Migrating Security to the Cloud: A Model for Total Cost of Ownership

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. Businesses are migrating from traditional on-premises maintenance of their hardware and software to software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud at record levels. But any evaluation of such a move must include more than just the obvious costs of hardware and software. When migrating security to the cloud, the most critical consideration is the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Measuring Total Cost of Ownership

TCO is one of the key measures for evaluating a move from on-premises solutions to SaaS. But what does it include? It’s important to understand the upfront cost of hardware and software as a capital expenditure versus the operational expenditure of the ongoing cost of a subscription. Typically, a TCO is measured over three or five years. For noncritical infrastructure, this calculation can often be a straightforward evaluation of the cost to purchase and maintain versus the cost of the subscription.

Before a TCO analysis is complete, however, it’s important to examine a wider set of criteria that includes tangible and intangible factors. Any migration of critical infrastructure to the cloud, including security infrastructure, must account for a more complete TCO.

The Promise of SaaS

The typical SaaS value proposition is driven by the promise of a reduction of capital expenditures in exchange for predictable, scalable subscription costs.

On-premises costs can include:

  • Procuring and deploying servers and other hardware, storage devices and network infrastructure, including routers and switches;
  • Managing the data center facilities, including generators, power and cooling infrastructure, and physical security, such as cameras and devices on which the associated video is stored; and
  • Managing operations, which typically includes maintaining a network operations center, a ticketing system and associated dashboards.

When using SaaS, organizations can expect to reduce and, in most cases, eliminate many of these upfront costs and the ongoing cost of maintenance.

Identifying the Intangible Costs of On-Premises

In addition to the tangible costs, other costs must be factored into a true TCO calculation for maintaining critical infrastructure. This includes the costs of:

  • Deploying the supporting security infrastructure, such as firewalls and intrusion detection system (IDS) or intrusion prevention system (IPS) devices;
  • Complying with regulatory mandates and supporting the ongoing upkeep of these certifications;
  • Staffing and training to maintain the complex infrastructure;
  • Contracting and procuring hardware, software and associated licenses;
  • Managing server downtime and launch windows associated with applying patches and upgrades to avoid diminished productivity; and
  • Establishing and maintaining disaster recovery and backups, including both hardware and software.

A discussion on intangible costs would be incomplete without also considering opportunity costs. Companies must assess where their IT time is best allocated. Work time is ideally spent on activities tied directly to revenue generation and increasing shareholder value. As the link between work time and revenue generation becomes more attenuated, companies must consider whether less is more when it comes to time spent on the intangible costs of on-premises installations.

The Benefits of Migrating Security to the Cloud

Using the example of IBM QRadar on Cloud, which is security information and event management (SIEM) delivered as a service, it is easy to see the immediate benefits of migrating one critical piece of security infrastructure to the cloud.

With SIEM deployed as a service, companies get a team of security experts to monitor and manage the infrastructure on their behalf. Patches, upgrades and new features are rolled out when available so that companies can stay up to date on new security threats. Resiliency and redundancy is fully managed to enable enterprises to grow elastically, according but not limited to their current needs. This means they can get up and running quickly and realize the benefits of the service immediately to ensure that they meet their goals for future growth.

SaaS enables organizations to reduce organizational and system complexity by entrusting parts of their critical workloads to partners. By moving these critical functions, companies can transfer risks to partners and manage them through contracted terms and service-level agreements. Migrating security to the cloud also allows them to move away from legacy systems, either incrementally or all at once.

The More Things Change…

Migrating to SaaS does not, by any means, eradicate all responsibilities. Ensuring a successful SaaS deployment, for example, means testing to ensure that the services interoperate with existing on-premises tools. There’s also regression testing to ensure proper integration, customizing or retrofitting existing tools, and training or retooling staff so the organization can take advantage of new features and functionalities. At the end of the day, this may require a shift in the way the organization looks at information life cycle management.

Moving beyond the management of legacy infrastructure can lead to an increase in employee effectiveness — and additional free time for them to innovate and engage in more productive work within your organization. Whether deploying on-premises or in the cloud, how you handle information systems security and the TCO of these systems remains a critical part of the analysis.

Download the Nucleus Research Guidebook: IBM QRadar on Cloud

Share this Article:
Chris Collard

Offering Manager for QRadar SaaS, Cloud and MSS, IBM

Chris is an information security professional with over 15 years of experience managing information systems and services. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and holds a Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) from the Cloud Security Alliance.