Taking e-billing to the cloud

There are rewards and risks involved in cloud-based e-billing, and both need to be considered before moving forward.

Read time 3min 00sec

Cloud computing is the logical next step in the evolution to paperless environments. One area where businesses can continue to reap the benefits of digital transformation is in billing, where many have already saved millions in printing, storage and postage by offering customers a digital alternative to receiving a paper bill. Customers have benefited, too, from the ease of use and convenience that comes with a successful e-billing or e-statement implementation.

By moving to a public cloud-based solution, businesses can save even more. They'd no longer need to individually carry the costs of the infrastructure and systems to store and manage access to these digital documents. A cloud service provider can provide these, at a fraction of the cost.

Public cloud-based business models allow subscribers to the service to share the costs of storage, access and security, and therefore save on infrastructure and running expenses.

However, as good as this sounds, there are risks.

Safe as houses

Fort Knox, which used to house a significant portion of the gold reserves of the US, was famed for its impenetrability. Despite the huge sums a would-be robber could make off with if he or she broke through the defences, no one in the facility's reported history has even tried, hence the synonymy of Fort Knox with absolute security.

Few public cloud-based document storage facilities can boast similar levels of security. The truth is that when documents from multiple companies are stored in a single place, that place becomes a target for data thieves. This exposes the companies that use the service to penalties, lawsuits and reputational damage should a breach occur.

Using a cloud provider also doesn't exempt businesses from the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI), which requires companies to put in place proper security measures to protect their customers' personal information. Penalties for non-compliance run into the millions and could include jail time in instances of gross negligence.

If security comes at the expense of convenience and ease, then customers will opt out.

Businesses, therefore, need to be discerning when selecting a cloud-based e-billing service provider. They need to understand the risks they are taking on when subscribing to the service and do a full due diligence to ensure the facility and provider meet both regulatory and legislative requirements.

Even the most secure storage facilities need to permit authorised access in order to provide the service and function efficiently. Cloud-based e-billing solutions provide the perfect balance between the right level of security and enabling customers to easily retrieve their personal invoices and statements.

Additionally, if security comes at the expense of convenience and ease, then customers will opt out. Worse yet, they will take their business elsewhere. Onerous processes for customers to register and access their online documents are self-defeating. So an ideal balance between security and customer experience has to be found. Multiple layers of security are essential, as is ensuring documents are never transmitted unprotected - they should be both encrypted and password protected.

Businesses moving to cloud-based e-billing need to be sure their service provider has the right balance between security, access and customer experience if they are to reap the benefits and avoid the risks.

Stergios Saltas
MD of Striata SA.

Stergios Saltas is MD of Striata SA. He has 14 years’ experience in the ICT industry and is responsible for guiding Striata’s strategic direction and operational performance in the African region. He serves as a member of the Global Executive Committee and the Striata SA board of directors. Saltas is passionate about the advantages of cloud computing – specifically in relation to how cloud platforms can enhance digital document management.

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