Why Data Security in the Cloud is Greater—Not Less—Than On-Premises Systems

September 22nd, 2021


Ever since someone coined the term “digital transformation,” businesses have been discussing the topic of cloud security.

At first, the idea of exchanging on-premises infrastructure that you could see and lock up at night in favor of a far-off data center or server farm was a big leap of faith. Even though some of those fears have been quelled and 83 percent of workloads were expected to be cloud-based by 2020 (and that was before the pandemic), the question, “Is my data safe?” still lingers in the back of business leaders’ minds.

According to (ISC)2’s 2020 Cloud Security Report, data security concerns and risks of data loss and leakage still hold back 35 percent of organizations from cloud adoption.

Of course, there are few guarantees in life (and maybe fewer in IT), but the potential for better security, more resilient infrastructure, perfect application uptime, and stronger data resiliency are more likely in the cloud than onsite. If you are a skeptic, here is a list of seven facts about cloud providers and partnerships that might help put your mind at ease about data privacy and security issues in the cloud.

1. Your Cloud Service Provider Is an Expert at Managing Cloud Security and Data Privacy

An enterprise may have its own IT team, but it is not 100 percent focused on cloud and cybersecurity. Staying up-to-date with the latest anti-malware software and best practices may quickly fall by the wayside as other priorities make demands on their time.

Cloud providers, meanwhile, are constantly investing in cloud computing security. They use best-of-breed network and web application security solutions for protecting data at every layer of computing. They also help you build in security controls and user authentication, including multi-factor authentication (MFA), to restrict access control and ensure that only authorized users can access key platforms, applications and sensitive information—even if login credentials fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, data encryption renders your data unreadable to those who don’t have the decryption key, even if it is intercepted.

Cloud providers also invest in advanced technology that uses sophisticated algorithms to monitor your data continuously for abnormal activity and automatically respond to security threats. They can act immediately and swiftly if an intrusion is detected and have the capacity to shut down part of their systems to protect overall security while an investigation or mitigation occurs. This can often stop a cyberattack before it occurs, or at least drastically reduce the scale of the data breach.

These resources, capabilities, and operations far exceed what a business or enterprise can accomplish on its own, and they’re made more affordable by economies of scale.

2. Your Cloud Provider Can Help You Shut Down Ransomware

Ransomware attacks, in which a cybercriminal gains access to a business’ system or files and holds them for ransom, are prevalent. Sophos reports that 51 percent of organizations surveyed were hit by a ransomware attack in 2019. In 73 percent of cases, the cybercriminals encrypted data and sent a message that the organization had to pay for the decryption key – and 26 percent paid the ransom.

Cloud users have the advantage of greater resiliency if a ransomware attack occurs. Since cloud infrastructure is easier to scale at a lower price, many businesses who have use cloud data have built offsite backups, “air-gapped” storage, and/or replicated VM’s at a much lower cost than building in on their own infrastructure.

Further, cloud providers can typically repair their systems and restore their data to the point in time before the attack occurred, avoiding paying a ransom with little to no data loss. Great cloud infrastructure is built for resiliency because statistics say the worst will probably happen to everybody eventually.

RELATED: Can Your Business Endure the Average Cost of Downtime?

3. Top Cloud Providers Have Excellent Physical Security

While being able to see your own physical servers and lock them up at night might give you a tangible sense of relief, there are also some substantial risks to storing all your sensitive data on site. An on-premises system is more vulnerable to unauthorized access or malicious actions or misuse, particularly by disgruntled employees.

By contrast, in the cloud environment, your data is stored off-site in a data center, potentially very far from your physical location, often with enhanced physical security measures such armed guards, fencing, security cameras, thick walls, and even biometric scanning devices.

4. The Cloud Is Resilient Against More “Ordinary” Threats, Too

When most people think about data protection, they’re chiefly concerned about data breaches, malware, and security risks from malicious actors. But data loss isn’t always the result of a cyberattack. Often, the culprit is something much more mundane. For example:

  • Power outages
  • Hardware failure (often due to aging equipment that isn’t upgraded or maintained in a timely fashion)
  • Human error
  • Storm damage or flooding
  • Failure of your climate control systems
  • Plumbing issues

We could go on, but you get the point.

