Now that cloud adoption has gained traction in most organizations, there are fewer conversations about whether migrating processes and workloads to the cloud is necessary. The accessibility, collaboration, and scalability of these tools has transformed the business world. However, every cloud vendor has different strengths and weaknesses, encouraging many innovators to explore ways to maximize the benefits of multiple cloud platforms.
Simply put, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are deployment models that integrate more than one cloud. Multi-cloud strategies involve multiple providers of public cloud services (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.), each of which is responsible for a specific workload. Hybrid cloud setups, on the other hand, feature at least one private cloud or on-prem data center and one public cloud. The former solution appears more modern and streamlined on paper. Adoption of multi-cloud solutions also can’t be ignored, as 81% of public cloud users reported they were using the services of multiple cloud vendors, according to a 2020 Gartner survey.
But the question remains: is a multi-cloud strategy safe for your business? The short answer is “yes,” but there are considerations you should understand before implementing. Here’s what you need to know.
The Good News First
Multi-cloud offers a wide array of benefits to your business, the most commonly cited of which is the avoidance of vendor lock-in. This benefit has become something of a buzzword and may be overblown, but it can result in better leverage when negotiating with providers and greater flexibility to drop a service that isn’t meeting expectations.
This approach also enables companies to leverage the unique technological strengths of different providers, giving IT teams a more modular experience in building infrastructure. Other benefits include cloud computing cost optimization, which enables load switching between high- and low-priority systems as cost dictates; and data sovereignty requirements for different geographies, which allows for transference of loads to local data centers where necessary.
But we’re here to discuss safety. And when it comes to security, there are unique aspects to a multi-cloud system.
Security is Still Your Problem
With multiple big-name cloud providers involved, you might think that security would be automated within each solution and taken off your plate. This is not the case. No matter how many cloud platforms are introduced, company leadership is still responsible for security, compliance, and governance of all data. There are robust security and management tools included with each platform, but these must be mastered within your organization. Cybersecurity challenges may arise if blind spots and leaks are left for attackers to exploit.
The greater the amount of technology that a company has connected to the internet, the greater the “surface area” for an attack. More online resources also result in a bigger operational footprint to manage, complete with more moving parts, more communication pathways, and more processes to secure. The speed at which changes are notated and made visible can also become an issue, as alerts may be slow to register in such a large, varied multi-cloud operation. Keeping tabs on the true configuration state across environments—from development to test to production—is absolutely critical.
It all comes down to maintaining IT operational proficiency within a company. If multi-cloud security is of concern, consider establishing consistent, scalable processes for key cloud platform practices such as deployment, access control, and monitoring. There’s no such thing as “secure enough,” so companies also need to create strategic watermarks that they can pursue, such as resilience versus cost savings. With these in mind, security objectives can be more easily set.
Making Multi-Cloud Safer, One Service at a Time
Whatever an organization’s goals may be, there are defined points that will need to be secured in a multi-cloud system. The approach can be as safe as you want it to be. It all starts with a look at the cloud services and deployment models your organization chooses.
For example, let’s start with SaaS deployments, during which access control and bot filtering for logins and APIs become apparent. Many robust tools exist for this use case, including web application and API protection (WAAP) services. All external connections need to be managed to prevent exposure of confidential data and injection of unauthorized commands—the infamous SolarWinds hack underscores the importance of this measure.
The concept of zero trust architecture—explained in this special publication by NIST—applies to this layer as well. With multiple cloud systems in play for your business, there’s a significantly high chance that attackers can and will compromise at least one of them. By establishing a system of zero trust, in which “there is no implicit trust granted to assets or user accounts based solely on their physical or network location,” companies can effectively “move defenses from static, network-based perimeters to focus on users, assets, and resources.” Newer security methods such as multi-factor authentication fall under the umbrella of zero trust architecture and should be applied where possible.
When it comes to PaaS security, organizations must consider the security of the application deployment processes. Many of these applications use platform services outside of the application itself, such as software-defined networking, data storage, code/container storage, and database and messaging services. Each of these needs its own dedicated security review. Every one of these systems—along with its orchestrating and automation tools—must be strongly authenticated, have tight authorization, and be encrypted from eavesdropping.
This brings us to the infrastructure level. Every previous safeguard should be in place at this point. Once achieved, hardening and patching of the operating system can begin. And just like the other tiers, how each cloud provider runs virtualized systems and how operating system images are configured can vary greatly. A higher level of networking service configuration will be done here, entailing additional management of network access control.
As you can see, as long as proper precautions are taken, a multi-cloud approach is indeed safe for your organization. Methodical planning and meticulous attention to detail, as with many instances in the IT world, can lead to great results. Working with a partner like Capstone IT can ensure that you always have teams on hand to make ongoing changes and patches, optimize your solution from the full ecosystem of cloud vendors, and mitigate threats from inside and outside your multi-cloud architecture.
Ready to transform your organization with a multi-cloud approach? Learn more about how Capstone IT can help.