This year is being touted as the year of the cloud, the year in which many organisations take the decision to entrust their business ‘crown jewels’ to a third party out there in cyber-space. Often run by a face-less organisation cloud-based services have, up until recently, not been widely adopted as organisations have feared the lack of physical presence of their data and have been put off by tales of service drop-outs and general poor performance.
Google’s cloud assault has done much to allay the fears of SMEs and has brought an upper degree of performance to business applications delivered to the desktop via the web. This acceptance has meant that the wind is changing and that there are a number of opportunities for resellers to both advise and consult on cloud-based computing for its customer base. Most importantly for resellers it is on the security and bandwidth requirements side of consultancy where the greatest opportunities exist to demonstrate expertise and understanding of the issues. For resellers the most obvious place to start is at the heart of any good cloud computing solution - a solid and robust Firewall. The Firewall serves as an entry and exit point for the internet and is the primary protection against malware and unauthorized network access.
For cloud-based applications which reside outside the organisation eg: email, VoIP or a CRM system, information will be exchanged between the organisation and the cloud data centre. For any form of control to be administered there needs to be an application usage policy in place. This works to identify who and what can access which services from where and helps to identify scenarios where unauthorised access can occur. This policy can and should be extended to include the company usage policy of social networking within the organisation. Most Firewalls can now be programmed to allow access to social networking sites to those who need it and restrict access to those who don’t. More sophisticated and granular access can be provided by some Firewalls enabling for example just the blocking of games on social networking sites to avoid bandwidth waste and lost productivity. In addition, Firewalls can provide ‘safe’ web browsing monitoring and controlling what general web-based content is accessed and preventing employees from going to websites that contain malware.
But it is the cloud-based applications like voice, video and data, which have the biggest impact on the network, its performance and its integrity. For many smaller organisations with 1-25 employees it is highly likely that their Firewall doesn’t provide sufficient protection or have the capability to inspect and interrogate traffic passing over the network. In order for a business to get the most out of cloud computing the Firewall must be able to monitor the performance and quality of service requirements to prioritise traffic on a per-application and per-user basis no matter how big they are.
Key questions to ask a customer when considering moving applications to the cloud:
- Have you considered the Internet usage policy of your organisation?
- How will your network perform with more devices accessing and putting strain on it?
- Is your Firewall up to the task to ensure that your organisation is protected from un-authorised access to your network?
- Do you know who is accessing what on your network?
- Can your existing Firewall control applications accessing the internet?
In summary, resellers are perfectly placed to advise customers on how to migrate to Cloud-based applications by assisting them to understand the options available and specifically by helping them to mitigate any network based security risks.
United Kingdom - ZyXEL Communications UK