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Is Public Cloud Security Good Enough for Your Business

By: Blair Felter on March 11, 2020

Today’s organizations have a lot of choices when the time comes for them to build and deploy their IT systems. Whether they’re starting from scratch or looking to migrate to a new solution, their first choice will often come down to deciding whether or not they can get by with a public cloud solution that allows them to shift their IT spend from CapEx to OpEx and get out from under the burden of managing infrastructure.

Many of them, however, will quickly find that public cloud security may not be up to the standards they need from their infrastructure. Before making a change, it’s important to evaluate whether or not public cloud security standards and practices will be sufficient for an organization’s requirements.

What is Public Cloud Security?

Business leaders who recall the early years of public cloud platforms may be understandably concerned about how well-equipped they are when it comes to managing security threats. The idea of storing valuable data in virtualized servers that would be shared with other cloud customers not only sounded like a potential security issue, but also underscored the lack of control IT departments had over their data once it migrated into the cloud.

Fortunately, time and experience have demonstrated that the public cloud doesn’t present an inherent security threat. The image of the cloud as a massive virtual box with data leaking out of it simply hasn’t been born out by reality over the last two decades. While circumstances vary, most reputable public cloud providers have worked hard to develop robust security measures to protect their virtual infrastructure from increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats. For small businesses that don’t face substantial compliance requirements, the security features of public cloud platforms are often more than sufficient to meet their needs.

Public vs Private Cloud Security

The core difference between public vs private cloud security has to do with access and control. While a public cloud is managed by a third-party provider, private clouds are typically a customized environment that an organization manages itself for its own unique needs. For companies with specific security requirements, that’s a big differentiator. Most public cloud providers don’t offer customers much in terms of control or visibility when it comes to infrastructure and access controls.

Fundamentally, public clouds also remain a shared infrastructure. While there are a variety of virtualization techniques that ensure each customer’s cloud environment remains compartmentalized and separated from the others, the fact remains that they’re still utilizing shared resources within a common system. Many people forget that for all the talk about data being “in the cloud,” cloud systems are still made possible by physical hardware that provides the storage and processing power. That means data stored on a public cloud provider’s servers wind up sharing space on a server with data and applications belonging to other cloud customers.

Private cloud deployments, however, provide organizations with dedicated servers or virtual machines that are wholly separated from external systems. They can be fully customized to whatever security specifications a company needs, which makes them far more flexible than public cloud systems that are delivered as more of a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Even better, private clouds are managed by the customer rather than the provider, meaning there’s no need to worry about who has access to the system.

3 Potential Public Cloud Security Issues

Setting aside the basic challenges posed by compliance and access control, there are a few other potential cloud security issues that apply specifically to the public cloud.

1. Uptime Reliability

Perhaps the greatest issue many companies have with public cloud systems is their uptime reliability. In a world where a few seconds of downtime could prove catastrophic to a business, the fact that Amazon Web Services, which is one of the world’s most widely used public cloud providers, has an uptime SLA of only 99.99% is a serious issue. Private cloud environments and colocation data center services offer much greater reliability, helping companies to maintain higher levels of data availability as they deliver products and services.

2. Trust

When an organization migrates its systems into a public cloud environment, it is placing a lot of trust in the cloud provider to keep it safe and secure. There is an expectation that the cloud provider will stay on the cutting edge of network security trends and keep their systems updated to confront the latest threats. In practice, however, it can be difficult to know whether or not these steps are being taken on a regular basis. Since cloud customers tend to have very little visibility into the public cloud’s back-end infrastructure, they’re often left trusting that the provider has the proper risk mitigation strategies in place to protect their mission-critical systems and data. For many companies, that lack of transparency is a risk too great to ignore.

3. Vendor Lock-In

Getting data and applications into the cloud is easy enough (although it could be more complicated where legacy systems are involved), but getting it back out again often presents serious challenges. Some cloud providers not only require companies to pay hefty fees to repatriate data from their servers, but they may not even provide it in an easily usable format. This problem is far more than an annoyance that hampers organizational flexibility. If a cloud provider faces significant security challenges (perhaps by failing to keep their security software and practices up-to-date), it might be next to impossible for a company to pull its data out and seek an alternative solution. By maintaining control over their own data in a private cloud or a colocation environment, companies can maintain the flexibility they need to respond to emergent threats.

Colocation Security Solutions

For many organizations, there’s nothing more reassuring than having their essential systems hosted on hardware they control and manage themselves. Unfortunately, maintaining a private, on-premises data solution presents a host of additional security problems, not the least of which is managing access and maintaining high levels of uptime.

Colocation data centers provide these companies with the best of both worlds. They can place their own servers within a highly secure and reliable infrastructure while also maintaining complete control over every aspect of their network architecture, system configuration, and data management. Next-generation intelligent monitoring tools, like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site platform, can provide high levels of visibility, allowing customers to manage their colocated assets as easily as if they were in the next room. Carrier-neutral colocation data centers also offer extensive connectivity options such as direct on-ramps to public cloud services, making it possible for customers to access the power of cloud computing without sacrificing the control they need over their systems and data.

While the public cloud is an ideal solution for many companies, many businesses (and especially enterprises) need a more comprehensive solution that delivers greater control and flexibility. Private cloud environments are a much stronger choice for these customers, but for many of them, colocation services offer the best of all possible worlds in terms of security, visibility, and control.

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