Security in the Cloud

The result of last month's NetWorks eNewsletter survey was not surprising. 47% of those who answered our poll about Cloud stated that security in the cloud is their number one concern. Over and over in articles about cloud computing, small and medium size business clients voice their apprehension about the security of their business critical data if hosted within "the cloud".

Where does this concern stem from? It is directly related to one of the next major concerns about cloud: loss of control and reliability. Businesses that host their services in the cloud don't have control over how the infrastructure is architected, supported or controlled. How can you be confident in a service that is not fully under your control? Inherently the cloud means that your data can be "anywhere", and typically, many cloud services are running in a multi-tenant environment. Don't these issues automatically raise red flags?

It is important that each individual business assess their individual needs and not get caught up in the hype. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the service or infrastructure that is supporting your business applications, the better equipped you are to make an informed decision about the best solution for you. With knowledge, a business can then choose the best solution from a cost, ease of management and protection perspective.

Although it would be nice to have the luxury of investing in a geographically redundant, completely dedicated platform, that is not economically feasible for most small and medium businesses. You also can not afford to take this requirement lightly. So where is the middle ground?

At Primus, when our clients express security as a concern, we demonstrate our value-add. When we compare our service to security measures that our client has internally, the differences are astronomical. Hosted cloud providers are experts in this business and typically have many more security controls in place. An Enterprise-grade cloud solution available "as a service" to the SMB is typically much more redundant and secure than any in-house solution being considered - so you may actually benefit from a hosted security deployment.

With that in mind, there are still some cases in which clients feel that data security and management in some environments mean they are not suitable for their business-critical applications. Even internal private cloud infrastructures are at risk if the hypervisor is not properly configured. The hypervisor is the single point of access to an entire virtual environment, so you need to ensure that you have the right skill sets in-house to manage this environment effectively. This risk can be mitigated through several guidelines, however one of the most important ones is to ensure that VMs of different security levels are not supported by the same hypervisor. In this situation, a hybrid cloud might be the right approach.

Security should be addressed in the cloud just like it is addressed in any environment. You should assess your requirements for encryption and firewalls, as well as your requirements to have a full unified threat management system in place that will provide your server environment with the perimeter guard that will keep your business safe.

There are many different solutions to your security concerns, and each cloud implementation may be a little different with a mix of public, private and dedicated cloud resources-all with security policies that meet that specific business application's requirement.

The bottom line is this is your business and you need to ensure that your data is secure. Firewalls, UTM with secure VPN options, encryption and assessing single tenant, dedicated hypervisor options should be on your radar. Make sure that you utilize the cloud whenever possible to take advantage of the multitude of benefits that are sweeping the industry - but do so when it feels comfortable to you. Engage experts to consult on your situation and to provide you with an assessment of exactly how ready your business is for the cloud. Security will always be a growing concern, but mitigation is key and trusting in a suitable partner may provide you with the relief you need.

Laura Stevenson
Director of Product Management
Primus Business Services