12 Jun 2015

Around 66% of all emails businesses receive are unwanted ‘spam’ and at least one in 200 contains a virus according to the latest analysis. Of course spam and malware aren’t new problems – the first spam message went out in 1979 – but their persistence, evolution and sophistication mean that they are still a prominent issue to businesses everywhere.The biggest change in email security over the last few years is the ability to outsource email processing -including security- to cloud-based providers. This gives IT managers and business leaders a new way to solve their email problems. In this article we highlight 10 crucial things that every business needs to know about cloud-based email and security.

If anything, email security threats have become an even bigger issue for businesses in the last couple of years. Criminals use carefully-crafted messages, designed to trick people into opening attachments that install spyware on the victim’s computers. Their prime targets are individuals at any level within a company and it’s not only the biggest companies that are at risk. The latest Symantec Internet Security Threat Report shows that companies with less than 2,500 employees account for 50% of these attacks and companies with fewer than 250 are 18% of the total. There is no protection in being small or low profile. When these attacks steal people’s identities, for example by trawling for customer credit card information, the results can be costly. A Ponemon study put the cost at £79 per stolen identity. Polymorphic viruses, social engineering and zero day exploits may sound like something straight out of science fiction but they are very real trends that make the latest email threats increasingly damaging and ever-harder to detect.

1. The hidden costs of spam

Unwanted emails, whilst annoying, are not normally a huge concern for businesses with the most common tactic being to ignore them and either delete them or leave them in your inbox unopened As a result of this method many businesses fail to consider the cost of spam email which –contrary to popular belief- can be substantial. An uncontrolled email system can become cost prohibitive very quickly and it pays to find the most effective way to block it. Since two thirds of all email is unwanted ‘spam’, you have to scale in-house email and security systems to cope with three times as much email than you should be receiving in order to process the tidal wave of spam without slowing down business-related traffic. On top of this many business owners find themselves paying for IT professionals to set up and maintain spam filtering systems and keep them up to date in the arms race against spammers whilst paying for colleagues and staff to deal with spam that inevitably leaks through the system.

You can avoid these hidden costs with cloud-based spam filtering. Since hosted cloud systems are always kept up to date they stop the majority of spam in the cloud before it even reaches your network or your users and because it is managed in the cloud by specialists, you don’t need to spend time and money managing your own on-premise scanning software.

Moreover the spam filters used by SoConnect hosted could services are tried and tested to ensure that not only will all spam emails be removed but also false positives will be prevented meaning you never have to worry about losing that important email.

2. Cloud myths

Moving to the cloud is a huge change and companies need to do their due diligence. However, too many companies don’t reap the benefits of cloud computing because they are confused by the many myths surrounding the technology:

Myth #1: If I can’t see the hardware, the data isn’t secure.

Actually, well-run cloud providers can invest far more in advanced security and infrastructure than most individual companies. For example, SoConnect’s email security provider has invested more than £10 million in highly-resilient Tier 3+ data centres.

Myth #2: If I outsource my email, other people can read it.

In reality, well-run cloud providers have higher levels of physical and personnel security than most companies as well as best practice access controls. Look for those providers who have invested in obtaining ISO27001 & ISO9001 accreditation for best-practice information security management.

Myth #3: Once I outsource, I can’t get my email back.

If you’re using Exchange email, there are efficient ways to migrate email from one system to another. Outsourcing it is not a one-way street.

Myth #4: My email will be shipped overseas and I can’t allow that.

Data sovereignty is an important concern for some companies but a good service provider will be able to offer you the reassurance that your email will be processed in the UK.

3. The benefits of advanced email security

Cloud-based email security – such as Advanced Security for SoConnect Hoted Exchange, Email AntiSpam and Email AntiVirus – work in tandem with your cloud email service, meaning you have the security you need without losing the many benefits of a cloud system such as scalability, economies of scale and a pay-as-you-go business model. Beyond that, the cloud is a very efficient way to deliver security as it stops any threats before they reach your business network, meaning your employees only see a stream of clean, virus-free, 99% spam-free email.

By eliminating on-premise security appliances, you can reduce the burden on your IT department and ensure your protection is always up-to-date. SoConnect Hosted Exchange also provides advanced protection backed by service level agreements and unique, patent-protected technology.

4. How to evaluate different cloud email providers

When choosing a provider for a cloud service it’s always important to make sure you’re getting the service you require, when making this decision there are a number of questions you should ask:

1. Is their infrastructure resilient, modern, secure and high performance?

2. Their partners – who else do they work with, what are their credentials?

3. What security protection do they offer?

4. Can they help you manage your migration to the cloud?

5. Can they offer more cloud services if you need them, such as Lync, SharePoint, CRM, collaboration tools or instant messaging?

6. Are there cost savings or other advantages if you get several cloud services from the same vendor?

Here at SoConnect we can offer you all of this!

5. How to evaluate a cloud vendor’s security and availability

Cloud email companies are not interchangeable. Picking the right one can provide reassuring levels of security, continuity and availability. Here’s what you should look for:

    1. Intrusion prevention systems to prevent hacker intrusion (think of it as a burglar alarm on the company’s systems)
    1. Network behaviour analysis (more like a neighbourhood watch that looks for unusual behaviour and odd changes that might indicate a threat)
    1. Denial-of-service protection to stop criminals overloading the network with spurious network traffic
    1. Enterprise-level resilient systems, for example with backup generators and duplicate network connections for resilience
  1. Integrated disaster recovery so that customers can protect themselves against unlikely-but-catastrophic risks like floods or fires
6. How to evaluate email anti-spam and anti-virus protection

When it comes to your business’s email it doesn’t pay to cut corners on security. There are many companies that offer to block spam and malware in the cloud. How do you select a company that you can rely on? Here are a few pointers:

    • The size of their technical and security resources – overall company size, provenance, reputation and market leadership are all good proxies for this.
  • The technology they use. Everybody has a trademarked proprietary detection engine but do they have patents and ongoing development to back it up? The service level agreements (SLAs) that they offer are a good indicator of their confidence in their own technology (see below).
7. What’s in an SLA? Why is it important?

An SLA should offer credit or other remedies if certain performance targets aren’t met. While the compensation is reassuring, should something go wrong, what is more important about an SLA is that it indicates the company’s own confidence about meeting the targets. offers industry-leading SLAs such as 100% protection from known and unknown email viruses, less than 0.0003% false positives with spam detection and 100% service uptime.

8. The benefits of Software as a Service

Cloud applications are often called SAAS (Which stands for Software as a Service), but for companies with hundreds of employees moving email to the cloud isn’t something you can do on a whim. A trusted advisor can make the process go smoothly and help you get the most out of your IT investments. Look for a company that can help you with planning and strategy as well as IT execution. Make sure they speak your language – they should be fluent in business, management and technology. Ensure that they have good client references and the relevant certifications from software companies.

9. How to build security into your cloud migration/upgrade plans

Choose the right cloud environment. Understand the provider security commitments and resources. Treat security as an enabler – something that, with the right provider, can allow you to make valuable changes – rather than a blocker. As with any security plan, remember that the objective is to understand, manage and reduce risk holistically. See your cloud migration as an opportunity to look at your digital assets and reassess how you protect them. In most cases, companies are able to increase their email security, availability and disaster recovery capabilities by moving to the cloud.

Hopefully this article has helped to explain the importance of security with a Hosted Email service. For more information please check out our Hosted Exchange secure email service or have a look at our PDF or you can contact our sales team at sales@soconnect.co.uk T. 0333 240 1824.