With the cloud offering a way to rapidly scale core business systems with no upfront costs, organisations ignore it at their own risk. But while many organisations are taking advantage of cloud solutions to help them maintain their competitive edge, others are put off by the perceived risks they associate with migrating to the cloud; particularly with regards security.
Security in the cloud is a widely discussed subject. Many concerns centre on the fact that running your services/servers on what is essentially somebody else’s hardware can be an unknown (and therefore scary) experience. When put in these simple terms - your service(s), their hardware - it may not fill you with confidence from the get-go. However, once you realise that there are actually a number of different cloud designs, it’s likely that there will be one that fits your requirements. In this post I’ll cover each of the available options - public, private and hybrid - in turn, explaining the specific benefits and considerations in each case, to help you identify the best solution for you.
Using private clouds is a great choice for internal systems, such as extending your server room or current infrastructure. As you no longer have to worry about environmental constraints such as space, cooling and power, this can tackle scalability issues in a highly effective way. Private clouds can also handle massive workloads, so you can be confident in the reliability of service without worrying about the influence of other workloads that might be sharing the same hardware.
With regards security, if you implement features such as AWS Direct Connect/VPC or Microsoft Azure Virtual Network, then you can encrypt your traffic from your site into these providers. As you are only allowing internal traffic onto this solution, you don’t need to worry about any external access to your environment. These environments can scale when you need them to but, importantly, can also be switched off when not required. During holiday periods, for example, you may wish to switch your environment off for extended periods; incurring very little in the way of charges and ensuring everything remains ready to be switched back on as soon as work begins again.
If you decide to use public cloud - probably for a customer facing website or application - you will need to consider the security implications of doing so; I’m sure that you have read the articles where hackers have made off with private data, and want to avoid the same fate happening to you. Luckily this is where cloud comes into its own, as all providers offer tools to enable you to easily secure any solution that you design, and by following best practice too you can ensure that your private data remains private.
Using toolage such as encryption of data at rest, cloud firewalls/security groups, Identity Access Management (IAM), among others, means that the cloud solution you deploy can even be more secure than your previous infrastructure. It is critical that the use of each layer of new cloud infrastructure is effectively managed, either by hiring competent IT staff or partnering with a provider who already has these qualifications. (At Box UK, for example, we’ve partnered with Amazon Web Services, giving us access to formal accreditation as well as exclusive tools, training and support.)
Hybrid clouds can be used when you wish to keep some servers/services on your current infrastructure while also taking advantage of the scalability and other features offered by the cloud. For example, you might be unable to migrate all of your services due to legacy systems, but that won’t stop you from taking advantage of the power that the cloud can offer you.
If you do choose a hybrid approach, it’s important to use secure links from your premises to the cloud, such as AWS Direct Connect/VPC or Azure’s Virtual Network. Once this secure link has been established, resources can easily be created in the cloud and then accessed by your users as if they were hosted on local infrastructure. This will give your business the amazing scalability (with no upfront costs) that is one of the key selling points of the cloud.
This approach could be very useful, for example, if you have a multi-office business and currently have servers in each to provide the same level of service to each of your users. Using the hybrid cloud, you could instead centralise siloed, disparate data and services into a single provider and not have to worry about each individual server; safeguarding resilience and making disaster recovery much easier to manage.
So, to sum up, fears surrounding security shouldn’t put you off extending all or part of your business into the cloud. As long as you take time at the start to design a solution that works for you, adhere to best practice, and take advantage of the security features and tools available to you through leading providers, there’s no reason your cloud solution can’t be as secure as, or even more secure than, any physical setup.
To learn more, check out our webinar "An SME’s journey in migrating to the cloud" where we share the story of our own cloud migration - which has delivered impressive results including significant scalability benefits, and cost-savings of approximately 50%.