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January 16, 2015

Keeping Up with the 24x7 Pace of Social Media for Business with Always-On Cloud Encryption

By TMCnet Special Guest
Ariel Dan, Co-Founder, EVP Porticor

Social media for business is a 24x7 flow of information and conversations. The world of social media today is well beyond its consumer beginnings, and is now heavily used by businesses. Most marketing departments will tell you they set aside resources, budget, and planning time to leverage this constant wave of information and influence.

With this never-ending information stream and “need” for information comes the expectation of enterprise-grade capabilities, including 100-percent uptime, redundancy, resiliency and always-on availability. Remember the last time Twitter went down? Outages during the Academy Awards and SXSW (News - Alert) conference earlier this year come to mind. Communities were outraged.

A related need in social media for business is privacy and security. The debates around Facebook (News - Alert) and its privacy policy are good examples. But more fundamentally, as social tools are used more and more by businesses, concerns about protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and the secrecy of content that may involve financial or medical advice are increasing.

The same enterprise-grade, always-on, privacy-oriented expectations for business social media are also true for the solutions that service and support business-oriented social media. Social media security pioneer Nexgate, in an effort to support the company’s rapid growth among Fortune 100 clientele, understands this. It’s the reason why Nexgate was interested in a backup cloud data encryption solution, leading the company to pioneer an innovative data recovery model powered by Porticor.

Founded in 2011, Nexgate provides a cloud-based solution that allows organizations to centrally discover, audit, and protect their presence and accounts on social media. Nexgate solves rising infrastructure brand protection and compliance challenges that organizations face, including preventing social account sprawl; stopping social account hacks and tampering; removing abusive, exploitative and offensive content; managing and controlling social media apps; and ensuring regulatory compliance and corporate governance. Nexgate is a pioneer of business-oriented social media, and addresses many of the concerns for an enterprise-grade service.

“Nexgate provides cloud-based security and compliance for social media,” said Rich Sutton, Nexgate CTO and VP of Engineering.  “Our target customers are enterprise organization concerned about brand protection and compliance for their social media accounts.”

Nexgate stores clients’ social content, including private information such as sensitive social communications, incidents related to data loss and compliance violations in social media, social access credentials, and credentials required to access the Nexgate apps. Like any good security company storing private data in the cloud, Nexgate uses data encryption as one mechanism of protection.

“Our customers are highly regulated companies, or any organization interested in security of their information,” said Sutton.  “Their vendors can’t be leaking their data, and they expect us to encrypt sensitive or regulated information stored in the cloud, and to meet certain cloud security standards.”

Prior to Porticor, Nexgate had a single cloud data encryption solution in place for years to protect customers’ data.  This particular solution keeps the cloud data encryption keys needed to decrypt the data.

“As security experts, we know the importance of avoiding any single point of failure for data encryption,” said Sutton.  “We decided that investing in a robust cloud encryption solution with built-in redundancy was critical for our high availability needs.”

Through industry contacts Sutton learned about how a cloud data encryption solution from Porticor could serve as a highly redundant solution with a hot standby in the new model built for disaster recovery they were creating. After thorough evaluation and integration testing in its environment, Nexgate installed Porticor in June.

Porticor’s Virtual Private Data system combines patented key management with data encryption to protect critical data in public, private and hybrid cloud environments. With homomorphic split-key encryption technology, Porticor is the only system that offers the convenience of cloud-based key management while safely entrusting the encryption keys with the customer.

“Porticor gives us a way to host our encryption keys on our own infrastructure, and takes security one step further by giving us assurance that I own my own key server,” said Sutton.  “Porticor is a rock-solid solution, and we are happy to integrate it into our highly available encryption stack.”

Nexgate’s installation mirrors a typical hot-standby, disaster recover deployment. But because of advantages delivered by Porticor – including enabling Nexgate to manage their encryption keys and to not be dependent on another vendor’s infrastructure for their uptime – Nexgate has flipped its redundant cloud data encryption deployment on its head. Now Porticor serves as Nexgate’s primary system under the master database, with the previous solution now serving as the backup.

“Porticor is purpose built for cloud, and has been rock solid and very reliable,” said Sutton.  “Since the Porticor solution is managed in our environment, I don’t have to worry about the process of software upgrading and patching.  Other solutions store the keys in their infrastructure and are sometimes unexpectedly shut down due to maintenance mistakes.  Porticor does not have this issue, and has shown no measureable impact on our disk throughput in the cloud.”

Nexgate uses an Amazon Web Services (News - Alert) (AWS) infrastructure, with plans for expansion on the near horizon. It is managed by just two part-time employees.

“Our data encryption solution needed to be cloud based and built for AWS,” said Sutton. “Porticor is installed in our own AWS virtual data store infrastructure, and that’s cool.  All I did was create an AWS access credential that connected Porticor to AWS, and downloaded the Porticor encryption agent in a couple of steps. I started the installation process knowing nothing about Porticor and it was deployed in a couple of hours. It is dead simple to set up and manage in a single UI.”

Now, Nexgate is better equipped to handle the social media security needs of its customers, and Porticor has opened doors wide open for new business opportunities. 

“Our new system has enabled us to sell to more enterprises with stricter requirements than before,” said Sutton.  “With redundancy we can rapidly fail over and tolerate outages, which makes us more resilient. Our solution has to be available all the time and Porticor is a key to that. Security and reliability are important in eyes of customers, and with Porticor we are better equipped to serve them as well as new prospects.”

According to Sutton, Nexgate’s new disaster recover model powered by Porticor has enabled the company to increase adoption by demonstrating the advantages of encrypting data in the cloud and managing the encryption keys securely.  Porticor is also less expensive than other solutions, he said.

“Experience taught us that we needed to solve the problem of database redundancy early on,” said Sutton.  “I can’t even begin to quantify that savings.  Porticor was up and ready to go, and it is now our primary encryption solution.”

According to Sutton, Nexgate is expanding globally with a multipoint data center in the coming months.  He plans to deploy Porticor’s virtual appliance to manage all of Nexgate’s AWS boxes from a single UI portal.

“Our infrastructure is going to get more complicated as we continue to expand,” he said.  “Porticor has been rock solid for us and will expand seamlessly as we grow.”

When recounting what he would do differently if he had to do it all over again, Sutton stated simply, “Based on what I know now, I would have chosen Porticor as our initial data encryption solution.”




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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