The world has clearly moved their data and services "into the cloud" for major cost savings and reliability, but do you know what the cloud really is? Do you know how cloud security relates to your mailing list and customer data? You need to clearly understand the answers to these and other cloud-based questions before you move your list and customer data, or trust any vendor, with cloud-based services.
In a nutshell, the cloud is basically a very large collection of servers scattered throughout the USA or even throughout the world. These servers can be anywhere and most companies using third party cloud support services do not really know exactly where 100% of their data is at any given moment. Sure they tell you the data is in the private cloud, but is it really? Can you have that audited for verification? Chances are, no you cannot. You have to trust the vendor that their security, encryption, and data management practices are sound. You could launch a mailing at 7am and by 8am the data is on a dozen servers "somewhere" but where exactly is it? How secure are those cloud servers? Do you know if the data center that has those cloud servers is following industry standards with access control? Is the server itself safe from outside attacks/forced entry? Is the server using the very latest updates for all of the software it is running. We found over the last few years that many email service providers (ESPs) will leverage the use of other cloud service providers so they can deliver mail and service their customers at a fraction of the cost of their non-cloud competitors. The cloud lets ESPs cut costs by 90% in many cases, but what price do you put on your customers and their data? If your vendor can not prove to you "where" your data is in the cloud, you are risking everything, including your customers.
There is a huge difference between an ESP that relies on cloud-based services and an ESP that owns and manages their own equipment in-house (in their own cages inside the data centers.) It's no secret that cloud-based servers are super cheap because you are sharing those services with hundreds or even thousands of other companies. ESPs that own their own equipment (like Global IntelliSystems) pay a much higher cost for the equipment but the advantage is the equipment is owned 100% and server management is 100% under their control. There is zero guesswork of "where" your data is at any given time. You have to ask youself, "Should I allow my customer data to be located anywhere in the cloud or would it be better protected on a set of servers that are dedicated to me and me alone?" The answer is clear once you put a price on your customers and their data. With Global IntelliSystems There is no sharing of services out in the cloud, no potential for "leaks" of data to cloud servers on the other side of the world, etc. This is a real issue that many companies are overlooking and the risk for data loss is huge.
Don't get us wrong, cloud-based services are great for web hosting and truly encrypted private clouds (audited, verified, and bonded) but when it comes to extremely sensitive and valuable data such as mailing lists or customer information, you really need to re-think the idea of keeping that data in the cloud. Even if the vendor tells you they are using AES encryption to move data around or store your data in an encrypted state on their private cloud, you need to ask them if they own all of the servers themselves (not rent from a hosting service, but own 100%) and if they maintain and mange those servers using the ESP staff. There really is a huge increase in security protocols when an ESP manages everything in-house.
We are not trying to scare anyone into not using a cloud service but when it comes to email marketing, customer lists, customer data, and analytics, keep that data out of the cloud. You'll be saving yourself from having to answer "why is my secret email address now on another list?" or "how did company X get my email address when you were the only vendor that had it?" Keep your customer data safe and keep it outside of the cloud.
Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions on this topic.