That said, it’s still important to be an informed buyer. When considering a cloud hosting service provider, review the systems in place to provide advanced security and data restoration. The threats are plentiful – malware, viruses, phishing – and new ones appear regularly. In the cloud hosting universe, the gold standard for security is an intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS), which reaches far beyond a typical firewall to thwart attacks.
Firewalls are inadequate since they limit the “surface area” of a protected system. In essence, the IDPS expands the protected area, looking at threats outside or above the firewall layer, and at spyware and viruses beyond the perimeter.
Another question to ask: does the hosting provider place your servers in isolated Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) – situated beyond a firewall – to prevent any cross-traffic security breach between your servers and other customers’ servers? In the case of accounting services – where so much confidential data is involved -- isolated VLANs should be a mandatory part of your security system.
Even with the most sophisticated IDPS in place, data loss can occur. Two backup methods are popular in the cloud: “crash-consistent” backup and “application-consistent” backup. The latter is preferable since it flushes the database and file system transactions prior to taking a point-in-time snapshot. That means the file systems will be clean and without corruption, the databases will be consistent, and restoration can be quick.
Curious about whether your cloud provider offers the optimum security and backup? Ask if the company has completed a Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16 Type II audit. The SSAE audit confirms the provider’s level of service and reliability and includes background checks on technical employees.
It’s also wise to inquire about the level of training and technical support to which your provider has committed as part of its service.
For middle market accounting firms, transitioning to the cloud offers a means of being more competitive by offering high quality services at low cost, but backed up by the most reliable security system on the market. Done properly, transitioning to the cloud increases the ROI for both you and your clients.
Adam Stern is founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual in Southern California (www.infinitelyvirtual.com).