Clouds (4)

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, better known as FUD, has been used by IT security vendors to scare customers into buying their products for years. This continues to be an effective tactic but the only difference is that vendors don’t have to try too hard. The stream of cyberattack and breach headlines does the job for them.

This can leave small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a worrying problem. While most have the same data confidentiality and compliance issues as those of big enterprises, they often lack the security budgets and trained personnel to mitigate the risks. This is compounded by evidence that criminals are turning their attention to these smaller companies. According to PwC’s 2015 global State of Information Security Survey, 62% of data breaches that year were at the SME level.

Criminals increasingly don’t care who they’re attacking as they have viruses or ransomware to attack thousands or millions at the same time, while some experts believe SMEs are serving as test lab for techniques to use on bigger targets.

The traditional approach to IT security is to employ individual solutions to monitor and control each threat type individually. The idea is to get the best product for each security task. However, each product requires time and training to set up, maintain and operate, plus additional time for any integration and coordination between the products.

So, to address the needs of the SME the UTM or Unified Threat Management appliance became popular. This all-in-one solution replaces multiple point-products and provides firewall, content filtering, malware scanning and more, all in a single, easy to install appliance. One box, one vendor; hardware and software from the same place, makes sense.

But customers can become disenchanted when their UTMs start slowing down their networks, as more security services are added, while aggressive hardware refresh cycles mean companies have to upgrade and replace more often than they had originally planned.

Enter the Cloud

Early hype around the cloud has materialised into growing adoption as companies realise the benefits of IT services delivered online and supported remotely. These range from Microsoft and Google productivity tools to online accounting and major business applications such as salesforce.com, which has redefined Customer Relationship Management for businesses of all sizes.

Despite some early reservations, the ‘as-a-Service’ model has been embraced by the IT security industry. Cloud-based SaaS – Security as a Service offerings started with email as it is simple to forward mail to a centralised service to be examined and spam and malware removed. Gradually, other services have become available in the cloud with vendors offering web filtering and end point security, for example. A key benefit of moving to the cloud is that it can be realised by businesses of all sizes and particularly appropriate for smaller businesses where centralising security services in an integrated cloud platform provides better security in an easier to use form factor and requiring less support.

Cloud v on-premise

Moving from an on-premise approach to the cloud, delivers a number of core generic benefits compared to an on-premise approach, including:

No hardware to install: Hardware installation involves putting in servers, running cables, configuration and changing protocols, creating days of work and reams of paperwork, which go away in the cloud.

Common policy engine: The implementation of a security policy across different threat vectors is far easier in a cloud architecture.

Security personnel empowerment: A well-designed complete security platform will give increased visibility to the threat landscape and make it easier to install and maintain effective security.

Global reach: Each new piece of malware has an origin location and spreads from there. A global cloud network serving customers around the world will be far more effective in identifying new malware and rapidly providing a means to recognise and block that attack when supported by a global data centre network. These updates happen in very close to real time and protection is available instantly around the globe.

Unified Threat Intelligence: Since all traffic is visible to a cloud security platform, analysis and correlation of data elements in real time are not only possible, but an integral part of the cloud’s promise.

The fact is that SMEs face greater threats than ever before, combined with modest security budgets and a shortage of well-trained personnel. And while many smaller organisations don’t have the same level of critical needs for information protection, malware infections can slow network and bring down email severs or individual workstations.

So, while the migration from on-premise approaches won’t happen overnight, the case for the cloud appears compelling and will play an increasing role in helping SMEs mitigate their risks and address their fear, uncertainty and doubt.

By Oscar Marquez, CTO from iSheriff