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An Interview with Firehost

firehost

The leader in secure cloud hosting, delivers service to Europe.

Katrena Drake of Firehost

CTC: Tell us about yourself

I’m Katrena Drake the director of European Operations for FireHost. I’ve worked in FireHost since the company’s inception and, over the years, it’s been exciting to see us develop progressively more secure cloud hosting where it’s most needed- for large organisations, dealing with sensitive data, or those regulated by technical standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). One of the most unanticipated rewards of providing cloud hosting with security is how many companies now take security so seriously.

I only moved to the UK last year, so feel free to correct my speech or teach me new words and places to see, although I’ve actually learned quite a lot from the dozens of applicants I’ve interviewed to join us at our new HQ, west of London.

CTC: Who are FireHost and what is your UK strategy?

FireHost is the leader in secure cloud hosting. We serve thousands of end users in more than 30 countries. We’re here in the UK to address, head on, the top two concerns most British companies have about moving their data to the cloud.

1. Security

Our infrastructure is purpose built to protect businesses from organised cybercrime and malicious, egotistical hacker exploits.

Last year alone, we mitigated millions of SQL injections and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, protecting financial institutions and healthcare organisations’ databases from breaches.

In multi channel retail, we mitigated countless distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and managed complex load balancing scenarios, to help keep the ‘cybertills’ ringing on our clients’ biggest shopping days.

These skills come in handy with celebrities, politicians and their pundits, many of whom choose to host their infrastructure with us as well.

Most notably, and what gives us such a great sense of pride, is that we protect many of our fellow technology firms and security companies. Names you know, like RSA, HP, ArcSight, LogLogic, among others. Being chosen by your peers is a fantastic endorsement.

2. Data sovereignty and accountability

Ask five cloud hosters and you’ll probably get five different answers about how they control where your data resides. With FireHost, explicit control over the data centre in which your information resides is standard procedure – a part of our SLA, if you rather.

We reinforce secure server location visually in the customer portal, with country by country indicators for every secure server a client commissions with us. A very handy feature for IT staff of businesses with multi-national operations.

CTC: We understand you host Kevin Mitnicks blog for readers who do not know about Kevin could you give us a brief overview and explain why this shows your capabilities as a secure hosting provider?

In case you don’t know Kevin Mitnick, he was the first hacker to ever serve time in prison for cyber crimes. He quite impressively breached large corporations – Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu, Siemens and others. When he was released from prison in the early 2000s, he decided to start using his hacking skills for good. Kevin has gone on to help many of the firms he once targeted, helping them to improve their security. through his consultancy. He also created the ‘Black Hat Security’ educational conferences.

While the new cleaner image did much for his career, it also made him quite an appetising target for his old, hacker cronies. For half a decade, Mitnick has been on the run from hackers. Quite ironic really!

He went through a multitude of website hosting providers for his site, using different hosting platforms and developers, but simply could not keep his site online with the intended visage.

In 2009, after a particularly embarrassing hack had put unsavory images on the front page of mitnicksecurity.com, FireHost’s CEO Chris approached Kevin to become a client. Kevin scoffed and wished Chris “good luck”, obviously believing that it was impossible to keep him safe.

Chris persuaded Kevin to give FireHost a try and today, three years later, Kevin’s site remains safely in our environment. Incident free.

CTC: What would you say are your unique advantages in a very competitive market?

With FireHost, security is not a bespoke solution; it’s built into the environment for every client who uses our service. Even the most basic plan incorporates the technical requirements of PCI DSS– one of the highest and most stringent and specific IT standards ever published.

Security is delivered transparently. Clients have the ability to see FireHost’s security at work. The secure customer portal provides up-to-the-minute statistics of the specific types of any attacks made on your site , as well as where they originated from geographically, by IP address. You can see trends over time and learn exactly how, when, and from where your web applications attract malice.

A virtual tour of the portal is on our site: http://www.FireHost.co.uk/secure-hosting/scale-control

Also, our service level agreement (SLA) commitment to ensuring and demonstrating exactly where your data resides is a huge differentiator between FireHost and other providers.

CTC: What is your customer support strategy?

Our service is managed – everything from the data centre carpark, to the operating system on our servers is FireHost’s domain. Customer support is available through all the typical channels (online chat, ticket system, phone, dedicated account managers), but we deliver it with above average commitment to quality, proactivity, and expertise.

CTC: What is your personal definition of Cloud Computing?

Financially, ’The Cloud‘ is an infrastructure (hardware) deployment strategy aimed at maximising hardware resources and turning IT into a ‘costs of goods sold’ business resource, rather than a massive balance sheet, bloating capital expenditure.

Practically speaking, cloud computing allows commercial agility to thrive, deploying, testing, scaling, changing and delivering web applications reliably in an uncertain business climate. This is what cloud does well. FireHost helps do it best, without the wheels of accountability and security falling off.

CTC: Does FireHost intend on pursing a channel partner strategy in the UK and what type of partner do you wish to engage?

Absolutely, we’re enthusiastic about using FireHost’s infrastructure and uniquely secure cloud hosting to help extend the business of our partners. We have two programmes available:

Referral Partners –

Referral partners are businesses or individuals who interface with IT decision makers. They receive a monthly commission for introductions that result in new FireHost customers. Simple as that.

Value Added Resellers –

VARs use FireHost’s secure cloud hosting to deliver services to their end users. SaaS solution providers, software developers, creators of content management systems (CMS) and web enablement platforms, web design and development agencies, managed service providers, and other service providers who typically provide a support function for their clients enjoy the VAR programme’s capabilities.

A VAR’s clients may or may not know that FireHost is a component of service delivery. You can guess what would be our preference, but VARs are absolutely allowed to ’white label’ FireHost secure infrastructure when necessary.

More information on the partner programme can be found on our site: http://www.FireHost.co.uk/partners

CTC: What parallels can you draw between the US and UK markets?

Businesses in both markets are constantly looking for processes and systems to optimise their operation. Technology is always available faster and better than it was before; this makes IT a constant target for evolution and change.

Both markets are rich with innovative businesses looking for ways to deliver products, services (or even just their brand) reliably and on demand. New devices created every day make information more easily and immediately accessible, and many businesses are struggling with how to balance mobility and security.

Two segments in particular that we serve very well are financial (payment method providers, ecommerce retailers, gateways and merchant acquirers) and healthcare (holding confidential patient information and helping deliver important healthcare information in real time), which have many similar concerns.

Perhaps the most obvious concern, related to the cloud specifically, is security (can an unwanted menace get to my files?) and accountability (where is my data, really? When it’s ‘in the cloud’) As mentioned earlier, we built our infrastructure and operating model specifically to solve these two concerns head on.

CTC: finally if you could change anything in the computing world what would it be?

Install bases would magically adopt or upgrade to the latest and greatest EVERYTHING. Seriously, that would be wonderful if legacy systems and processes ceased to exist. It would make more things interoperate and close unnecessary security holes, often caused by a lack of human intervention.

FireHost’s UK website can be found at www.FireHost.co.uk or the team can be reached on 0800 500 3167