By Howard Oliver, What If What Next
Howard: Tell us about BoardSuite. and your involvement with it.
Oscar: BoardSuite is a (www.boardsuite.co), freemium on-demand board portal that allows organizations the ability to manage, organize and share their confidential corporate information in a secured environment. We confidently provide board members and advisors with access to their organization’s portal wherever they are, whenever they need it, securely and reliably.
As an on-demand, SaaS-based portal, BoardSuite is designed to protect an organization’s sensitive information at the board of directors’ level, while facilitating necessary workflow processes safely and securely, regardless of user location. The portal sends notifications and provides guidance on good governance in response to actions taken in the system by role-based permissions. As such, it is an invaluable tool for ensuring effective and transparent corporate governance.
As a board portal houses confidential data, the most valuable asset to any company, it was paramount that BoardSuite engaged a Canadian managed hosting company that could fully support our application and address the needs of companies with strict security and compliance requirements.
Howard: Why would Canadian companies and not-for-profit organizations, who are your customers and your partners, be concerned about hosting their data in Canada?
Oscar: Canadians in general are concerned where that information is – namely within our borders. Business people have additional parameters: the continuity of their business and the integrity of their Corporate Minutes Book. They are also mandated to comply with the Canadian Privacy Act. The Directors/Owners/Operators I speak to are given advice from counsel to host in Canada exclusively. Hosting out of the country makes them privy to other jurisdictions that are not as privacy friendly as in Canada. For example, in the United States SEC regulations and other legislation are much more stringent with specific rights of access to third parties as opposed to what we have in Canada.
Howard: Can you talk more about other Canada legislation on a national and provincial level?
Oscar: Most organizations go under the Canadian Privacy Act. Our financial clients in the insurance industry and banking face stuffer rules. They are regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) that requires them to make sure that Canadian corporate records are kept in the country.
Obviously, the Privacy Act here in Canada is one of the regulations that we follow from a user point of view. There are also 13 separate provincial regulations that mandate corporate data be located in Canada so as not to be under the subject of foreign law in the United States or any other country.
Howard: Can you discuss the European situation?
Oscar: Again, we are not just managing personal information, we are managing the hosting the corporate records of an organization. There are some rules in Europe that are even more stringent than Canada has as far as privacy. Overall, Canada is considered the safest and most manageable place in the world to host corporate information. Better than most other jurisdictions. In 2011, KPMG issued an important report on the value of hosting in Canada. They made particular mention of maintenance of corporate data records in our country.
Howard: What issues are involved with finding a Canadian managed hosting company?
Oscar: The challenge we have in Canada in securing a managed hosting company is something like finding a cellular provider – the major providers can be hugely expensive and unresponsive. When we went with Tenzing the experience was rather surprising. The major supplier we were with beforehand was charging us over $10,000 dollars a month for a facility that was not certified with the promised standards we were required to have. Tenzing provided the same type of structured facility with the required certifications for 20% of the total cost. A huge benefit and savings. Since we went with them they have been highly engaged with us. We are not just a small potato for them. Importantly, everything they do is in Canada, and they can pinpoint and tell you exactly where things are. For example, they can tell you that their backup is in this province, and the service in another. This is very reassuring for our clients. This capability allowed us to be Trustee certified – a critical status for BoardSuite. We were required to pinpoint where our backup server was, and where our front-line servers were. With Tenzing it was a precise exercise.
I personally think that companies just don’t look hard enough. They think that – okay – I will go with Amazon or Google, but you will find that Canada has many excellent choices. If you go on LinkedIn you will see good discussions on this issue.
I must admit I’m a big advocate of Tenzing. Over the years we have been with them we have not only saved significant dollars in hosting but also and most importantly operate within a bank grade secure fully Canadian environment. They have found their sweet spot – serving Canadian companies and providing excellent, highly responsive service. They also have all the requisite hosting certification standards that the major players like the banks, Telus, Bell and Rogers require for managed hosting.
