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5/15/2009
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Security Is Part Of The Cost Of Doing Business

Looking for ROI on a security investment is misguided -- how do you measure the cost of something that doesn't happen? But nothing happening is exactly the return you hope for when you invest in securing your business IT.

Looking for ROI on a security investment is misguided -- how do you measure the cost of something that doesn't happen? But nothing happening is exactly the return you hope for when you invest in securing your business IT.At bMighty's recent virtual event, bMighty bSecure: SMB Security On A Budget, much of the conversation swirled around costs, which makes sense given our current economic state. Just as at a face-to-face event, the interaction between the audience and the various presenters during the Q&A sessions yielded some sparks -- and was where much of the "cost" discussion occurred. During the Q&A for the Security Appliances session one response that particularly caught my ear.

Andrew Braunberg, research director, enterprise software and security, Current Analysis, responded to a question about how to measure the effectiveness of security investment by saying:

"That's the wrong way to look it. Security is never a return on investment argument, it's a TCO argument. Security is the cost of doing business. We're 20 years into the Web now and we all want the benefits of advances in communications and collaboration, but we don't want to pay the bill for it. Security is a cost of doing business. Don't try to sell this as return on investment, sell it as cost of doing business. That's much healthier way to look at it."

He's right -- gauging ROI when the desired outcome is the absence of an event is folly. The best-case return on a security investment is that NOTHING happens. Despite the inherent irony of preventing security failures, measurement is vital to success -- just measure differently. As Braunberg mentioned you should be looking TCO rather than ROI. I'll invoke the quote widely attributed to Peter Drucker, "What get's measured, get's done." If you don't apply some form of quantifiable rigor to how you allocate your budget, how do you know if you're spending too much or too little; the latter being the more perilous imbalance when it comes to security. Of course, measurement can run amuck and if you're looking to literally recoup your investment on security you may be chasing your tail.

It's really hard to quantify something not happening, but that doesn't mean it's a waste of time (or money). By way of example, I'll invoke a snippet of dialog from the 2001 David Mamet film "Heist" between Joe Moore (played by Gene Hackman) and Jimmy Silk (played by Sam Rockwell) discussing the planning of the titular heist.

Jimmy: "Why should it go sour?" ["it" meaning the planned heist] Joe doesn't respond Jimmy: "Was that such a stupid question?" Joe: "You ever cheat on a woman? Something, stand her up, step out on her?" Jimmy: "What?" Joe: "Ever do that?" Jimmy: "Yeah." Joe: "Did you have an excuse?" Jimmy: "Yeah." Joe: "What if she didn't ask? Was your alibi a waste of time?"

The point of course being that simply not using a contingency plan doesn't make developing one a poor use of resources. That's an obvious point with disaster recovery (another of the great sessions at bMighty bSecure), but what is security if not a contingency plan against inevitable threats.

The on-demand version of bMighty bSecure: SMB Security On A Budget is now available and I'd encourage you to check out any or all of the sessions and don't miss our next virtual event in October live.

Follow me on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/benjamintomkins Follow bMighty.com on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/bMighty Add the bMighty gadget to your iGoogle page @ http://www.bmighty.com/tools/gadgets_google/index.jhtml Get bMighty on your mobile device @ http://mobile.bmighty.com

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