There were a lot of interesting presentations at last week's Datacenter Forum in Stockholm. It was fascinating to hear insights from some of the industry's leading experts and the discussions following the talks were often equally revealing.

Dieter Will explained why bigger isn't always better when it comes to cloud service providers. He highlighted the ways that a smaller data center might have an advantage over the international giants in terms of overheads and agility. He also made some important points about security and how local cloud services could offer a more complete data protection package. In fact this proved to be the topic most people wanted to debate afterwards. There was a lot of interest in how more and more enterprises are migrating their legacy IT services into the cloud, putting data centers operators who can guarantee total data protection at a big advantage.

Most people at the conference seemed to agree that ultimate security means encrypting data. But that's only part of the story. The key for businesses who need complete data protection, such as financial institutions and government organisations, is understanding that more is needed than simply securing valuable information when it's at rest.  It's also essential to safeguard it as it moves between data centers.

It’s not just the data center specialists who are catching on. Enterprises everywhere are waking up to the risks of transmitting unsecured data over communication service provider networks. For a time, many people seemed to believe that connectivity networks were automatically safe and that transporting mission-critical data over optical fiber meant it was protected against hackers. Today, though, most are aware of the range of methods for intercepting data that cybercriminals have at their disposal – techniques that have recently become all too accessible and inexpensive. With high-profile hacks in the news and the average cost of data breaches soaring, it’s now widely understood that cybercriminals pose a serious and immediate threat to optical transport.

The vulnerabilities of transport networks have become a key concern for IT specialist in all industry verticals, not to mention Internet service providers. They know that even stringent internal safeguarding procedures become futile if the most critical infrastructure isn’t protected. Unless something is done to secure the physical network, the back doors of the company HQ might as well be left unlocked.

And the number of targets is increasing exponentially as businesses shift to software-based services and transport more valuable data to the cloud. The evolution to cloud-based business applications such as Saleseforce.com, SAP and SoftLayer, further increases the attack surface for cybercriminals.

There’s no doubt that the solution is encryption. But the reason many network operators have come unstuck is that they have only been using it to protect data within the corporate walls. Encrypting information when it’s being transported between locations is every bit as vital as protecting it when it’s stored in the data center. The problem, perhaps, is that for a long time many people have been reluctant to deploy encryption-in-motion due to worries about the complexities involved. Now though, with major changes to the threat landscape, that trade-off is being re-evaluated and most are finally opting for the fundamental security of in-flight encryption.

Encryption at the lowest network layer makes sense in every way. It’s the only method that guarantees that data can’t be deciphered even in the event of it being intercepted by a third party. It also protects data at all layers in the network stack. That’s because everything has to flow through the connectivity layer before going anywhere else. What’s more, it ensures superior network performance, simplifies network operations and reduces the overall cost of data protection.

In recent months, I’ve spoken to a lot of customers and analysts about this when discussing our own security portfolio, ADVA Optical Networking’s ConnectGuard™. It’s a solution that’s now been deployed in over 200 networks across the globe and one of its most compelling features is that it delivers total data protection through Layer 1 encryption. I expect we’ll see demand continue to grow. As the trend towards cloud-based applications continues and even more important company data interacts with suppliers, partners and customers, solutions like the ADVA ConnectGuard™ will become an ever more vital part of cloud architecture. Data center operators, like those at the forum in Stockholm, are sure it’s the only way to offer the kind of cloud-based services people will trust.