The dangers of the internet are real and multiply every year. Viruses, Trojans, worms, hackers, phishing, spearphishing - the number and type of attacks by organised crime syndicates are growing so quickly that the actual figures become a little meaningless. Some perspective is offered by law enforcement agencies which estimated that by 2009 the profits from computer crime, estimated at US$1 trillion, had surpassed those of the illegal drug trade.
Businesses have traditionally reached for a box of anti-virus software for employees’ computers and a firewall for the network connection. Both defences require constant updating by IT security vendors to ensure they contain a database of the latest and most dangerous threats. If you fail to update your computer every day, a tearaway, newly-launched virus can slip past your defences and steal precious information.
Safety in Numbers
For many companies there is a more effective way of guarding your computers - and it could cost you a lot less. Most of the big names in IT security such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro have set up data centres around the world to scan the internet for malicious software (malware). The same companies that sell anti-virus software for your PC will sell you a service that uses these data centres to filter out all the malware and spam passing through your internet connection before it reaches your business.
This approach is far more effective because it draws on economies of scale. Other than banks or government agencies, a business chooses the level of security in part by how much it can afford to spend on a firewall or other security appliances. Even large businesses will only be able to afford modest levels of protection compared to a data centre containing the Rolls Royce (if we can still use that term) versions of firewalls and intrusion-detection systems.
The data centres also receive instant threat updates and virus definitions. And because they scan such high volumes of internet traffic, new malware is easier to spot - sometimes within half an hour of their launch onto the internet. This means that the likelihood of a security breach is far lower than relying on a locally operated firewall.
Another attraction is the payment structure. Businesses don’t need to outlay thousands of dollars in capital to buy security appliances. Security-as-a-service contracts are charged on a per-user, per-month basis which shifts the cost of IT security to operational expenditure. Adding employees is as simple as dialling up the number of users.
Finally, you might experience a lift in the speed of your internet connection or network performance. More than 90% of email traffic is spam and stopping all that useless traffic in the data centre will reduce the congestion caused when you receive and block all that spam in your own firewall.