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Cloud Security vs. Network Security: Diversifying Data While Keeping It Protected

Originally published by New Context.

While some organizations still host their data solely on-premises or in the cloud, many companies use a hybrid approach. You may find that cloud environments are ideal for some of your data or applications, but others need to remain on-premises for regulatory compliance or security reasons. Or, you may store the same data in the cloud as well as on-premises for redundancy, ease of access, and disaster recovery. Another increasingly common approach is to host data across multiple cloud providers, which is known as a multicloud environment.

Wherever your critical, sensitive data is stored, you need comprehensive security to protect it, which can get complicated in hybrid or multicloud environments. The tools, policies, and procedures you’ll use to protect your cloud data will be very similar to your network security, but there are a few important differences and challenges you need to be aware of as you formulate your cloud security strategy. Let’s start by doing a comparison of basic cloud security vs. network security.

Cloud Security vs. Network Security Basics

At a basic level, your cloud infrastructure and on-premises infrastructure should be protected by the same physical security barriers—locked doors, access badges, a security guard to keep out unauthorized visitors, etc. The only difference is that your organization is responsible for the physical security of your on-premises infrastructure, and not your cloud infrastructure.

Beyond physical security, however, your cloud provider may leave you with the responsibility of protecting your data. This is because cloud service providers adhere to the shared responsibility model, meaning they’re only responsible for a certain amount of data security, and the rest is up to you. Where that line is drawn will vary by the provider and the cloud service being offered, so you need to carefully read your contract and terms of service to ensure you’re not leaving any gaps in your cloud security.

Security is the number one reason businesses cite for not fully migrating to the cloud. On-premises infrastructure gives you complete control over the storage, access, and security of your data, which is especially important if you have to follow any legal regulations. For example, you might need to be able to list exactly who has access to your data and how it’s being stored and processed, which may not be possible if it’s hosted in the cloud.

Many cloud providers are certified to manage some form of regulated data, for instance with a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) certification. However, unless you visit the data center every day, you can’t know for absolute certain that they’re storing and protecting your data the way they promised to. That’s why some businesses in heavily regulated industries like defense and healthcare choose to keep most of their data on-premises.

The other components of your cloud security strategy will likely be very similar to how you protect your on-premises data. Some security solutions offer both cloud and on-premises services, allowing you to streamline and simplify your data security. However, it’s important to remember that some types of data—PII, credit card numbers, health records, etc.—require special attention to ensure you’re remaining compliant, so a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for your entire hybrid or multicloud environment.

Network Security Specifics

Whatever your reasons for keeping some of your data on-site, you need adequate network security to protect that data and maintain compliance. Some essential components of a network security system include:

  • Access Controls: You need to limit who can log in to your network and which resources they have access to once they’re authenticated.

  • Firewalls: Your firewall will monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic and form a barrier to prevent breaches.

  • IDS/IPS: An intrusion detection or prevention system (IDS/IPS) sits behind the firewall and provides an extra layer of traffic and activity analysis on your network.

  • SIEM: Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems provide comprehensive monitoring and data analysis and can detect and mitigate threats in an automated fashion.

Network security is a broad topic and there are many strategies, software solutions, and methodologies you can use depending on your unique environment. An expert security partner can help you hone in on what your specific needs and requirements are.

Cloud Security Specifics

Though migrating some or all of your data to the cloud comes with many benefits, there are some unique security concerns you’ll need to address.

Lack of Visibility

One of the biggest security issues in the cloud is a loss of visibility—you no longer have control over the infrastructure that houses your data, so you could be caught off guard by a network outage, breach, or hardware failure. To address this issue, you must invest in a comprehensive cloud monitoring tool that will continuously assess your cloud resources to ensure optimal performance, identify vulnerabilities, and mitigate security problems in an automated fashion.

Data Portability

Data portability is a hot-button issue that’s being addressed in many current and upcoming data privacy regulations, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Essentially, data portability is a philosophy stating that every consumer should have the right to move their data from one platform to another without proprietary file types causing compatibility issues.

If you manage data that’s subject to any of these regulations, then you’re responsible for ensuring that your platform allows for consumer data to be easily and securely transferred to another service using compatible filetypes. You’re responsible for the security of that data at every step of the transfer process, but you also must ensure that your cloud security measures don’t interfere with the migration.

APIs and Integrations

When your data and resources are being hosted in the cloud, you’ll likely use APIs to connect that data with your other services and applications. These APIs introduce potential vulnerabilities both to your cloud infrastructure and to the network hosting your applications (whether that’s your network or another provider’s). For example, you may have an on-premises customer relationship management (CRM) solution that’s integrated with several different cloud services and applications. Each of these integrations needs to be monitored and secured to ensure that your customers’ personal information isn’t exposed to a breach.

Protecting and Diversifying Your Data

Keeping your data secure, whether it’s on your on-premises network or in the cloud, will require robust planning and a variety of tools and techniques. You’ll need to determine the risk-reward ratio of cloud security vs. network security to determine the best methods for storing, processing, and protecting your sensitive data. One of the best ways to ensure data security and compliance is to work closely with data security specialists who can help you develop and implement the solutions that work best for your organization.