Cloud Search: Are Data Secure?

June 19, 2015

I have seen a flurry of news announcements about Coveo’s cloud based enterprise search. You can review a representative example by reading “Coveo Lassos the Cloud for Enterprise Search.” Coveo is also aware of the questions about security. See “How Does Coveo Secure Your Data and Services.”

With Coveo’s me-too cloud service, I thought about other vendors which offer cloud-based solutions. The most robust based on our tests is Blossom Search. The company was founded by Dr. Alan Feuer, a former Bell Labs’ wizard. When my team was active in government work, we used the Blossom system to index a Federal law enforcement agency’s content shortly after Blossom opened for business in 1999. As government procurements unfold, Blossom was nosed out by an established government contractor, but the experience made clear:

  1. Blossom’s indexing method delivered near real time updates
  2. Creating and building an initial index was four times faster than the reference system against which we test Dr. Feuer’s solution. (The two reference systems were Fast Search & Transfer and Verity.)
  3. The Blossom security method conformed to the US government guidelines in effect at the time we did the work.

I read “Billions of Records at Risk from Mobile App Data Flow.” With search shifting from the desktop to other types of computing devices, I formulated several questions:

  1. Are vendors deploying search on clouds similar to Amazon’s system and method ensuring the security of their customers’ data? Open source vendors like resellers of Elastic and proprietary vendors like MarkLogic are likely to be giving some additional thought to the security of their customers’ data.
  2. Are licensees of cloud based search systems performing security reviews as we did when we implemented the Blossom search system? I am not sure if the responsibility for this security review rests with the vendor, the licensee, or a third party contracted to perform the work.
  3. How secure are hybrid systems; that is, an enterprise search or content processing system which pulls, processes, and stores customer data across disparate systems? Google, based on my experience, does a good job of handling search security for the Google Search Appliance and for Site Search. Other vendors may be taking similar steps, but the information is not presented with basic marketing information.

My view is that certain types of enterprise search may benefit from a cloud based solution. There will be other situations in which the licensee has a contractual or regulatory obligation to maintain indexes and content in systems which minimize the likelihood that alarmist headlines like “Billions of Records at Risk from Mobile App Data Flow.”

Security is the search industry’s industry of a topic which is moving up to number one with a “bullet.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 19, 2015


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