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Seven Elements of a Strong Cloud Security Strategy

Cloud security is gaining importance at many organizations, as cloud computing becomes mainstream. Most organizations use cloud infrastructure or services, whether software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and each of these deployment models has its own, complex security considerations.

Cloud systems are shared resources and are often exposed to, or exist on, the public Internet, and so are a prime target for attackers. In recent years, many high profile security breaches occurred due to misconfigured cloud systems, which allowed attackers easy access to sensitive data or mission critical systems. This is the reason why securing cloud systems requires a comprehensive program and strategy to embed security throughout the enterprise’s cloud lifecycle.

A cloud security strategy is the foundation of successful cloud adoption. Besides significantly increasing your pace of progress as you embark on the journey, documenting your strategy early will achieve consensus and organizational agreement between business and technical teams on key drivers, concerns and governance principles.

  • 7 Key Elements of a resilient Cloud Security Strategy

Today’s security landscape is complex. Protecting your organization requires accepting the fact that your systems will be breached at some point; therefore, your strategy should contain both pre-breach and post-breach elements. Here are seven key elements of a strong cloud security strategy:

1. Identity and Access Management

All companies should have an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system to control access to information. Your cloud provider will either integrate directly with your IAM or offer their own in-built system. An IAM combines multi-factor authentication and user access policies, helping you control who has access to your applications and data, what they can access, and what they can do to your data.

2. Visibility

Visibility into current cloud architecture should be a priority for your security team. Lack of visibility around cloud infrastructure is one of the top concerns for many organizations. The cloud makes it easy to spin up new workloads at any time, perhaps to address a short-term project or spike in demand, and those assets can be easily forgotten once the project is over. Cloud environments are dynamic, not static. Without visibility to changes in your environment, your organization can be left exposed to potential security vulnerabilities. After all, you can’t protect what you can’t see.

3. Encryption

Your data should be securely encrypted when it’s on the provider’s servers and while it’s in use by the cloud service. Few cloud providers assure protection for data being used within the application or for disposing of your data. So it’s important to have a strategy to secure your data not only when it’s in transit but also when it’s on their servers and accessed by the cloud-based applications.

Encryption is another layer of cloud security to protect your data assets, by encoding them when at rest and in transit. This ensures the data is near impossible to decipher without a decryption key that only you have access to.

4. Micro-Segmentation

Micro-segmentation is increasingly common in implementing cloud security. It is the practice of dividing your cloud deployment into distinct security segments, right down to the individual workload level. By isolating individual workloads, you can apply flexible security policies to minimize any damage an attacker could cause, should they gain access.

5. Automation

Certainly, automation is a key part of building a successful cloud strategy, as is the need to manage IAM policies. We recommend automating everything you can, everywhere you can. This includes leveraging serverless architecture to respond to alerts, making them manageable to avoid alert fatigue and enabling your security operations team to focus on the events that need their attention.

6. Cloud Security Monitoring

Security Monitoring is not only a matter of choosing the right security service provider but it requests that company develop and drive adoption of a standard interface that permits to query the actual security status of specific elements of a provider’s services. In an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, these may include security status of a virtual machine. In a Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS), the patch status of a piece of software may be important. In both of these cases (PaaS and SaaS), applications are provided through the cloud and their update status would need to be monitored. The data will be maintained by the provider in real time, allowing the subscriber to ascertain security levels at any given point in time. The onus is ultimately on the subscriber to ensure its compliance reporting meets all geographical and industry-based regulations.​

7. Secure data transfers

Keep in mind that data is not only at risk when it’s sitting on cloud storage servers, it’s also vulnerable when in transit (i.e. while being uploaded, downloaded or moved on your server). Although most cloud service providers encrypt data transfers as a rule, this is not always a given.

To ensure data is protected while on the move, make certain that transfers go through secure HTTP access and are encrypted using SSL. Your business IT support provider should be able to help you obtain an SSL certificate and configure your cloud service to use it. You may also want to install HTTPS Everywhere on all devices that connect to your cloud.

The role of the cloud and container utilization will significantly grow in 2022 and beyond, as the speed of migrating to hyperscale environments continues to accelerate. Without a sound cloud security strategy, organizations will increase their risk profile as they increase their cloud consumption, opening themselves up to potentially devastating attacks and breaches.

A strong cloud security strategy paired with advanced technology solutions and trusted security partners will help ensure organizations can take advantage of the many unique capabilities and benefits of modern computing environments without incurring additional and unacceptable risk.

What is SaaS and How Does It Benefit Your Company?

