Is security the difference? | FirstRain

Is security the difference?

We track topics for our clients – which means finding documents that match their interests – and one of the hot tech topics is “cloud computing”. We call ourselves a SaaS – software as a service – application.

I was interested to see a thought provoking blog post in my daily report today on the difference between cloud computing and SaaS, but like many blog posts it got me thinking but didn’t help me answer the question about how FirstRain fits.

The premise of the post is based on a Gartner report which says that the basic difference between the two is massive scalability. But that doesn’t make pragmatic sense to me. Where do you draw the line between scalable, and massively scalable and does it mean anything practical in today’s world of apps with hundreds to millions of users?

I think the difference may lie in security. KMWorld’s recent article “Cloud computing and the issue of privacy” concludes that the heart of the issue is where the customer’s data resides and how security is handled. On the one hand you have professional apps like Salesforce – and FirstRain – that use a SaaS business model (subscription), manage massively scalable data centers and store user confidential data on their systems, on the other you have the consumer apps.

Professional apps are paranoid about security – our customer’s data is incredibly sensitive (we store user’s portfolios of stocks and their investment themes – Salesforce stores the customer base and business pipeline) and so we have extensive processes to control the security of the data. Without it we would not deserve our customer’s trust.

In contrast, Facebook and Google are relatively speaking pretty loose about security. From the KMWorld article
“I’m a trusting soul, but I have worked in and around online systems for more than 30 years. I have sitting not 10 feet from me a person who can write a script and suck content from any system to which she can get or has access. Privacy just like security is only as good as its weakest link.”

I agree. I won’t let my team use Google desktop search – I have friends who won’t use Firefox – Facebook has stumbled several times already on privacy. The more you know about the weak links in security the more you know the public apps are not secure.

So I like security as the heart of the difference. Cloud computing implies a massively scalable off-site compute environment – I agree. But SaaS implies a professional app with all the attendant security and service that implies.