22 Mar 5 key security considerations for deploying a private cloud model
Deepa Kuppuswamy, Director of Security at Zoho Corporation, looks at private clouds from a security perspective and that important decision of selecting the right cloud deployment model for your organisation’s needs.
A critical decision that every business faces at the outset of its digital transformation is choosing the right cloud deployment model. Most businesses opt for public cloud services and hand-pick the required services, which range from the fundamental database layer to the topmost application layer. Given the wider application accessibility and its elastic capacity, public cloud remains the popular choice in the business landscape. However, private clouds – known for their strong security benefits, data sovereignty, and low latency – are preferred largely by businesses that are hesitant to use public clouds due to industry-specific security and regulatory requirements, like financial and healthcare institutions to name a few.
The Middle East and North Africa region has been catching up to the global shift towards private cloud, which is mainly led by countries like Saudi and the UAE. In Europe, this shift is mostly sparked by surging energy costs, however, in the Middle East it is a slightly different scenario. In 2020, both countries were the biggest targets of some unprecedented waves of cyberattacks. As it stands, the cost of data breaches in the region is 48%higher than the global average, which is currently at $4.24 million per data breach, according to an IBM report.
The region boasts a predominant financial, energy and healthcare sector, which constitute the bigger share of data stored on the cloud – meaning a big part of the cloud holds mission-critical data. This is one of THE primary factors driving companies to migrate to a private cloud model, or better yet, a multi-cloud model to gain greater control over security and data, as hybrid work models continue to remain prevalent in the workplace.
Private cloud and hybrid are quickly gaining popularity in the region, and it’s crucial for IT teams to understand the responsibilities that come with migrating to a private cloud. For organisations looking to set up a private cloud environment for their IT operations, there are a number of security considerations, protocols, and other measures that need to be taken into account while building, as well as operating, the model.
Deploying and maintaining a private cloud requires highly skilled resources
With a private cloud, the entire architecture comes under the control of the business that deploys it, and so does the management of the entire infrastructure. Businesses need to build a specialised team with particular skillsets because most IT departments lack the experience to effectively develop and support the private cloud environment, and any lax in this regard can impact security. Aside from faulty workflows and actions, security loopholes can also arise from lack of knowledge within the organisation’s internal team structure. It’s also equally important to hold reskilling and upskilling sessions periodically to enable the team to update themselves with new technical abilities and keep up with the industry dynamics.
Keeping the platform up to date with robust lifecycle management
In private cloud, organisations have the tall order of configuring and operationally managing the complete technical stack, including upgrading and applying security patches with rigorous attention.IT leaders should encourage their core cloud engineering teams to implement automated deployment processes and CI/CD best practices to make lifecycle management prompt and easier.
Achieving compliance with regulatory requirements
In a way, private cloud provides a better way than public cloud for organisations to enforce regulatory compliance and security controls. Data retention and deletion policies can be defined and implemented entirely according to the business’s regulatory and compliance requirements. Such customisations are not feasible in the public cloud and companies are limited by the CSP’s implementation, and requirements need to be enforced via contractual obligations. On the flip side, this means that, in a private cloud setup, the organisation will be fully responsible for establishing necessary checks that match regulatory standards—starting from physical security, network segmentation, and access controls to defining appropriate data retention policies.
Staying proactive with a security-first mindset
There is a huge misconception about the strength of ‘private’ security. It is always tempting for even the most security-conscious enterprises to take shortcuts on security when they physically possess their entire IT infrastructure in their private data centres. The complacency that they are within their boundary protected by network perimeter controls will not hold good in the current environment of cyber threats. Aside from traditional external attacks, organisations should also consider the insider threat scenarios and the possibilities of privilege misuse by authenticated and authorised users with elevated access to the private cloud environment. It is imperative to have ‘zero trust’ policies implemented and enforced for the private cloud workloads.
Handling traffic spikes with proper capacity planning
Private clouds can spread the workload over multiple servers but are limited by the amount of server space a company owns or operates. A disaster or a sudden peak load could put key business solutions offline and pose a risk to business continuity. Proper capacity planning or moving to a hybrid model to handle peak load should be considered during the design.
In deploying a private cloud model, companies can reap the numerous benefits it has to offer. To do that effectively, drawing a clear roadmap and setting clear objectives – while keeping in mind critical security considerations – can make the shift successful and more effective.