Is Cloud-Based Security in Your Future?

Verisign Masters of Internet Infrastructure

Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to the cloud we go! We go to the cloud for office applications, CRM, email, computing, storage, etc. Increasingly, we go to the cloud for security services. It’s interesting that while the cloud delivers some of the greatest security threats it also delivers some of the greatest security opportunities—opportunities that up until now have only been available as on-premise solutions. In fact, increasingly cloud based security services are more effective–for both cost and performance–than on-premise solutions. For the next few posts we’ll be looking at cloud-based security solutions. Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) describes cloud-based security services such as email security, web security or firewall delivered via the Internet or a public switched network such as Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). Key cloud characteristics include pay-as-you-go, no on-premise equipment, highly scalable, multi-tenant and available to a wide range of devices. Currently, nearly half of all organizations participating in Nemertes benchmark research are either using or evaluating some form of cloud-based security services. The most commonly deployed cloud-based security application is messaging security, specifically email anti-spam services, with 44.7% of companies deploying it. We often hear that on-premise solutions don’t keep up with spammers as effectively as cloud-based solutions. The second most common cloud-based security service (31.6%) is email anti-malware protection. About a quarter (26.3%) of organizations use other cloud-based security services, including cloud-based firewall. We expect this percentage to rise quickly over time. So, what are the drivers for cloud-based security services? The most significant driver is effectiveness: 81% of organizations with cloud-based security services rate effectiveness as the top driver. In comparison, 43% of organizations rate cost as the top driver. Interestingly, only 24% rate security as the top driver. So what do we mean by effectiveness? There are really two aspects: global knowledge and skills concentration. Global knowledge comes from the position of delivering service from the cloud. The cloud-based security provider has visibility across hundreds of customers and is able to see attack patterns and malware trends much faster than any single on-premise device. This increases the accuracy of response and thus the overall effectiveness of response. Of course, skilled security personnel are driving the response. In today’s IT economy, hiring and keeping skilled security staff is one of the most significant IT personnel challenges. There is a general shortage of skilled security personnel and market economics prices these staff members out of reach for many organizations, particularly smaller companies. In comparison, the cloud-based security provider services hundreds of companies and it can afford to hire a dedicated team of security professionals, amortizing the cost across all customers served. Also, given the cloud-based security provider’s focus, it’s a highly attractive dedicated environment for security personnel. The bottom line is cloud-based security providers can be more effective than most IT organizations. In the next article we’ll look at the issue of effectiveness and one specific cloud-based security offering: the cloud-based firewall.

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