How to Embrace Cloud Billing Safely

The benefits of cloud billing can be irresistible. Always-on availability, flexibility, elastic scalability, low cost, global reach. But with high-profile security breaches from the likes of Target, Sony and health insurer Anthem, it’s understandable that thinking about turning your billing system over to the cloud could give you the willies. How can you capitalize on the cloud’s tantalizing advantages while minimizing risk? Here are three things to look for in a cloud billing system you can trust.

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  1. Security and privacy certifications. The first thing to assess in a cloud billing system is the extent to which it complies with industry standards for protecting credit card data and customer privacy. Depending on your security needs, you may want your vendor to be certified in some or all of the following:
  • PCI-DSS: The comprehensive Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard provides detailed guidance on such aspects as vulnerability testing, data encryption, access control and security policies. A more rigorous version of the standard (v3.0) officially went into effect only last month, so go with a proactive cloud-billing vendor that’s been following its prescriptions for far longer.
  • SSAE 16 (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements) Type II: This certification attests that data used in financial reports meets stringent security, auditing and operational requirements. To survive audits unscathed, consider SaaS billing providers whose data centers have this certification.
  • EU Safe Harbor: If you do business internationally, you’ll want your cloud billing vendor to be certified in the European Union’s Safe Harbor Principles, which safeguard customers’ personal data.
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996): This certification is designed to protect patient privacy and security. It initially applied only to hospitals, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, HMOs and other health care providers. But since 2013, it’s now required of any company who handles protected health information (PHI) at any point. Accountants, physical therapists, data storage firms — even software companies that process data from wearable medical devices. In short, HIPAA compliance is rippling out to an ever-widening arena of companies.When you select a cloud-billing vendor with HIPAA certification, such as Aria Systems, you can take full advantage of the diverse payment schemes sweeping health services while meeting your obligations under HIPAA.
  • Third-party certifications: Certifications from industry experts like TRUSTe, a global leader in Data Privacy Management (DPM), provide independent verification that the cloud billing solution you select meets exceptional standards for security, privacy and transparency.
  1. Security best practices. For many companies, the security provided by the best SaaS billing vendors is more than adequate for their needs. And in many cases, the security best practices these vendors follow can be more thorough and cost-efficient than the labor-intensive security measures on-premise systems require. For example, top cloud billing providers conduct ongoing vulnerability scanning and offer transparent upgrades and security patches for the latest the viruses and malware — activities that demand specialized expertise many enterprises may not have to spare, or even have at all.
  1. Deployment flexibility. Most cloud billing providers offer only public, multi-tenant cloud environments. While that may work well for lots of companies, certain industries, such as global finance, have tighter security restrictions. So select a vendor who can offer a complete range of deployment options to match your needs — multi-tenant, single-tenant, pubic or private cloud and even hybrid environments that give you the best of both worlds: the versatility of the cloud with the heightened security of on-premise systems.

Finally, remember to pull your own weight

All billing systems carry some level of risk, whether they’re in the cloud or down the hall. A vendor who employs the most rigorous security measures available can help you profit from cloud billing with confidence and peace of mind. But you must still do your share. That means being smart in your use of passwords, choosing wisely about who gets administrative privileges and instilling a culture of security awareness throughout your organization.

About the Author

Sean Kirk
Sean Kirk has been writing about evolving business and technology trends for more than 25 years. His areas of specialty encompass big data, as-a-service offerings, cloud technology, networking, recurring revenue, data security and IP communications, among many others.

The Forrester Wave: Subscription Billing Platforms, Q4 2015

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