Security concerns in the cloud? 3 steps to minimise risk

Despite the increasing adoption of cloud-based solutions in the UK&I, due to security concerns some medium sized enterprises which could benefit from access to these services are dragging their feet when it comes to implementation. Let’s look at 3 key precautions that can be taken to minimise risk and ensure that businesses can benefit from the new generation of flexible and cost effective cloud delivery models.

For the huge number of businesses with 250+ employees, cloud services offer more than just storage for data – for the first time these businesses have access to applications and communications technologies previously out of reach due to prohibitive infrastructural costs. The move from CAPEX to OPEX IT models enabled by cloud is indeed revolutionising the market.

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The scalability of cloud-based services makes these applications affordable. The pay-as-you-go model is perfect for running a lean operation with no wasted capacity or expenditure on under-utilised equipment. But businesses need to make sure they move securely and with the partner that suits their needs.

The pay-as-you-go model is perfect for running a lean operation

Raised concerns

Data security seems to dominate much of the discussion about the future of the cloud. This is particularly prevalent in UK&I where Snowden, the NSA revelations and recent high-profile hacking scandals have entered the popular psyche and have raised questions about the security of the cloud.

Public clouds, which are owned and operated by third party service providers are coming under increased scrutiny: Just who has access to the data? Where is the data located and in which jurisdiction? Is the equipment used capable of keeping the data secure and segregated? Cloud providers must be able to answer these questions and more.

There are providers that can provide secure cloud services and they often go beyond the level of protection that the SME could provide themselves. There are three key considerations that businesses should take into account when looking for a secure and trusted cloud provider: location, reputation and equipment.

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1. Data centre location, location, location

The location of a data centre is the deciding factor for which laws and regulations protect the stored data, and which governmental bodies have the right to access that information. Here in the UK&I we have some of the most comprehensive regulations concerning the handling of private data and while this is reassuring for many businesses, some enterprises may start to struggle with data residency or sovereignty issues as they look to embrace cloud solutions which host the data in another country.

But in response to these concerns, it may pay to opt for a UK-based cloud provider whose data centres reside solely inside the nation’s boundaries. For example, we partner with CentriLogic in the UK to host our OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud UCaaS offer. Already a major data centre provider across North America, in the UK CentriLogic hosts all data and infrastructure in its state-of-the-art data centre located in Bracknell.

2. Your service provider is only as good as the company it keeps

Who does your prospective provider partner with? This is another key consideration for businesses, not just for present support and security, but for future-proofing your cloud applications. Have a look at the service provider’s technology partners and ensure that it is partnered with recognised industry leaders. Not only is this a good indication of the company’s reputation, but it also means that it will have extensive technological support in the future, and this will keep you up to date with technological advances in both security and service delivery.

It’s essential that you check out your service provider to ensure that its reputation is good – and shown to be good by the companies that partner with it.

3. The quality of equipment will impact the quality of service and level of protection

Linked to the question of who providers partner with is the importance of quality and interoperability of the equipment they use. If cloud providers are not equipping themselves with the very best technology, then they are not going to be able to offer customers the best services or the best user experience within a secure environment.

Are they offering services which make the most of open architecture? Cloud providers should be looking to support a best-of-breed approach to services in a vendor agnostic environment, and not be locked in to providing solutions from single vendors. This is a critically important aspect as the list of X-as-a-Service grows as it will put them in a position to offer leading solutions in areas such as unified communications. A hosting environment which can support interoperability will be able to offer its customers the best range of services of the best quality.

Dependability is key

Local survivability is a crucial part of any distributed network

A cornerstone of a secure system is dependability, and delivering applications or communications technology via the cloud places certain demands on the system. Local survivability is a crucial part of any distributed network, but not all cloud providers can offer the service continuity that mission critical processes need in the event of the WAN going down. The same can be said for vendors offering bespoke services. Can they define DNS, firewall and security settings per customer? For any organisation looking to opt for a cloud solution, security and application integration are key to success.

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To cloud or not to cloud – or to do both?

Businesses need to weigh up the need for certain business applications versus the costs of deploying on-premise infrastructure or indeed opting for a hybrid solution with some applications in the cloud and some on-premise.

But if the cloud is right for your business and you want to benefit from the low TCO and advances in flexible deployment, it is important to bear in mind that not all cloud service providers are equal and the services they offer should reflect the twin business needs for security and service delivery.

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