In the cloud and encrypted: Simple solutions for small firms

File storage for small firms in the past has been the F drive—a shared drive on a network server in an office. That worked well, but it required people to be in the office to access files and required the office to host a file server.

DropBox, and other cloud services like it, offer a solution. DropBox works like this: you subscribe, DropBox puts a folder on your hard drive called “DropBox,” you create subfolders, and you share them with other DropBox users. The folders you share act like shared hard drives, except they are in the cloud. You can, in effect, put an F drive in the cloud. Other services that offer cloud storage include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and SugarSync.

What does “in the cloud” mean? It means DropBox maintains the server and provides access over the Internet. You need not worry about how its maintained or stored or how to access it. DropBox handles all of that.

The problem is this: Although DropBox encrypts the files on its server, DropBox had had at least one security incident in the past, and DropBox maintains a master key to the files.

Generally, that should not mean that DropBox is a bad thing. After all, the files are encrypted. And lawyers regularly use unsecured means of transmitting data, particularly e-mail.

But if you want more security, consider using an add-on product called BoxCryptor. It creates a virtual drive on your computer that allows you to encrypt your files locally before uploading them to the cloud.

You double-click on the BoxCryptor drive icon, then you see the DropBox icon and open and save files like you otherwise would. BoxCryptor uses your own personal encryption key to encrypt every file before the file is saved into DropBox and decrypt the file before you open it. Thus, when the file is uploaded to DropBox, it is already encrypted, and no one has the key.

This is important. If anyone ever hacks into DropBox and gets your files, all that hacker will get is encrypted gibberish. That’s true even if the hacker breaks DropBox’s encryption.

Sure, the hacker could then work hard to break your second level of encryption for a file, but that encryption is pretty good: it uses the AES-256 and RSA encryption algorithms.

It also has the option of allowing multiple users to share a folder. It allows lawyers in different places in the country to work together.

You can check it out at <>.

There are some downsides. First, it is a little hard to figure out at first. Second, the customer service is slow. The company is in Germany, and they work by email. Responses can take a day or two. Third, if you lose your password, there is no way to recover them.

But otherwise it is a pretty straightforward solution to the problem of wanting to use the cloud but wanting security. ■

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May 2015Volume 22Number 4PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)