- What is cloud-based policy management?
- How do cloud servers work?
- What are the security risks with in-house servers?
- Why the cloud is more secure than you think
One of the reasons companies switch to a cloud-based policy management solution is to cut down on the amount of paper they use for their policy management system. No more printing out multiple copies of manuals and storing them in 3-ring binders – an expensive and time-consuming proposition for even the smallest organizations.
And you can't fully rely on emailing your policies to all your employees for a variety of reasons, such as cybersecurity risks, lack of accountability, and problems with version control.
Among its other benefits, a cloud-based policy management tool offers state-of-the-art security that keeps your information safe from hackers and cybercriminals, and it protects you from things like ransomware attacks or account takeovers.
In this article, we'll show you how a cloud-based policy management tool can help you improve your efficiency, save money, and increase your overall security.
What is cloud-based policy management?
There are three basic policy management systems that each organization works with: Paper-based media (printouts and binders), digital media (electronic documents), and mixed media (a combination of digital and paper).
With digital media, you could keep all your assets and your policy management software on your in-house servers, or even share copies with everyone so they're stored on their own computers, but that carries its own problems too.
With cloud-based policy management, your policy software operates on servers that are not kept in your building. For example, if you already have cloud servers operating your office productivity software, you can install your digital policy management software there as well. So if you use Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365 in your organization, that's a cloud-based tool with the servers sitting in a completely different part of the country. PowerDMS is installed on AWS (Amazon Web Services) GovCloud servers, which is another cloud-based solution, and it also sits in a different part of the country, outside your own internal server system.
It's part of the larger movement called cloud computing, or "server-less computing." Serverless doesn't mean there are no servers involved. It just means that all your organization's servers are stored elsewhere, such as a cloud-computing service hosted by a third party. This is different from the in-house servers that are stored and maintained on your own premises, in your own IT room, and managed by your own IT staff.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cloud-computing services you can work with, from local providers in your own city to national and international servers like AWS and Google, two of the biggest cloud-computing service providers in the world.
How servers work
A server is just one computer that other computers can access. They have massive hard drives and a lot of communication bandwidth so information can travel between the server and your employees' computers.
You can place that server inside your building and people can access it through the building's wifi or by plugging their computers into the building's wired communication system (i.e., Ethernet cables).
The servers are stored in racks inside the in-house data center. These rooms are equipped with special cooling and ventilation systems, limited security access, and highly-trained (and costly) IT specialists.
What is a CLOUD server?
A cloud server is a server that is not on your hard drive in your laptop or in your in-house data center.
The cloud is not a single location or a service supplied by a single provider. It's a server, located anywhere in the world, that can be accessed remotely from another computer or mobile device. When you visit a website, you're accessing a cloud-based server.
So why do companies use cloud servers in the first place?
If you have a typical in-house data center, and not just a single server stuck under a desk somewhere, your IT staff frequently deals with a lot of different problems. The more servers you have, the more staff you have. They're replacing old servers, troubleshooting problems, updating patches and operating systems, and constantly fighting with hackers.
There are a whole other set of downsides to having an in-house data center as well.
- Physical space can be expensive, especially if you've got an entire room dedicated to storing your servers. If you're ever cramped for space for people, the server room is usually one of the contributors.
- They add a lot to your utility rates. Not only do servers use a lot of energy themselves, they also create a lot of heat, which means you're running dedicated air conditioning just to cool the room, even in the dead of winter.
- Servers need to be updated every 3–5 years. If a server dies, your IT staff has to order a replacement, install it, and get it up and running. You could be a few days without a server. Hopefully, there are backup servers in the room to keep you operational while you wait.
- IT staff is expensive. The bigger your data center, the more people you have running it. And a good server administrator often gets a six-figure salary.
- You may not have enough horsepower. If you run large, numbers-based processes, such as crunching mountains of data or maintaining databases with millions of records, you may not have enough server horsepower to do it, which means upgrading and expanding your servers. Which means more physical space, higher energy costs, and more IT staff.
You may not have enough bandwidth for all your employees. If you have remote employees, or even if everyone is working in-house, your servers may not be able to handle all the demands of everyone using the servers at once.