Cloud facilities themselves are designed so that they can continue to operate if disaster strikes. Good cloud providers leverage redundant power, internet, cooling, and hardware (alongside fire protection, air filtering, etc.) to reduce single points of failure so when bad things happen, users aren’t even aware.

5. Cloud Providers Attract and Retain Top Talent

The IT talent shortage makes it difficult to find skilled, experienced cybersecurity professionals and to retain them in a highly competitive atmosphere. The (ISC)2 research found that 37 percent of organizations believe a lack of qualified security resources is holding them back from faster cloud adoption.

Major cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) can attract top talent, building teams of the most qualified security experts recruited from major universities and government agencies to protect their clients’ data and applications.

Furthermore, they don’t employ one or two experts who may become quickly overwhelmed with a growing security workload. Leading cloud providers leverage teams of experts covering a breadth of specialties who collaborate to protect customer systems and ensure data security in the cloud.

6. Cloud Providers Comply With Even the Strictest Industry Regulations

Businesses and organizations in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, finance, or legal, must meet strict standards when using cloud computing. Cloud providers have established multi-layered security strategies that not only meet these mandates but also allow customers to opt into regulatory compliance requirements like HIPAA, PCI, Soc2 Type 2, ITAR, and more at a lower cost than commissioning the audits themselves.

This isn’t just a benefit for regulated customers; customers in more loosely regulated industries also benefit from cloud providers’ expertise by having that expertise at hand when needed and understanding when it’s appropriate to opt into better security and when it’s not.

RELATED: Compliance in the Cloud

7. You Have Lots of Options When It Comes to Your Cloud Platform

Businesses that are unfamiliar with cloud computing might be tempted to think that they have two basic options to choose from: cloud and not cloud, with limited control over what you get with the “cloud” option. But there are many levels of cloud computing available to choose from, based on the needs of your business.

At a high level, the basic cloud platform options include:

  • Public cloud: All cloud resources and cloud storage are owned and operated by a third-party provider (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc.) Although you might be worried about sharing server space with other companies, in practice public clouds tend to be highly secure and reliable due to the large network of servers and disaster recovery measures in place.
  • Private cloud: In this platform, the cloud computing resources (hardware and software) are all housed on servers that are exclusive to your organization and run behind your own firewall. This allows your business greater control and configurability, and potentially security, at the cost of comparatively less resiliency and scalability vs. the public cloud.
  • Hybrid cloud: This approach uses the public cloud for certain workloads while using private cloud or on-premises infrastructure for more.

On top of that, you can break the public cloud down further based on how you want to divide up the responsibilities between your company and the cloud provider.

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): You provide the operating system, applications, software (and the data it runs on), while the cloud provider is responsible for the hardware (servers and data storage, networking, virtualization, etc.). In other words, you rent the servers and storage space, but bring just about everything else yourself.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): In addition to the infrastructure, the cloud provider also supplies a software development platform.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): In addition to everything above, the cloud provider also supplies the data and applications. (For example, you don’t need to provide your own word processor application, because you use Google Docs.)

In other words, you have a lot of choice in terms of how much cloud computing services you need, and a good cloud services provider can work with you to build solutions that make sense for your business goals, security and compliance requirements, staffing capacity, and budget.

Establish a New Comfort Zone

It may still be hard to have unwavering faith that a provider is ensuring the highest possible level of data security in the cloud when you can’t see physical infrastructure or know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. It may be helpful to reassure yourself and your leadership team how your cloud provider addresses security.

To learn more about why infrastructure, applications and data are safer in the cloud, reach out to our team. We’d love to dig into the details with you!

References

Columubs, L. (7 January, 2018). 83% of Enterprise Workloads Will Be in the Cloud by 2020. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2018/01/07/83-of-enterprise-workloads-will-be-in-the-cloud-by-2020/?sh=55f45f666261

(ISC)2. 2020 Cloud Security Report. Retrieved from https://www.isc2.org/landing/cloud-security-report

Sophos. The State of Ransomware 2020: Results of an independent study of 5,000 IT managers across 26 countries. Retrieved from https://www.sophos.com/en-us/medialibrary/Gated-Assets/white-papers/sophos-the-state-of-ransomware-2020-wp.pdf

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