Privacy and Archiving in the Cloud: What Partners Should Know

David CrilleyBy David Crilley

The move to cloud computing is the biggest technological shift in a generation and consumers, local businesses and the worlds largest enterprises and government organizations alike all are realizing its cost of ownership, flexibility and scalability benefits. However, despite the multitude of advantages for migrating to a cloud environment, organizations still have two major concerns: security and control. For channel partners looking to provide cloud-based services and build them into their business models, there are some important elements to consider beforehand.

First, offering cloud-based services doesnt mean you have to build your own data center. If youre just starting out, you may want to look for a vendor that offers services hosted in their data centers. You can resell those services, saving your customers (and you) the costs of constructing a facility, or paying for rack space in a co-located data center and managing systems yourself. Depending on the vendors pricing and policies, this may not be so different from reselling products deployed on your customers premises. The big difference is that there’s no need to deliver and install on-site equipment.

Even if you are not selling on-premise products to customers now, you may want to consider a vendor that offers its services as both cloud-based services and on-premises deployment models. That way, you can offer hybrid options or help clients make a smooth transition to the cloud when theyre ready.

Second, it is critical to understand what your customers chief concerns are in moving to a cloud environment. For most, the issues revolve around security and control. Understanding how vendors design their cloud-based services will help you decide which ones can help you overcome potential objections and win customers. For security, data centers must document their physical security as well as uptime assurance with a SAS 70 (and new standard SSAE 16) audit. Also, look for services that encrypt customers data in motion and at rest.

To alleviate customer concerns around control, a one-size-fits-all technical approach may be acceptable for small businesses whose main reason for migrating to the cloud is to save money. Enterprises, however, typically will insist on a highly customizable experience and granular reporting that supports established policies. Not all clouds are created equal.

Third, an important question to ask is, what kind of cloud-based services do you want to sell? One of the fastest-growing segments in enterprise cloud services is data security  specifically, protecting the most sensitive information when it is in motion and when it’s archived.

Email security is one example of a clear and compelling need for enterprise customers. As the major form of communication within or outside of an organization, email also is the primary source of sensitive data in smartphones, tablets and laptops. Maintaining productivity by eliminating spam from email inboxes is important; but, protecting the business and its employees from more malicious and targeted phishing attacks has become a critical and challenging requirement. In both cases, enterprises benefit significantly when inbound email traffic is hosted in the cloud, as long as they can apply their specific policies and provide secure access to email quarantines as needed.

Keeping confidential and private data secure from accidental leakage” has become paramount to organizations, too, and not just for regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services and retail. All types of enterprises can benefit from cloud-based email encryption services that automatically secure sensitive data based on customized policies or standard regulatory requirements, without the burdensome administrative overhead and equipment costs of traditional PKI infrastructure.

Another growing service is on-demand email archiving. This service addresses three key challenges: — legal discovery, SEC/FINRA compliance and end-user email management — without the headaches of managing email archiving in-house. Besides the clear advantage of huge scalability at lower managed storage costs, a properly crafted cloud email archiving platform should be more secure and reliable than traditional on-premise alternatives. That’s because two copies of data are maintained in paired and geographically distributed data centers give customers easy access to their messages at all times. An enterprise-class email archive service ensures that data privacy is constantly protected. Encryption keys are created and maintained by the customer, separate from the encrypted data stored within the vendors network. Customer email data should never be viewable without access to both encryption keys and the vendor network. In a truly secure solution, the vendors own staff cannot access the contents of encrypted archived data.

When evaluating your path to the cloud, do your research, check in with your customers to understand their motivators and main concerns about moving to the cloud, and be clear on what cloud services you want to offer. With the right knowledge, insight and partner, you can position your company for strong growth in 2012.

David Crilley serves as

Proofpoint Inc.

‘s senior director of channel and international marketing. Prior to joining Proofpoint, Crilley oversaw channel marketing at SonicWall Inc.

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