The Real World Windows Azure series spoke to Kevin Lam, the Founder and President of IMPACTA, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver LOCKBOX SFT, a cloud-based, fully managed secure file transfer (SFT) service for the company's customers:
MSDN: Can you give us a quick summary of what IMPACTA does and who you serve?
Lam: We help companies assess the security of their information systems, find potential weaknesses, and then address those issues. Then we've taken the lessons we learned from dealing with our customers' security threats to develop custom technology solutions that can help organizations address common security problems and cope with emerging threats.
MSDN: Was there a particular challenge you were trying to overcome that led you to use the Windows Azure platform?
Lam: Many of our customers were just transferring their sensitive files with email and FTP web services. So their data was being potentially exposed to malicious hackers, identity thieves, and other online threats. But most of the available solutions required firms to purchase, install, and manage expensive hardware and software. The entry point for some solutions can be more than U.S.$24,000, plus we could see first-hand the challenges our customers faced trying to manage their growing infrastructures.
We wanted to develop a competitively priced SFT solution, but we were a startup, and acquiring the data center space and the array of powerful servers we would need just wasn't feasible. We thought we could use cloud computing to overcome the existing cost barriers and provide our customers with a higher level of protection. Basically, when we looked at the costs, and the pain our customers were going through, and then saw what we could do with cloud computing, bringing an on-premises solution to market was just not compelling for us.
MSDN: Can you describe the solution that you developed with Windows Azure?
Lam: In July 2010, we introduced LOCKBOX SFT, a fully managed SFT service built on Windows Azure, the latest Microsoft .NET Framework, the ASP.NET web application framework, Windows Communication Foundation, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. As the LOCKBOX SFT database grows, we will transfer it to the Microsoft SQL Azure self-managed database.
To use LOCKBOX SFT, companies only need Internet access and a web browser, and they can subscribe to the service online in just minutes, with no setup fee to pay and no hardware or software to buy. When users log on, they can monitor an inbox and a sent folder, or click a tab to send a new data package. When the sender clicks send, LOCKBOX SFT encrypts the data, transfers it to Windows Azure for storage, and notifies the recipient by email that they have received an encrypted data package.
MSDN: How will using Windows Azure help IMPACTA deliver more advanced solutions to its customers?
Lam: With Windows Azure we could keep our operation costs low enough to provide customers with enterprise-level reliability and data protection in a solution that's affordable for the non-enterprise. Any type of organization can use LOCKBOX SFT to store and transfer sensitive data while protecting it from online threats and from physical threats such as theft or damage of hardware. And we can use Windows Azure to deliver the service our customers need when they need it, without making them pay for computing resources they're not using.
In 2010, IMPACTA introduced LOCKBOX SFT, built on Windows Azure from Microsoft. To send a data package safeguarded from malicious software, identity thieves, and other online threats, registered LOCKBOX SFT users simply log on to the application interface to create a package name, select files for the package, and specify a recipient.
To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence