Cloud services have many benefits like scalable workloads, cost-effectiveness, collaboration, efficiency, convenience, access to automatic updates and others. However, since the cloud's very nature is of a collective resource, identity management, confidentiality and access control are of particular concern. All of these three factors point in a single major direction – Cloud Security.
Two concepts are of clear importance when we talk about Cloud Security: The first is the Security of a Cloud and the second is Security in A Cloud. Both of these are mutually exclusive concepts and should not be confused with each other. Whenever one wants to opt for a cloud service, he or she should check on both these aspects to make sure that they are opting for a cloud or a cloud service which has all its corners covered.
According to Tech Target, cloud computing security is a set of control-based technologies and policies designed to adhere to regulatory compliance rules and protect information, data applications and infrastructure associated with cloud computing use. This essentially comprises of Security in The Cloud which is protected by multiple layers of restrictions in the form of Cloud Application Security Brokers, Web Application Firewall, policy management, directory services, multi-factor authentication, encryption, etc. While cloud service providers will look into the safety of how and where your data is stored and who has access to that data, there also several third party auditors. They attest that your CSP’s internal process exists and that they are effective in handling the safety of their facility where your data has been stored.
Thus, while you check how secure your cloud is with its internal best practices, it is also important to go for a CSP that has certain certifications and compliances in place like PCI DSS, HIPAA, Gov. Cloud, geo-privacy and others. The documentations you should look for also depend on what kind of business or company you are. For example, The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is an information security standard for organizations that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information. If your clouds have been certified with PCI DSS, it means that all your important card numbers are completely safe with them. Similarly, there are certifications that are concept neutral and overall define the operational capabilities of your cloud. The CMMI Level 3 certificate proves that the CSP has detailed process that guides the product lifecycle from its conception throughout to its delivery and maintenance.
Coming to Security of a Cloud that forms a crucial part of the data security story. It means that data must maintain its integrity under attack. There will always be a time when your data in cloud come in evil hands. The possibility of this is higher in traditional IT systems since not all companies that use IT can follow super-standard security rules having layers over layers of security funds in place.
Now in a cloud paradigm, recovery of your data is as important as its safe storage. Effective cloud disaster recovery provides continuity for services and the ability to fail over to a second site if there is a hardware or software failure of IT systems. In such cases, Service Levels Agreements are of utmost importance since they help in holding the CSP responsible for any data outage or if data cannot be recovered during a disaster. Here, compliances in the form of uptime guarantee, recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives can form a cloud SLA. These too should be kept in mind while deploying your IT infrastructure on cloud.
These are some parameters of judging a cloud’s security capability. Cloud companies like AWS, Azure, ESDS and others have a plethora of certifications that establish their stronghold in its cloud service and security. Checking the various use cases and case studies of companies where it has dealt with challenging security concerns helps in arriving at a decision on selecting a cloud with best in-class security features.