Many organizations outsource email to a cloud provider, and one of the most successful of these providers is Microsoft with its Office 365 offering. Office 365 is a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office that adds a few additional features making it an attractive option, especially for small to midsized organizations. However, it is not without its security warts, as is the case with all cloud-based offerings.

The major issue is that email can be quite sensitive, and there are privacy requirements to which an organization in certain markets must adhere. If the email is in clear text, in the cloud those privacy requirements are not being met. Likewise, the cloud provider has access, and, if the provider is ordered by the courts to reveal all of the content stored in its systems, your clear text email may be at risk of disclosure without your consent or, perhaps, even your knowledge. This is where CipherCloud for Office 365 comes in.

This innovative product is very simple in concept: It encrypts email end-to-end, and it does it without interfering with the user experience. Moreover, since the encryption keys are retained on premise, the organization is not at risk for loss of the keys, misuse of the keys, or any of the onerous regulatory penalties for exposing - or potentially exposing - private information to unauthorized access.

The system, from the user perspective, is simplicity itself. The administrator decides what gets encrypted - all email and calendar or selective encryption - sets the policy, and the rest is seamless and transparent to users. The email can be recalled as pst files and decrypted locally if the need should arise, so the organization is not at risk of the cloud provider being shut down. Encryption is strong - AES256 FIPS-approved, so protection is robust. Likewise, the product can support other cloud-based applications, so developing a secure cloud strategy gets easier with the product.

We liked this tool for its simplicity and direct application to a real challenge. The fact that it is extensible to other applications and that there are more apps on the drawing board, just adds a nice frosting to this otherwise fine cake.