Apr 21 2014

Governments Move to the Cloud for Security

Cloud protection services enable the public sector to keep up with security threats while reducing overhead.

A few years ago, Alcachua County, Fla., faced budget cuts, but the IT staff knew that the threat landscape for malware was growing worse by the day.

Marty Albanese, network security analyst for the Alcachua County Board of Commissioners, says the county couldn’t afford to continually purchase and maintain servers for security. The IT team turned to a combination of Panda Cloud Office Protection and Panda Cloud Systems Management to run IT security.

Cloud Office Protection handles the anti-virus software, and Cloud Systems Management performs patch management and enables the county to remotely manage computers and mobile devices from anywhere. “We found that we could have both Panda products for less than what we were paying for our old anti-virus software,” Albanese says. “Plus, the Panda software uses fewer system resources, so our users report that they are getting much faster response times.”


The percentage of IT managers surveyed who say cloud computing and SaaS solutions providers can offer better security than their own IT security team can provide

SOURCE: “2013 U.S. Cloud Security Survey” (IDC, September 2013))

Albanese says the county hasn’t experienced an infection in the four years it has been running the Panda cloud services. “Panda Cloud Systems Management also lets me manage devices on any platform from a single console,” he adds.

Frank Dickson, an industry principal for Frost & Sullivan who covers network security, says cloud-based security services appeal to organizations because IT budgets have not kept pace with the threat landscape. “With the exponential growth of new threats and attacks, organizations see cloud-based security as an efficient way to provide security,” he explains. “They can buy Security as a Service and don’t have to maintain the hardware and software and upgrade the equipment every three to five years.”

The Management Cloud

David Boling, IT director for Rowan County, N.C., says his staff uses the cloud-based management capabilities in its Cisco Meraki wireless network to manage many of its security issues.

“What’s great about Cisco Meraki is that the wireless network traffic runs over the county’s network the way it has in the past, but the management and configuration features are run over the cloud,” Boling explains.

Boling’s team uses the Cisco Meraki management features to set firewall rules for all inbound and outbound traffic; to set emails rules to allow Gmail but block Hotmail, for example; and to prioritize network bandwidth. The management tool also has a mobile device management feature, which enables Rowan County to track mobile devices and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices.

“We never have to update anything,” Boling says. “All the new security features are updated in the cloud, and we can just click on the ones that we want to add.”

Three Reasons to Choose Cloud-Based Security

Service provider Webroot offers three important reasons IT departments should consider moving security gateways to the cloud:

  • Better defense against zero-day threats and spam servers. Hackers rely on speed to propagate threats across networks, aiming to infiltrate new zero-day attacks before threat signatures can be developed and deployed. In contrast, cloud-based web gateways start using malware signatures and blocked URL lists in a much more timely fashion, which reduces hacking incidents. 
  • More comprehensive signature and URL databases. Most IT departments have a limited amount of processing and storage capacity. Security manufacturers are typically forced to limit the size of signature and URL databases locally. Cloud-based secure web gateways maintain databases of millions of threat signatures and hundreds of millions of URLs, making threat prevention more comprehensive.
  • Support for remote employees. Sure, the network may be secure, but what happens when a professor visits another campus? In cloud-based systems, remote and roaming workers are protected the second they connect to the Internet without having to use a virtual private network.

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