With all the talk of fiscal cliffs, financial binds and “next year’s budget,” I started thinking about cloud security in more tangible ways. Specifically returns on investment, economic impact and total costs of ownership. Just like death and taxes, businesses can add intrusion and attack to the list of sureties. I can hear CFOs all over the world sigh in exasperation as they feel pressured to add another expense line item to minimize the building security threats to their enterprises.
Before you add another decimal place to security budgets, maybe it’s time you consider the how cloud-deployed security options can not only address the complexities of enterprise security ably, but do so at considerable savings.
Study after study promotes that a cloud computing model saves organization money. We know that more and more functionality is moving to the cloud. For things like CRM or other standard business applications, it simply makes sense. We recognize the limited time and funding to run and maintain enterprise applications and the cloud provides that great equalizer. This model extends itself to cloud security.
First there are the over-arching savings of cloud-computing in general:
- Elimination of CapEx costs: no hardware or software to buy (Any “cloud” company that asks you to install a server on your premises to monitor your enterprise isn’t cloud)
- Pay-as-you-go scalable: Most cloud providers can offer considerable cost savings through economies of scale. The ability to adjust the level of service necessary (elastic provisioning) creates flexibility for increased margins and cost-controls.
- Zero-day start/On demand delivery of service: no waiting time after the service has been purchased to develop and configure a complex system. This means no development hell or waiting for Phase 2 to be complete in order to start reaping benefits.
- Head count savings: included in most cloud services are the personnel costs (salary, benefits, overhead, churn/hiring costs) a company does not need to invest in more people and gains the benefit of the security expertise and tribal knowledge of the cloud security provider.
- Best-of breed resource/expertise expansion: Companies improve their overall business agility through proven technologies supported and updated by the core competencies of the developers. Meanwhile CIOs get to move more IT budget to innovation or enablement programs.
But where are the benefits of cloud security from an ROI perspective:
- 24/7 Availability: Cloud security is about continuous monitoring. To properly secure the expanding footprint of an enterprise’s IT landscape, there must be the vigilance to catch analyze and remediate issues as quickly as possible. Like a cancer, if security issues go undetected, they can metastasize and spread. Having a professional monitor a network 7/24/365 (in real time) seems like a luxury for Fortune 500 companies. Cloud security makes this option available for the most modest organizations. The holes in security that are created through intermittent monitoring, vague automation settings and periodic machine log reviews will cost an organization. But continuous monitoring isn’t a cost center. Preventive and proactive security creates reduced risk (without additional man hours) which allows for redeployed resources and a realignment based of business needs.
- Unification: The agility from the cloud allows companies to leverage the capabilities of various security solutions looking at multiple parts of the enterprise. This includes intrusion detection, credentialing, access, SSO, web authentication and compliance audits. It not only allows an enterprise to acquire more and greater functionality for virtually the same cost, but it also centralizes the collective intelligence and provides the advantage enhanced visibility through correlated and situational context. This, in turn, creates better and faster decisions which streamline resources and save money.
- Improved productivity Although there are many examples of this within cloud based security, I will point to one (and use future blogs to expound on others). Using identity management, companies can automatically provision and deprovision users. This service alone can save 75% of the requests across the enterprise. Imagine the additional savings when IT is not slogged down with forgotten password requests/resets along with managing credentials. There are studies that prove that this alone saves companies nearly $200K per year. Now with better employee productivity (because this helps solve BYOD issues) and certain portions of your network safe from data theft and leakage, IT can concentrate on business issues that drive revenue.
- Compliance: Dozens of man hours are typically needed each month to complete all the reports needed to satisfy a regulatory agency auditor; and for most companies, it’s not just one agency, but several. Through real time correlation, most of the work of identifying, capturing, encrypting and storing(or destroying) certain pieces of information and providing the proof your best practices are in line with internal and external policies is easier. Because of unification, multi-silo collection and security centralization, 75 hours per month becomes 10. And more importantly, the degree of accuracy of the reporting is significantly better. And with better reports, the threat of fines disappears.
Gartner estimates the annual cost to own and manage traditional on premise security software applications can be 4X the initial purchase. This is chiefly due to the need to acquire and maintain the resources to support the deployment. In many cases, for less than what a company pays for in support and maintenance of these on premise initiatives, they could have twice the capability from the cloud.
When it’s money that matters, the bottom line should be as much about saving as it is spending; as long as the result is a positive return on the investment. Enterprise security is not different. For years seen as a cost center, through cloud-based solutions it can now be redefined as a revenue enablement mechanism. Certainly there are costs involved in a maintaining a safe network perimeter, protecting and securing data and compliance auditing. However, by exploiting the benefits and strengths provided by cloud based security, you can prudently and effectively contain the issues with plentiful resources to reinvest in your core competencies and focus on driving business forward. Security issues will not go away, but you can direct less at them and in return, receive more greater results.
When looking at the cloud in term of security…sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.
Tags: Access Management, Cloud, cloud computing, cloud security, CloudAccess, compliance, enterprise-it, IT security, ROI, Security, security-as-a-service, TCO