A major step in selecting a good cloud provider is researching and comparing the security measures that each provider uses to keep its customers' data safe.
Today, conducting due diligence requires contacting each potential provider to gain access to independent audits and security assessments, possibly requiring the signing of a nondisclosure agreement. The process can be onerous: A company considering a handful of cloud vendors has to request the security information from each, translate their internal documents into a common language, and then compare the security specifications.
"They will look at six different companies, and they will get different controls, different issues that have been identified," says Jon Heimerl, director of strategy for Solutionary, a managed security services provider. "There will be a lot in common, obviously, but things are phrased differently and built differently between all those companies."
To tame the confusion, the Cloud Security Alliance launched the Security, Trust, and Assurance Registry (STAR) to give potential cloud customers a central database from which they can compare providers' security assertions. Participating providers submit their answers to a self-assessment questionnaire, attesting to the security controls and monitoring that they have put in place to protect customer data.
While only four providers, including Solutionary and Microsoft Office 365, have submitted self-assessments to date, a much larger number are currently working through the documents, according to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).
"It should create a little bit more competition to make security part of the differentiation between services," says Jim Reavis, founder and executive director of the CSA. "I think by the end of this year, we will have a very complete set of providers on the site."
Using the service gives customers a way to compare providers' security rather than requesting an audit. Last year, a Ponemon Institute study found that 69% of providers placed the responsibility for security with their customers, while only 35% of customers believed they needed to worry about data security. Yet most cloud service providers will not allow most clients to audit their security because they cannot accommodate a large number of such requests.
The pay-as-you go nature of the cloud makes ROI calculation seem easy. It’s not. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Calculations InformationWeek supplement: Why infrastructure-as-a-service is a bad deal. (Free registration required.)