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Cloud security: Keeping customers on side during Covid-19

Thu 3 Sep 2020 | Jonathan Sander

Cloud data platforms must develop their security infrastructure to provide customers reliable and robust measures against cyber threats

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way we live and work. The sudden shift towards remote working, as a result of worldwide lockdowns, has prompted businesses to change IT models almost overnight.

Many have turned to the cloud in order to navigate the challenges of remote working by enabling operational continuity. In particular, cloud architectures have enabled businesses with data analytics capabilities, which have been instrumental in keeping businesses online and profitable in the face of uncertainty. As these organisations flock to the cloud, one common concern is security. They want to have the elasticity cake, and eat it safely, too.

According to a June report by Ermetic, nearly 80 percent of companies experienced at least one cloud data breach in the past 18 months. This suggests that cloud security poses a challenge for most businesses.

With cloud platforms powering people’s ability to work remotely during the pandemic, the security issues at the root of these incidents will need to be remedied promptly, or else more caution from business will slow adopting these technologies. That leaves many with painful paths for users who have to connect from home through ill-equipped remote control technologies to on-premises systems.

Organisations can see from the success of their peers that using a cloud platform is a reliable way of tapping into and maximising data analytics capabilities. However, customers must feel confident that using a cloud platform that is at least as secure as the on-premises systems they are leaving behind. Cloud vendors need to reassure their customers that security is at the very core of the cloud infrastructure and guide them in their journey to get the most value out of their data.

Educating customers on a secure journey

A common challenge for cloud platform providers is that customers often do not fully understand what it means to operate in the cloud. This means they may attempt to map older security models to new platforms instead of making the most of all that the cloud has to offer.

Another issue, ironically, is they may also too quickly abandon tried and true security approaches in the rush to get to the cloud. Cloud scale and elasticity is often seen as a security challenge rather than something that enables them to securely share and acquire live data, but security teams have often dreamed of the kind of completely ephemeral systems at the core of today’s cloud platforms.

Evidently, there is still education to be done by cloud providers to deliver customer success. Cloud providers need to work closely with customers to ensure their understanding of available security features and encourage an awareness of how such features impact the privacy of their data.

If customers can see the secure nature of the platform first-hand and understand the specific benefit to their business, they are more likely to invest further in cloud architecture and incorporate this into their data analytics strategies. They will find much of what they do today is still there in the cloud if they look at the right angle. Much of what they see missing are things that the cloud simply makes obsolete, and that’s a hard thing to see if the cloud providers don’t do their part to explain everything well.

Cloud vendors must take their customers on a journey and provide expert counsel on the developments in security infrastructure, especially when these security features are unique to the cloud vendor.

For example, adopting a Zero Trust approach to data security, whereby the security set-up is configured to not automatically trust anything inside or outside its platform’s infrastructure, will strongly mitigate the risk of data breaches. Only verified users can gain access to crucial data sets.

Many identity access management providers already integrate this into their services, but it is key for cloud platforms to do the same at the core of the platform’s design. Companies must adopt a policy that is fully authenticated and is built on testing.

A common misconception is all attacks can be repelled if one simply puts in one complete security solution. The reality is that there will always be vulnerabilities and no system can ever claim to be entirely impenetrable.

What cloud platforms have done is monetised good security by making it a feature they use to breed confidence and customer investment. The kind of thorough, layered, “defense in depth” approach that traditional IT has struggled to build and maintain on-premises is a board level priority for the cloud vendor. A Zero Trust approach has been nearly impossible for traditional, on-premises solutions, but is the norm for cloud platforms by design.

Traditional siloed data storage must also be duplicated, shared and backed up, which often creates multiple different copies of important data. This can harm data governance and damage the integrity and consistency of company data sets.

The cloud, by contrast, is ensuring companies can sleep easy knowing that in the event of a disaster, cloud-based solutions build in high availability and offer the kind of cross regional recovery most on-premises solutions could only dream about.

If customers are aware of the wide-ranging security benefits and HA/DR features of their cloud platform, they’ll remain confident in the protection of their data. Cloud vendors need to do their part to make sure they communicate this clearly.

Long-standing misconceptions and recently formed misimpressions about cloud technology are both common. Only cloud vendors who take their customers on the right journey to understand the new approaches will succeed.

Moving away from on-premises solutions

Working from home has changed the dynamics of how companies address security policy, as it can no longer be built solely around on-premises solutions or physical resources. Data security instead must be able to work remotely, too, and cloud platforms are built to guarantee secure data storage integrity wherever the workforce is located.

While this is an acceleration of changes that were already happening, companies are now forced to consider remote data storage as a necessity, rather than a luxury. For cloud providers, it is vital to ensure security takes a more prominent role in discussions around data stored in the cloud so that customers know and trust the built-in security protections of the platforms that they are working with.

With more data being accessed through the cloud than from physical locations, we’re only going to see more investment and transparency in cloud platform security offerings for customers. When migrating to the cloud, customers must be assured that their data is in the safest hands possible.

Given the emphasis on remote working, and the subsequent shift to cloud infrastructure, it has never been more vital that cloud data platforms continue to develop their security infrastructures to provide customers with more reliable and robust measures against the threat of cyberattacks.

Experts featured:

Jonathan Sander

Field CTO

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