[Publisher's note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]
Tracking the software and information technology industries, we see more commentary each day about the value of cloud computing.
Although many aspects of this application and software deployment model are relatively new, the cloud generates fundamental benefits that have been available since long before the term reached vogue status.
When it comes to data protection and confidentiality, solutions by other names are just as sweet: hosting, ASP, OnDemand, SaaS, etc.
The importance of protecting this data is paramount, as data is not just a byproduct of doing business. Our data is the means by which we make profound, organizational decisions that allow us to best interface with our various constituencies today and plan for the best execution tomorrow.
There are three primary areas where we seek to protect our data:
- Data protection. First, we want to protect data from malicious foes.This group includes cyber criminals, recreational hackers, malicious insiders, and even groups that are adverse to your particular mission.These antagonists constantly adapt their techniques, so protection mechanisms must be equally nimble. In addition, a Ponemon Institute study states that 85 percent of those surveyed say they have had a significant breach in the last 12 months.
- Confidentiality. We must protect our data where malice doesn't play a role. Under consideration are instances where sensitive data is innocently viewed or exposed.We call this "confidentiality." Unlike protection from malicious acts, measures to keep sensitive data confidential are founded in the structure to allow users to only see that which they are authorized to see.
- Electronic data loss. Are your hands full yet? Let's not forget electronic data loss. When considering hardware failures and human errors, much of the data loss can be accounted for.
So how does hosting our data improve the liability of these threats? The short answer is economies of scale.
Consider the security of a large apartment building versus a single family home.
Chances are, there is a doorman working in collaboration with closed-circuit video in all the common areas (hallways, elevator, etc.), and each owner has a lock on his or her door. The home, on the other hand, only has the locks on the door.
Similar to the apartment building, hosted application providers provide more advanced technologies because of the collective economies of scale; they can bring better technologies to bear for their collective client base (and also make the investments needed over time to stay ahead of the threats).
Moreover, most third parties will adhere and audit according to specific industry security standards.
As such, they are able to spread these benefits and costs over many organizations, making such work feasible.
Most providers also excel in the maturity of their methods and procedures in dealing with electronic data loss protection. The leaders will have extensive change-control procedures governing each step of the change process.
Storage technologies also allow for more frequent backups, compression and advanced restoration. This translates not only in protection from loss, but also a quick return to uptime.
Another key benefit of running your data with a stable hosting provider is that you will have remote access.
By nature of a hosted solution, your users will not be working in the data center. Whether brick-and-mortar site users, travelling users, or work-at-home users, all will access the system via a standard method.
And that method will be anchored by the Internet. Translation - it's ubiquitous.
This becomes even more powerful when you consider users displaced from normal working conditions by natural disaster, fire, or other events. Your operations can continue to function because the application (and data) is still accessible.
Now, remember what we talked about above: "Your organizational data is one of your most important assets."
Here we stress "your data." When looking at a hosted solution, remember that the data is still yours and in any solution you select, this should be a requirement.
While your provider will work hard to protect this data from the aforementioned threats and make it available to your geographically diverse users, you still direct what happens with your data.
Many tasks associated with the data will require your approval: restoring to backup, running a script against the data, sending you a backup, etc.
You will be required to have an administrator (or more than one) to interface with the hosted provider to direct the wishes of your organization.
Organizational data is one of the most important assets an organization can have. As such, safeguarding it by way of fire safe or safe deposit is not realistic in electronic terms.
By hosting your data with a reputable third party, your organization can achieve higher levels of security, protection, accessibility and enhanced disaster recovery capabilities while still maintaining ownership and control.
Paul Bamert is Business Development Manager at Blackbaud.