SecuritySecurity Management

How To Secure Data With Hosted Desktops Without Breaking The Bank

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Joseph Blass, CEO at cloud services firm WorkPlaceLive, explains how you can protect data physically and online, economically and to enterprise grade, with hosted desktops

A top priority for IT, whether it’s in the cloud or in-house, is to secure data against dangers posed by online threats (including hackers), technical issues, fire or flood, human error, sabotage or theft.

Making data safe is only part of the equation, however: a disaster recovery [DR] plan should be ever-ready, not only to ensure that data can be retrieved in the event of a disaster but to get the business up and running as soon as possible in the event of a problem.

Prohibitive cost

For SMEs the cost of implementing robust security measures can appear to be prohibitive and the thought of the steps that need to be taken daunting. It’s possible, however, to protect data to best-in-class standards simply by a change in IT strategy: outsourcing IT to the cloud, where enterprise-grade services and support provide what SMEs know they need – but think they can’t afford. With the cloud they often can.

The cloud means different things to different people, but in a typical business environment it equates to the IT of a company operating remotely, in a data centre, using a hosted desktop solution. The requirement for servers is removed, and for desktop computers and other devices reduced. To explain, some hardware – laptops, desktop computers, thin clients, tablets or smartphones – will be required for accessing the library files and applications in the data centre. For those purposes they will merely serve as monitors and keyboards, not computing devices.

laptop on fireWith hosted desktops, a fire in the office does not cause any IT disruption as such. That’s because, if entry to the affected area is blocked to employees, they can continue to work, seamlessly, from any other location using available access devices. One direct threat to data in the office is therefore immediately removed, because the data is now held in a data centre. You may ask, “OK, but what about a fire in the data centre? What then? And what if there is a failure in the servers in the data centre caused by a fire or an unrelated, random failure in the hardware?”

The answers lie in using a hosted desktop provider that backs up what is going on in the primary data centre in a second data centre. The latter should be situated miles away so that it is unlikely to be affected by the same issues [with the exception of random hardware problems, but even then, with regular backups, data is well protected]. Preferably, the provider should be ISO 27001 accredited. ISO 27001 is the international gold standard in information security management and its purpose it to help organisations keep information assets secure.

Having established that, with hosted desktops, data is typically secured to a higher standard than SMEs can afford on their own, one can say with confidence that any downtime will often be lower than in an office. That is due in part to the backups in the primary and secondary data centres that enable a well thought-through DR plan to happen at any time in the 24 hour cycle, if that is required by the customer. It’s also due to technical issues being addressed more quickly, in many cases, and by engineers who may be more proficient at their job.

In addition to the steps taken for DR, the entire data centre, at its perimeter and inside, is secured to industrial strength standards, where the customer has made the appropriate choice of hosted desktop provider. Included are security guards around the clock, biometric security or a double gated perimeter. Consequently, the risk of theft or sabotage is hugely reduced if not minimised to close to zero.

Online security with a hosted desktop provider builds enterprise-level resilience into the IT to enable it to cope better with risks and external influences. Layers of security include highly secure firewalls, optional encryption of sent emails, web filtering, management of the access devices and dual factor authentication (2FA). Everything is configured, supported and maintained by specialist IT professionals. Those layers minimise risks posed by viruses, trojans, malware, hackers, bots – and human error – and enable the control, monitoring and enforcement of acceptable use policies. They reduce web misuse and block access to inappropriate websites and any other website the customer wishes to exclude. 2FA enables the identification of individuals by using a combination of a user name and password and a piece of information known only to them.

For some SMEs, especially the smallest ones, it is sufficient that their server has a cupboard to be housed in and their computers have an off-the-shelf anti virus program, free or paid for. These very basic steps are just not good enough for those SMEs where security of data is a top priority. For them, hosted desktops provide a proven and economic route to some of the best in data security.

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