The head a data centre co-location and hosting firm in Britain, UKFast, is launching a fund to help protect its small business clients from online threats, writes Neil Ainger. The £1m on offer from Lawrence Jones in £5,000 individual parcels is available to small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that use UKFast’s services and cannot cope with what are combatively referred to as "the inflated prices of IT companies hoping to cash-in on fears about online cyber attacks".
The UKFast Building A Safer Environment (Base) £1m fund is obviously a good marketing ploy for the co-location and cloud computing provision firm, which has clients at financial institutions (FIs), media and TV companies and other heavy data users that frequently need the power of a data centre behind their operations. But the money could also be of real use to growing firms struggling to make the leap from a micro-business to a larger firm and should be welcomed on that basis. Of course, if it was available to all companies - not just UKFast clients - it would be preferable but enlightened self-interest is better than no interest at all and the Base fund could genuinely help some customers of the Manchester-based, UK firm.
The pot of cash is available now to British firms that use UKFast’s data centre co-lo cloud delivered services and is intended to help them add information security features to their network and grow their business safely to the next level.
In a trenchant criticism of the IT security sector that would no doubt receive a rebuttal that they have to bear the development costs for new anti-virus and other cyber-protection software, the head of UKFast, Lawrence Jones, says that “it is wrong that businesses are being forced to upgrade their firewalls and pay excessive costs for a basic safeguard. Businesses shouldn’t be held to ransom on this and forced to operate without the fundamental protections because of cost.”
“It is common place to have online shops hosted on networks and environments that aren’t behind a firewall,” continues Jones, when explaining the rationale behind his offer. “Many trusted sites that you’d assume would take this seriously are opting out, knowing that customers never check.
“The problem is less about people’s desires to create a safe environment and more to do with astronomical pricing for firewalls and online security. If making your website safe is cost prohibitive, it’s often the things you cannot see that are compromised, quite literally.
“We want to make it easy, which is why we are demonstrating our longer-term commitment by being prepared to invest in clients’ firewalls too. The £1m Base Fund is designed to help businesses get the security they need. It makes sense and seems logical to me. It’s a small price to pay when you consider the £12m we have already put into developing our own data centres. I’d like to think that one day all hosting providers will be doing the same.
IT security fund available to SMEs
Jones is determined to protect business people from the kind of IT security problems - ranging from a lack of AV or active firewalls - that can bring a company to its knees.
“We’re hearing from businesses that are seeing their security costs multiply because their hosting provider is taking advantage of growing fears around safety online,” claims Jones. “People are hearing more and more about distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks and some companies are using that to hike their prices up.
He added: “With the explosion of cloud, businesses are opting for convenience …but we’ve seen business people who have lost everything. If I can save one person from the despair that I have been unfortunate enough to witness in the past then it’s worth the investment. We make our profits on retaining clients and building long-term lasting relationships. I believe this is another sound way of building a safer environment together.”
The Base fund provides what is described as industry leading anti-virus, back-up systems, safety protocols and 24-hour monitoring at no extra cost for UKFast dedicated or managed hosting clients, up to the maximum £5,000 limit per businesses.
Some data centre providers already provide the protection available via the Base fund to large-scale high value clients, but extending this offer to SME clients and others who could really use the help is a shrewd move that could attract new business to the firm or at least retain existing clients looking for more value. It will be interesting to see if the fund is used up quickly and by what types of companies.