Despite the many advantages of cloud technologies, the rate of its adoption remained considerably slow. Two factors played an important part for the indecisiveness and unwillingness of businesses to embrace the technology— cost and security. As an answer to these ‘problems’ evolved the hybrid cloud model, that stands in between an all-on-premise and an all-cloud approach. By utilizing both private and public clouds (like Amazon Web Services or Google Drive), a hybrid approach enables companies to have more control over their IT assets. While businesses can store mission-critical data in private clouds, they can resort to the public cloud option for storing less sensitive data such as computing assets. Although both the platforms exist as independent elements, companies can transfer data across the two through an encrypted connection. Despite all these advantages, the hybrid cloud model still suffers from several security issues that plagued its growth through its early years. A Symantec-sponsored study revealed that around 83 percent of enterprises were of the opinion that embracing hybrid clouds could be unsafe. While for 79 percent companies, backup and recovery were the top priorities, for 76 percent companies, continuous data protection was even more necessary. Unrestricted transfer of data across a third-party-operated network can, according to many organizations, make their assets vulnerable to cyber attacks. On the other side of the spectrum, many technology decision-makers are championing a hybrid cloud approach as a means to earn a competitive advantage. So which way should you go? Our advice is to leverage the technology, but only after identifying the top security challenges and ways to overcome them. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Addressing the Gap at the Private-Public Meeting Point
The hybrid cloud platform entails a point where the public and private clouds converge. This meeting point is characterized by the presence of some security loopholes arising out of the conflict between a company’s own security protocols and the third-party security standards. This creates some gaps through which malicious elements could slip into your system. To close this gap you should have a robust encryption strategy in place. You should also have a highly skilled security team at your disposal that knows where your mission-critical data is on the cloud and what security features your cloud service provider is offering you to keep your data protected in the public cloud. Also, having a sophisticated identity and access management system featuring multifactor authentication will help bolster the hybrid cloud security at its weakest points.
2. Finding Balance between Keeping In-House and Outsourcing
Which resources should I keep in the private cloud, and which resources should I store in the public cloud? Companies that seek to embrace a hybrid model often get bogged down by this apparently simple question. To decide on the matter, study your applications intently. Consider the type of data handled by these applications. Keep them in-house if these applications leverage critical company information such as financial data or technological know how. Any in-house software is also not fit for a hybrid cloud deployment, as they may not function properly in an external environment.
3. Dealing with Data
Hybrid cloud is known for its user friendliness and ease of access. But it is precisely these features that make it more vulnerable to hacking. To keep themselves protected from any malicious attacks, enterprises need to encrypt their data and communications. Although configuring and managing an encryption mechanism in the cloud may require a lot of investment, the spending is worth it. In the absence of any data encryption system, intruders may gain free access to all your sensitive data. Remember, poor configuration and management of data encryption are as bad as no encryption.
4. Choosing a Compliant Cloud Service Provider
Data protection is just one side of the coin. You must choose a cloud service provider whose policies comply with the regulations pertaining to data governance. Why is it important? As you move your data to the cloud, you lose control over them. From then on, their safety becomes the headache of the cloud service provider. As such, your cloud infrastructure needs to be compliant with government regulations pertaining to data governance such as HIPAA and industry standards such as PCI DSS. Using multiple cloud services sometimes create compliance issues. A company may face immediate security impacts due to their non-compliance with the industry standards. So, think beyond the local IT and adopt a wide-ranging strategy that strives to provide compliance for both public and private clouds.
5. Adhering to Safe Practices
The private cloud environment is also not immune to cyber attacks. So, companies should introduce enterprise-wide security practices to secure their private cloud platforms. Virtualization is an integral part of cloud computing and the management of this area calls for advanced security expertise that go beyond the traditional on-premise environment. Thus, a thorough understanding of the hybrid infrastructure will enable the security team to draw out the proper security policies covering both in-house software as well as cloud-based applications. Needless to say, that focus should be on the storage and networks. Typically, the security team should strive to achieve visibility across different domains. Not only should the team have skills that relate to various types of cloud, but also have the ability to prioritize issues, and how to respond to them.
Embracing the hybrid cloud model can be an effective strategy for all types and sizes of businesses that have a defined growth strategy in place. At the same time, users must focus on tightening the security of their physical infrastructure. Although the hybrid approach has a lower security risk than public cloud, ease of access through public cloud channels may affect the safety of your cloud-based assets. Even then, the benefits of hybrid model outweigh the security challenges associated with it. It will be a bad idea for you not to embrace the technology. Bolster your hybrid cloud security strategies to be able to overcome the challenges that might threaten your survival. As we have just discussed, there are many practical ways to address the problems and make the hybrid model work to your advantage.
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