21/05/2013 07:22 BST | Updated 18/07/2013 06:12 BST

Cloud Security - It's Just What You Ordered

The size and shape of the small to medium size business is changing. Not in overall physical terms you understand, but on the inside we are faced with new ways of working driven by the efficiency offered through cloud computing services.

Gone are the days when your IT purchases could be counted by the installed boxes of software on the shelf above the server or the central PC; today we download most of our software online paying for licenses according to usage -- and this is the cloud model in action.

From a two-employee car maintenance business, to a five strong catering business right through to a 30- or even 100-person publicity management company, the cloud delivery model is here to serve us now.

It's worth noting once again that the cloud needs demystifying i.e. Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and all manner of other online "apps" are by their very nature "web-based" and as such they rely on the Internet for delivery. In simple terms these applications stream their data over "the cloud" from servers located in remote datacenters (highly secure computer warehouses).

So where do we stand today in terms of cloud adoption when it comes to information security? Gartner estimates that by 2015, 10 percent of overall IT security will be delivered via the cloud.

The analyst firm specifically highlights cloud-delivered security technologies including secure email protection, identity management and vulnerability assessments as key action areas. This is because the fact is, cloud security makes sense i.e. downloads are fast, updates are even faster, maintenance is less hassle, everything works.

"Demand remains high from buyers looking to cloud-based security services to address a lack of staff or skills, reduce costs, or comply with security regulations quickly," said Eric Ahlm, research director at Gartner. Ahlm calls it a "shift in buying behavior from the more traditional on-premises equipment" and says that these new cloud-based delivery models offers the best competitive opportunities all round.

Cloud offers greater ease of deployment yes. But it also offers a more controllable and flexible means of buying exactly the right amount of software services at any one point in time -- and this "amount of cloud" can be reduced (or increased) and so tweaked to the exact needs of the business.

As Gartner reminds us, cloud-based security controls can also provide more-current protection, sometimes avoiding complex and costly upgrades. According to our aforementioned Gartner analyst, "The value that cloud services bring to security buyers is measurable in terms of capital and operational cost reduction."

The cloud is with us in the here and now, so small to medium sized businesses need to realize the positive impact it has on the software purchasing and delivery mechanism that they will naturally go through. Or to put it another way... cloud based security protection is here, don't miss the connection.