SaaS simplifies the procurement of software: Instead of having to install programs locally, your users access the application via the Internet. Find out what other advantages Software-as-a-Service offers your company, how does it differentiate from on-premises software and how it can be successfully introduced.

  • What is SaaS?

With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), programs are made available over the Internet. For this, the application is executed centrally on a server of the provider. Your users access the program via the Internet browser and there is no need to install software locally. SaaS is typically sold as a subscription model. The price is usually graded according to the functionality of the software, the contract period and the number of users.

SaaS is already widespread today. There are numerous applications for companies, such as SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft 365 and Slack. Services such as Netflix or Spotify are popular with private users. Together with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service forms the so-called cloud computing stack. In this way, all important IT services can be obtained over the Internet.

  • How SaaS differs from other As-a-Service models

SaaS forms the top layer of cloud computing, building on the infrastructure and the platform. All three shifts are available as a rental model (“as a service”). The services differ as follows:

With Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), IT resources such as servers, storage and computing power are provided in virtualized form. The advantage: Your company does not have to operate its own data center, but draws its infrastructure from the cloud.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is aimed at your developers. This central cloud environment offers all the important resources for developing and rolling out business applications.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the product of the two previous layers. A platform invisible to the user is built into the program and the software sits on an infrastructure outside of the own organization. It is used via an online interface.

  • SaaS vs. on-premises software

In the age of cloud computing, the question arises for companies: Should we run our software on our in-house servers or obtain it via the Internet? There are good arguments for both variants.

The following points speak in favour of on-premises:

– You can intervene directly in the software, for example to edit configuration files. SaaS, on the other hand, usually does not allow any changes to the program core.

– You are less dependent on well-functioning Internet connections because the software connects to users via the local area network (LAN).

– You retain full control over the server. This can play a role in data protection considerations.

Conversely, the SaaS model can refer to these basic advantages:

  • Because the provider takes care of hosting, maintenance and security management, SaaS solutions cause less effort than the on-premises variant.
  • SaaS solutions scale more easily. You can quickly add new users because there is no need for local installation on a workstation. All that is needed is an internet-enabled device.
  • You can adapt the performance of the software to the needs of your users. In some cases the inexpensive basic version is sufficient, in other cases it has to be the premium version. In contrast, with on-premises software, you often only have the very extensive standard version available.
  • A SaaS solution makes it easier to work with an external managed services provider (MSP) because it gives them direct access to your applications. With on-premises software, however, the scope of action of an MSP is limited.
  • The decision for on-premises software or SaaS should always be made individually, based on the requirements of your company. However, with a view to the future, it is important to consider that the software market is increasingly oriented towards the cloud. Many business applications are already only available in the cloud version.
  • The 7 most important advantages

SaaS offers your company a number of decisive advantages.

1. Benefit from optimal coordination

If you host software locally on servers and computers, you must always ensure that the hardware meets the requirements of the software. With SaaS you avoid this problem: The provider ensures that the infrastructure and software are optimally coordinated.

2. Scale as needed

Depending on the season, you may need more licenses. With SaaS, you can flexibly book relevant users online. It doesn’t matter whether you want to add 3 or 3000 users. Conversely, you can cancel licenses that you no longer need. So you only pay for what you actually use.

3. Set up new workplaces quickly

With SaaS, you can provide new users with a workplace within a few minutes. Your user only needs an internet-enabled device and the access data for the SaaS software. There is no tedious loading of programs onto local computers.

4. Collaborate at a distance

SaaS allows team members who are in different locations to easily collaborate. A good example is Microsoft 365: You can work on the same PowerPoint presentation with your colleagues in Berlin even though you are based in Munich. Changes can be tracked in real time.

5. Benefit from fast innovation cycles

SaaS software often comes up with fast innovation cycles. Thanks to the provision via the cloud, the providers can analyze user behaviour in real time. In this way, the providers receive information about possible problems, bugs and unmet user needs very quickly. Optimizations can be initiated accordingly quickly.

6. Keep your applications up to date

Installing software updates can take up a lot of time. SaaS eliminates this problem: the provider ensures that fixes and patches are installed immediately. Your SaaS application is always up to date without your having to do anything.

7. Rely on the high availability

SaaS providers with thousands of users have a great interest in ensuring that their software is always up and running. That is why they work with redundant systems in order to rule out failures or at least to remedy them very quickly. This high availability is guaranteed by the service level agreement (SLA) of the provider.

Realize your SaaS solution with PATECCO!

Would you like to take advantage of SaaS and do everything right from the start? Then we should talk. PATECCO experts check the current status of your software landscape, prepare a cost-benefit analysis and support you with the implementation. Contact us now for a non-binding initial consultation and we will be happy to support!