The expense of running and securing in-house IT systems means enterprises are increasingly migrating their applications to the cloud. A dilemma facing many companies is whether to opt for a private or public cloud solution. Here, we examine that choice from a security perspective, explaining which is the best choice for data security.
The inherent security of private cloud
By its nature, the private cloud is more secure than the public cloud. While both options allow companies to store and monitor encrypted data securely behind advanced firewalls, the primary advantage of the private cloud is that the system is not housed in a multi-tenancy infrastructure. For enterprises which store sensitive personal data and have to comply with data protection and privacy regulations, a private cloud is the most secure option. Indeed, it is also ideal for the safe storage of business intelligence data, patents, contracts and legal documentation.
Whether you opt for public or private cloud, of increasing security importance is the physical location of the datacentre. If a business gathers, processes and stores the personal data of EU citizens, the location could affect its ability to comply with GDPR. Data kept on servers in the US, for example, can be legally accessed by the US government for national security purposes. Although companies have no control over this, it would still leave them in direct contravention of GDPR.
Brexit complicates the matter even further. To enable trade deals with non-EU countries, the UK is considering developing its own regulations after the end of the EU withdrawal period. This means, potentially, that UK citizen data needs storing in the UK while EU citizen data needs to be kept within the EU. Indeed, these kinds of regulation are becoming more widespread: Brazil, Australia, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the US state of California all have their own versions of GDPR.
These developments highlight the need to store data in the country from which it originates; a situation that is driving multinational businesses to adopt a global, multi-cloud approach.
Cloud migration can be a challenging process and mistakes along the way can leave data at risk. Organisations may need support to effectively configure a secure cloud network, especially when it is part of a hybrid cloud with a more complex architecture. Only by ensuring that the various parts of the system are properly integrated can data remain secure. Choosing a vendor that offers this level of support is vital for data security, particularly when the enterprise lacks in-house cloud expertise.
Performance vs security
While private cloud has the edge when it comes to security, it doesn’t offer the performance and scalability of public cloud. One of the major attractions of public cloud is that it can instantly deliver almost unlimited CPU, bandwidth, RAM and storage capacity, on a pay per use basis.
For enterprises who need security, performance and affordable scalability, the solution often comes in the form of a hybrid cloud where applications run on the public network and data is held on the private one.
Monitoring your systems
When an enterprise uses either public cloud or vendor-hosted private cloud, the management and monitoring of the system are carried out by the service provider. This will ensure continuity by monitoring resource allocation and system health. Cloud vendors will also deploy sophisticated tools like next-gen firewalls to monitor the system security and defend against intrusion.
At the same time, organisations should also monitor their own operations to assess how well their applications are performing and to add an additional layer of security.
The situation can be more challenging for private clouds operated from an in-house datacentre. Here organisations will need the expertise in place to deploy and manage the monitoring systems and may need to pay for the software licences.
Cloud vendors are strictly regulated to ensure the systems they provide for their customers are highly secure and this applies to both public and private cloud options. However, enterprises that gather, process and store personal and sensitive data and which need to comply with regulations like GDPR will find single-tenancy private cloud is the most secure solution.
The downside of adopting a purely private cloud is that it lacks the scalability that the public cloud offers and the associated financial benefits. For companies wanting both the security of private cloud and the advantages of public cloud, hybrid cloud is the practical option. This, however, requires careful migration planning to guarantee that the different elements of the system are correctly integrated and that data remains secure.
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