What is even more remarkable is they have spent the money to gain SAS 70 Type I and II (now called SSAE 16 Type II), PCI Compliant, and ISO 27001 information security certifications. In addition, Tenzing’s fully redundant infrastructure provides for complete backup and recovery of business critical information.
They have done far and beyond what is needed for SME and Large Enterprise hosting. They can handle companies of any size. A tremendous asset to us.
Howard: We have discussed Tenzing’s value as a partner because of their cost effectiveness, certifications, capabilities and their willingness to work with companies in Canada because they are in Canada. Any other issues that you would like to raise?
Oscar: If you are working on a consumer-based project – an app for example – it might not be critical in what country you host and importantly how close you really have to be with your managed hosting company. If on the other hand you are in the B2B space, dealing with enterprise clients as we do at BoardSuite, you must understand that the number one question you will encounter is data security. This is what is on the minds of the CEOs, CTOs and the boards they serve. And that means working with a Canadian based, highly responsive managed hosting company. The issue also comes up in the audit process. I know this to be true because I am asked these questions every day by BoardSuite customers.
Howard: Are there any other special capabilities that Tenzing has that works well for your customers?
Oscar: It is their durability – the ability to accommodate clients of any size. BoardSuite has been able to shift really quickly in our environment. It has happened on numerous occasions. They are very agile because they work with companies like us – it is their core competence. They understand what we are trying to do, and are keen to work with us. Their price points are also excellent. A Canadian solution at the right price – imagine! Frankly, it makes our solutions at BorardSuite economically viable and is helping us achieve the growth we anticipated.
By the way, our American clients have NO objection to their corporate records being hosted in Canada!
Howard: American clients?
Oscar: Yes. You have to understand that the Patriot Act in the US if far reaching in the US but not in Canada. Canada has demonstrated in recent court actions like Kim dot com, that US federal courts do not have jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to access to information in Canadian hosted information.
Howard: How can others do the same exploration your company did. Are there any useful organizations they can connect with?
Oscar: The Canada Cloud Network is a good option. The CCN has developed the world’s only Cloud industry ‘Technology Roadmap’, a framework to help businesses plan their Cloud migration. They have also organized a world-class Canadian industry cluster: CanadaCloud.net/Roadmap. They are a valuable resource worth looking into.
Howard: Okay so I think that covers it. Do you have any white papers that can expand upon our discussion?
Oscar: Yes. BoardSuite and Tenzing have released a white paper titled “Putting Trust in the Cloud: How a board of directors portal enables the secure exchange of information”. It provides full details of Cloud security processes and considerations, highlighting the distinctive needs of a board portal. The white paper is available for free download at http://www.tenzing.com/resource-center.asp or www.boardsuite.co.
Howard: Thanks for this interesting interview.
Founded in 1998, Tenzing is a managed hosting company trusted by leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers and Ecommerce systems integrators to deliver business critical applications to some of the world’s largest companies and most recognizable brands. Tenzing’s mission-critical hosting infrastructure, mature IT Service Management (ITSM) practices, and comprehensive application-level Service Level Agreements (SLAs), enable the reliable, secure, and scalable delivery of complex SaaS and Ecommerce applications. Tenzing is ISO 27001 and SAS 70 Type II certified with data centres in Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C. For more information, visit www.tenzing.com.
BoardSuite redefined the board portal for small and medium enterprises and not-for-profit organizations by providing a freemium SaaS-based solution to manage real-time access to corporate documents, collaboration tools and a marketplace of business services. The on-demand board portal empowers directors, officers and advisors to better manage risk, liability and compliance from a single point of entry within a secure, hosted application, resulting in effective and transparent corporate governance.
BoardSuite has received notable recognition within the online industry for its achievements. In July 2009, BoardSuite was selected as one of Canada’s leading Web 2.0 pioneers by KPMG and Backbone magazine at the PICK20 Awards, the only national roundup of Canada’s up and coming Web 2.0 pioneers who are leading the 2.0 evolution of the Web. And, in August 2009, BoardSuite was named by IDC as one of Canada’s Top Cloud Computing Solutions To Watch calling it a disruptive innovation in the board portal industry.
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