Working with a cloud-computing system solves all of these problems. A third-party cloud service provider only charges you for the server space and processing power you need, which makes it a much lower-priced alternative to trying to keep things in-house.
- You can expand without renting physical space. You can literally add new servers for pennies a day just by clicking a mouse. A new physical server can cost $2,000 or more, but you can rent a new server for a small fraction of that cost.
- You're not paying for energy costs. Energy usage, cooling, etc. are all borne by the cloud-computing service provider.
- You can have a smaller IT staff. Having more in-house servers means more equipment, which means more staff. In a cloud-based setup, the provider hires the staff; you only need one or two people to make sure your employees can access the servers. The service provider will hire the IT staff to manage the hardware and keep up with all the updates and patches.
- You can add bandwidth, server space, and processing power in minutes, not days. Your cloud computing provider has already set it up so you can add more power and space just by clicking a mouse, and at very reasonable rates.
But I want my servers in-house, in my building.
Because they'll be more secure. I'll be able to keep an eye on them.
Actually, they'll be less secure. Sure, they'll be more physically secure, because you'll know if someone ever tries to walk into the server room to access the information right from that server.
But that's not how hackers work. They look for remote servers that they can easily break into. As we'll show you in a second, your in-house server is more vulnerable than a cloud server.
Remember, to a hacker, every server is in the cloud. Including your in-house servers.
Security risks with internal shared drives
In-house servers have a lot of security risks that cloud-based servers do not.
For one thing, they're vulnerable to manmade and natural disasters. Imagine if your building caught on fire or flooded. Your servers and all proprietary data could be lost forever, especially if you didn't have an offsite backup.
Offsite backups are critical for disaster recovery, but you can avoid a lot of the above problems if your main servers are offsite as well, preferably out of state. Just make sure your backup and secondary backups are 1) provided by different third-party services, and 2) located in completely different states. That is, if you're in Florida, you could have backups in Nevada and Indiana. This way, your data is safe and you won't lose everything, compared to keeping it all stored in your office in Florida during hurricane season.
Your in-house servers are affected by local power outages. At least with a cloud server, you can access your information from a mobile device or by working from home outside the affected area. And with two backups, even if your primary cloud goes down, the system can switch over to one of the backups and continue operating without any significant downtime.
Why the cloud is more secure than you think
Your in-house servers are much more vulnerable to cyberattacks than the big services like Google and AWS which use artificial intelligence to create some of the best, most robust, most expensive security systems available. That's because Google and AWS servers are constantly being attacked, tested, and poked by hackers around the world.
This gives the AI systems the opportunity to learn at a much faster rate because they're taking in more data. More data means more and faster learning, which means finding and solving more problems, which means providing greater security against all the attacks. As the AI system becomes more sophisticated and is able to better identify patterns across all their clients' servers, it can more easily identify attacks versus unintentional errors. This is how they can tell the difference between a hacker trying to break into a system and a remote employee trying to log in with the wrong password.
Only Fortune 500 corporations and the federal government have this level of cybersecurity, smaller organizations do not. Even if a small in-house data center could install this security software, it still wouldn't receive enough data to learn at the same rate as the AWS system. That's because AWS is able to gather all the data across their many operations. So it's nearly impossible for the small in-house center to learn as quickly, which means it will always be more vulnerable.
Want to learn more?
Cloud-based policy management software offers more security and more computing power over an in-house server setup. But it also helps organizations save money, save space, cut down on utilities, save on expensive IT salaries, and provide greater access to more remote employees.
The best policy management solutions, like PowerDMS, follow the same best practices for data security, to ensure that your proprietary information, personal data, and intellectual property are all safe from cybercriminals and hackers.
Combining PowerDMS' security with the outstanding security of a cloud-based service provider, you can be assured you're receiving the same high-level security protection of the largest organizations and agencies. In fact, PowerDMS is hosted on AWS GovCloud; stays compliant with SOC 2, HIPAA, and CJIS standards; and leads the industry in uptime, security, and privacy.
If you'd like to learn more about the three types of policy management systems and how your organization might use them, or if you have other questions about policy management software, you can visit our FAQ page for more information.