Clearing the Air: Cloud Security for Real Estate Brokerages

When you upload a document to the cloud, what do you imagine?

It's not easy to envision where that document went; the idea of a cloud almost makes you think it goes up into the air like a wisp of smoke, up to where the clouds are floating—out in the open, where anybody can see it.

That can be a scary image when we're talking about key personal information.

The thing is, though, that isn't the reality of cloud storage.

So what is cloud storage?

The reality of cloud storage is that it's as close to the ground as we are. Everything that a person stores on the cloud actually gets stored in data centers like these.

Facebook Data Center - Altoona, IA from Consortium for Slower Internet on Vimeo.

These data centers are about as far as you could possibly get from those fluffy white clouds that everyone can see. They're reinforced fortresses, designed to look as inconspicuous as possible and to resist just about anything that humans and Mother Nature alike can throw at them.

They're typically built in low-risk areas like deserts and farmland, and are customized to withstand the natural elements of their specific areas. They may not look like much, but that's to avoid drawing attention to the thousands of servers housing millions of pieces of personal information. Even with on-site security and multiple layers of clearance to enter the physical facility, it's best for data centers to keep a low profile!

They also never exist on their own. Most cloud storage providers will have at least two data centers, at least 150 miles apart so they can't be subject to the same environmental hazards. This way, even if one goes down for whatever reason, the other one can kick in right away.

What happens when you upload something to the cloud?

Most of us use the cloud without thinking about it. Whether you're saving a PDF of a transaction document from your iPad, accessing your email account, or just asking Chrome to save a password for you, you're using cloud storage for personal information.

When you upload any information to the cloud, it gets encrypted—and then it gets a one-way ticket to that reinforced data fortress.

How does encryption work?

Cloud storage providers will encrypt the data you store, so you don't have to.

Uploaded documents get encrypted with keys, which scramble the data in the files you upload, so others can't view it. It's not so far off from the keys you use to lock your office; when you send a document to the cloud, the key scrambles it so it's locked, and when you open that document again, the key unscrambles it so it's unlocked and you can read it.

Encryption keys are designed to keep up with all the privacy requirements put forward by the governing body where the customer resides. Most countries have established laws about the privacy of their residents' data.

In a nutshell, that means that if, for example, your brokerage is in Canada, but you use a cloud storage provider from the U.S., that provider is required to follow the Canadian laws governing the privacy of your data.

Do you need to worry about cloud security?

Cloud security is a bit of a bogeyman in today's world. We hear about massive breaches happening at big companies, where thousands of records get compromised. But really, the majority of companies who use the cloud for files and storage never have an issue with it.

Realistically, someone breaking into your encrypted files isn't all that different from someone breaking a window at your office and stealing your physical files. It's good to be aware of the risks and how you can avoid them (you can read more on that here, here, and here), but those things shouldn't necessarily frighten you away from something that could make things much easier both for your team and your clients.

How do we help with cloud security?

As a technology company, and as cloud users ourselves, we know the importance of privacy and security when it comes to your information. 

Both of our newest additions, TransactionDesk and Lone Wolf Analytics, use the cloud to make sure your information is always accessible when you need it. We do our absolute best to make sure that everything you put into our cloud-based products is safe and sound.

TransactionDesk information is self-hosted in highly secured data centers that use industry best practices for security, intrusion protection, disaster recovery, and continuity. It also uses SSL, or secure socket layers, to protect data while you're working with it. 

Lone Wolf Analytics is built on our private cloud on Amazon Web Services, and makes use of the built-in security features. It also uses several of our own additional security features, including additional data encryption and network isolation, which acts as a virtual fortress within the cloud environment.

Sending documents to cloud storage isn't the easiest thing to imagine, but with the right safety measures and awareness, it doesn't need to be a concern for your brokerage. It can even be a way to make life easier for your staff, your agents, and your clients alike!

Check out our TransactionDesk and Analytics pages to learn more.