Data security: Which cloud is right for enterprises?

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There are few things more important in today’s world than making sure your data is safe and secure. We spend a staggering amount of our time each day online in some form or another, most of which whilst we’re logged into our social media accounts, financial institutions, our company email server…the list goes on and on. And with more and more data breaches affecting big companies (often with big cash penalties associated with them), it’s no wonder why enterprise-level organisations keep a keen eye toward solutions that can help make their employees and their company as a whole more secure.

Cloud computing is something the vast majority (nearly 80 per cent according to some estimates) of enterprise-level organisations are already heavily vested in. But as those in the cloud computing space know, there are a lot of different approaches to the cloud from a lot of different vendors. Let’s take a look at two of the more popular and widespread offerings – hybrid cloud and multi-cloud – and what each means for your data security.

Hybrid Cloud

A popular option for years, a hybrid cloud simply means a cloud computing solution that combines elements of both a private cloud and public cloud. A public cloud is available over the publicly-accessed Internet and has services or files available to anyone with a connection who wishes to use them, versus a private cloud with computing resources that are only available to use by a specific business or organisation.

Hybrid clouds combine bits from both public and private cloud, often specific to the organisation’s particular needs and goals. A business might want to take advantage of the significantly lower costs of a public cloud for certain elements, but use the increased security and flexibility of a private cloud for confidential services and resources.

Speaking of security…how does hybrid cloud stack up when it comes to safeguarding the data stored or networked on them? Since there are such a wide variety of deployments and configurations available in terms of what elements are private versus public, the answer depends.

We can still analyse from a broad perspective – zooming out to a 30,000-foot view, the data on a hybrid cloud is either at rest, in transit, or in use. Data in transit refers to any data that is moving from one location to another, either over the Internet (e.g. – public cloud) or a closed network (e.g. – private cloud). Data at rest refers to data that is stored in some kind of physical location and is not currently in use. As you might have surmised, data in use refers to data that is currently being opened and/or used by an application or the user.

There are several options available to ensure your multi-cloud’s resting data is secure, including conventional defences such as firewalls, anti-virus programs, strong passwords, and two-factor authentication. More advanced options include either full-disk or partition encryption, and Trusted Platform Modules or TPMs. These ingenious little devices are small chips on a computer’s motherboard that stores cryptographic keys. The TPM keeps the hard drive completely locked until an authorised user logs in, meaning even if your servers/computers are physically stolen, the perpetrator wouldn’t be able to access any of the information without the proper credentials.

Protecting data in transit (and data in use) becomes slightly more involved. Every time data is transmitted from one point to another, the chances of it being intercepted or altered increase. There are numerous encryption options available to protect your data at rest, including Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) and the government standard Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS).

Multi-Cloud

A multi-cloud environment is defined as more than one cloud deployment of the same kind, public or private. As might be surmised already, public clouds generally have a larger factor of inherent security risks than do their private counterparts. It’s not hard to see why.

Anytime you allow even the possibility of having your company’s data accessible by the world at large via a public Internet connection, the risk for data theft and/or corruption skyrockets. Even if your IT team implements all the security enhancements mentioned above (and lots more that we don’t have time to cover), there are still a wide variety of potential security threats that a public cloud presents.

Even major players in the public cloud space are not immune to security failures, as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure both have been the recipients of notable data breaches. While the business benefits of adopting a public cloud are well documented, the inability to have total and complete security controls is worth noting.

Conclusion

In today’s world of incredible choice when it comes to cloud computing platform options, the configurations for your multi-cloud or hybrid cloud are just about endless. What exact setup will work best for your organisation will obviously depend on what type of business you’re in, where your employees are based, and any specific regulations associated with your particular industry (for example, healthcare organisations must be HIPAA compliant). Due to their closed-off nature, a multi-cloud with numerous private clouds accessible only by members of your organisation presents the strongest possible data security.

Regardless of your industry, data protection is of critical importance and both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud setups allow for security enhancements. By making sure you take every precaution possible to make your cloud’s data security as strong as possible, you’ll be doing a large part to ensure the continued success of your operation.

Marty Puranik, CEO, Atlantic.Net