cloud storage data loss. But what happened with Salesforce reveals other drawbacks that we’ll explore below.  

Risk #1: With the cloud, you give up control of your data.

Not long ago, I was speaking to an organization about cloud technology. While other companies might rave about the advantages of the cloud, this company’s stance toward cloud services was decidedly negative. The reason?

They didn’t like the idea of giving up control.

I can’t say I blame them.

When you leverage the cloud, your provider assumes responsibility for storing your data. While this is a plus, it also means they can block you from accessing your information.

Just consider how Salesforce’s cloud technology didn’t guarantee that customers would always have access to their own data.

And that’s a big risk.   

Risk #2: The cloud subjects your business to far-reaching human error.

Humans make mistakes…including employees at Salesforce and workers in your own organization.

A single employee error can easily undo the best data security policy—creating vulnerabilities, downtime, and thousands of dollars in costs. (The reality that your workers make mistakes is a big reason we offer employee cybersecurity training.)

A cloud services provider isn’t immune to this risk.

But the impact of employee error can be more widespread.

It’s one thing to have a data security vulnerability on your local server. It’s quite another to have your data exposed on a massive server that holds the information of millions of people.

Risk #3: The cloud creates a false sense of IT security.  

Commenting on the situation, MarTech Today called the Salesforce debacle “a wake-up call” and emphasized the importance of business continuity.

This highlights another risk of cloud computing:

When you rely on the cloud, it’s easy to think you’ll never have issues with IT security and reliability.

After all, Salesforce would never jeopardize your data or experience massive downtime, right?

As this situation has shown us, not necessarily. Not only did Salesforce compromise its customers’ data security, but it also hindered organizational productivity.

The cloud isn’t even immune to external, malicious security issues. According to the Financial Times, cloud service providers can face a cyberthreat designed to harm the customers in their care.  

The bottom line is this: Don’t place complete trust in any cloud services provider. The cloud is vulnerable to cybersecurity and reliability risks, too.

Making Smart IT Business Decisions

There are benefits and risks for any technological advancement—whether that’s cloud services, VOIP, or another technology.

The key to making smart business decisions is weighing the risks and determining if the rewards are significant enough for your organization. In addition, when deciding to leverage the cloud, investing in strategies to mitigate these new risks is critical.

At Proactive IT, we know how to connect our clients with the IT solutions that meet their needs. If you’re not sure which technology aligns with your business requirements, I’d encourage you to drop us a note online or give our Charlotte team a call at 704-464-3075.