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January 27, 2017
4 Min Read
While you may have a firm grip on data security within your private network, things become more complicated once you begin venturing into the cloud. Although offloading many lower-level infrastructure tasks to cloud service providers can be a huge time saver, one must consider the overall impact on data security -- and what can be done about it.
As more enterprises move to hybrid cloud architectures, there are several data security considerations to think about. Here are five of the most important.
Before you even begin moving data and applications into a service provider cloud, make sure you fully understand all regulatory compliance laws that pertain to your data -- and the industry vertical that you work in. Whether you are handling customer credit card data or patient health information, or you work with data spread across multiple countries, the cloud customer is ultimately responsible proving the minimal level of data security measures are met. In many cases, your cloud provider will tell you which compliance standards they meet. If more is required to fully comply to data regulations, that extra effort falls on the customer.
Cross-cloud policy management
Just because you have a grip on security policies and procedures within your private data center that doesn't mean those policies are going to easily transfer to the cloud. The primary goal for a hybrid cloud is to be able to configure and maintain a security policy uniformly across the entire network. This includes infrastructure policy, such as firewall rules, IPS signatures, and user identification/authentication. But this is often more easily said than done when dealing with one or more cloud service providers. Since cloud platforms are not all the same, transferring security features is often a manual process. If you're dealing with a multi-cloud environment, the issues are only compounded further. That's why many IT security professionals are looking to multi-cloud management platforms to help ease the burden by centralizing network and security policies.
Easily the most pressing issue for data security administrators when faced with the prospect of protecting a hybrid cloud is data visibility. A tremendous amount of thought must be put into deciding where data will be stored. Even then, it's easy to lose track without the proper visibility. So when moving sensitive data into the control of a cloud service provider, have the necessary monitoring in place to be able to track data store locations and traffic flows both in and out.
Obviously, a great way to help protect data in any situation is to encrypt it while at rest. Because you're dealing with a multi-tenant situation within a cloud service provider network, this becomes an absolute necessity. One thing to think about, however, is protecting data in motion as it moves between cloud demarcation points -- as well as data in-use while it's being processed and manipulated by a cloud application. Doing so will protect data throughout the entire data lifecycle. The encryption methods available to do this will vary from one provider to the next. So, if you're planning to encrypt at least some of your data in motion and in-use, figure out what encryption methods work best for you -- then go out and find cloud providers that can provide it.
[Wondering what is right around the corner in cloud management? Read Multi-Cloud Management: What to Realistically Expect in 2017.]
One final thought you need to consider when developing a hybrid cloud security strategy is to make sure that all your security tools, procedures and practices will scale for growth. The last thing you want to bump up against is restricting cloud scalability because you neglected to build a security architecture that grows right alongside other infrastructure resources. The key to this is to vet all security tools used in all cloud environments to understand how to expand them – and what potential pain points you may run into if explosive growth of cloud resource need occurs. One reason why this is especially important to think about in the field of IT security is the fact that security solutions are becoming far more unified in nature. Because individual tools are becoming more dependent on other tools and resources, having a scalability issue in one area of IT security can impact the entire network.
Fortunately, every one of the hybrid cloud security issues I’ve mentioned today has a solution. The tricky part is to identify your security needs early in order to put the pieces together prior to moving your hybrid cloud deployment into production. But simply take your time, figure out a strategy and execute it. What you’ll end up with an incredibly powerful hybrid cloud that works, is easy to manage – and most importantly – is secure.
About the Author(s)
President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks
Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.
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