Why you need to know who hosts your HR software

Whether it’s shopping online, assessing the damage to your bank balance or updating your personal information in Cezanne OnDemand, you’ll find more often than not the host of that service invisible to you. Naturally, you’re not going to lose sleep pondering the infrastructure of the service delivered, as long as it does the job that’s good enough, or is it? There are a number of reasons why clients should operate due diligence and ask questions regarding its software provider’s choice of hosting provider. That’s because the choice of platform can have profound implications for the security, resilience and cost of the services delivered.

In this blog, I want to explain why we chose to partner with Amazon Web Services to deliver the Cezanne OnDemand HR software service, and what that means for our customers.

Who is Amazon Web Services and what do they do?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service or an IaaS that enables organisations like Cezanne to run their software in the cloud, and are one of the most proven and experienced players in the field. AWS provides facilities such as data storage, networking, hardware such as remote servers and some operational software. The service is purchased much like our clients buy software from us under the software-as-a-service or SaaS model, which is based on usage.

How secure is my data?

By far the biggest concern for HR professionals migrating their systems to the cloud is the security of data. Employers have a legal obligation under the Data Protection Act to ensure employee data is safe and secure. The buck stops with them, not the software provider, so they must make certain that the cloud service provider operates to the highest security standards. In the case of AWS, it is designed according to security best practice, meeting a wide range of stringent security compliance standards. This means Cezanne’s web architecture sits on some of the most secure cloud computing infrastructure in the world. The security standards it conforms to include ISO27001, SOC 1/SSAE 16 (previously SAS70), SOC 2 and more. Because the EU has the most stringent data protection standards, it was also extremely important that any data held on Cezanne’s systems resides within the EU so it is located in multiple data centres based in Ireland

There are a raft of other security features including built-in firewalls which restrict the type of traffic between different layers of the system. Importantly, it restricts which machines can communicate with each other and which ports are used: from the outside world it will only accept traffic from the secure browser protocol ‘https’. Subnets and network access control lists (ACLs) further check and restrict data flow. Traffic is only permitted from certain Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and access to the console that manages the AWS infrastructure requires multi-factor authentication. The infrastructure also provides protection against a denial of service attack or IP hijacking a well a number of other potential threats. Additionally, it allows Cezanne to build in extra layers of security. For example, each time a user logs on to Cezanne HR, the system creates a unique identifier for that session that’s linked to a specific IP address; the session can’t be hijacked by someone using a different IP address.

What happens if the service goes down?

Cloud services providers know that as a business they stand or fall by the robustness and resilience of their service. Amazon has many years’ experience of building and operating large-scale data centres and has applied the highest standards when constructing them. Its systems are built to tolerate system or hardware failure with minimal impact to customers. Electrical power systems are designed to run 24/7 with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units providing back-up power if an electrical failure occurs. Additionally, Cezanne’s data is spread across multiple data centres so if there is a failure at one of these, the system carries on operating as normal.

Atmospheric conditions are kept at optimal levels and closely monitored and automatic fire detection and suppression equipment reduces risk of fire. Amazon monitors all of its equipment to identify potential problems immediately and any maintenance work won’t affect the operability of its centres. Meanwhile, Cezanne employs an external company called Cloudreach to carry out monitoring checks to ensure the infrastructure is performing as it should be. The company also monitors the availability of the system in terms of usage and will inform us if we need more disk space, whether to add another machine to meet demand or indeed whether to scale usage down to be more cost-effective. Amazon makes sure that the system is performing optimally across the globe, carrying out checks wherever users are based in the world.

How do I know I’m getting the best value for money?

The cloud is enabling organisations to be far more agile, responsive and cost-effective in terms of how they operate and run as businesses. As an AWS customer, Cezanne only pays for the service it uses much like clients only pay us for the service they use from Cezanne OnDemand. Our usage can be scaled up and down according to client demand just as clients do with our system. This means the cost of any redundant hardware or software is not being carried nor are we subject to ongoing maintenance costs. If we were using our own data centre, or purchasing our own equipment to run inside a specialist data centre, we would have to carry and pass on the cost of additional equipment to be sure we could meet potential spikes in demand.

Using AWS, we can provide a cost-effective and flexible solution to clients without any compromise on quality of service or in areas such as security. The on-demand model has already proven invaluable for organisations operating in uncertain economic conditions when it comes to cost control and the ability to flex up and down to meet market demands. Such flexibility will continue to be extremely important as businesses seeks to gain competitive edge. Cezanne already has customers around the world and the international nature of AWS means that it is easy for us to serve clients with an international HR solution for those that wish to expand globally.

In summary

The cloud services market is worth $109bn according to Gartner. The major players know that in order to compete they must deliver a cost-effective service and a robust and highly secure platform. Their investment and knowledge in areas such as data security and back-up therefore is far greater than that of any individual company. AWS is a world leader in these areas. So as well as providing customers with an HR software platform to meet their organisation’s needs, we are also able to pass on the expertise and knowledge of the market leading cloud services provider.

With the help of third party experts, we’re also constantly reviewing how we can optimise the services we use, so as to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible service at the best possible price.

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  1. Very good post, it’s nice to see a HR related company that takes security seriously. I’ve looked at Amazon before and their cloud services definetely look impressive. I know that when I’ve looked into virtual private servers etc in the past it as you mentioned needed to be in the EU.

    The cloud service industry might be worth $109bn now but look how new it is, imagine how much it will be worth in another couple of years.

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