For many years there has been a constant flux and debate across the security industry concerning Public Cloud and On-Premise security deployments. Data security is becoming more and more crucial for businesses as cyberattacks are on the rise and will continue this upward trend – there’s no escaping this. Data can mean many things – chat telemetry, documents, images, voice, video, audio and so on. Companies need to determine which form of data security is a better fit for their needs and their customers.
But what is on-premise and public cloud data security?
With on-premise security, your servers and data are physically located in your office or private data center, and you protect the data by utilizing backup and disaster recovery policies and procedures to extract the data when you need it during a catastrophic failure. The security, management and maintenance of your network is up to the organization and its IT department unless the organization decides to outsource support.
With public cloud-based security, a third party company hosts the servers and data for the organization in a data center. These companies can assist in managing a customer’s network and the security around the customers applications and infrastructure.
Cloud environments have traditionally had a reputation for being less secure than on-premise. While organizations are justified in their trepidation when considering a cloud migration especially considering the number of breaches recorded over the year. Cloud’s security is not inherently second-class and the paradigm has evolved over the years for highly security conscious organization. Rather, the challenge in securing a cloud environment is based in fundamental differences between on-premises and cloud environments.
For example, some of the factors that address the fundamental differences in security, scale and control are listed below,
When using an on-premise solution, organizations benefit from a very high level of control over their data. This control is further enhanced using the right processes and applications to enable greater transparency and enterprise-wide visibility. As long as an organization’s on-premise environment has sufficient visibility, IT departments will be able to control and easily manage every security tool, deploy customized tools, and adjust the security infrastructure when needed.
On the other side of this, IT departments have much less control over public cloud. Many security tools designed for on premises data centers cannot be ported to the cloud. As a result, many organizations are forced to revert to off the shelf and commercial tools – creating a gap in visibility and control. Although organizations utilizing the cloud must relinquish some control, many public cloud providers have become very effective by providing tools for cloud management.
Responsibility and Accountability
Currently, only 5% of cloud security failures are the fault of a cloud provider – meaning that 95% of all breaches can be attributed to the customers. This brings in the notion of shared responsibility and accountability across the cloud provider and customer. Usually organizations would bring in a Security Analyst to conduct the customers application and cloud security risk assessment to mitigate any initial risks. On-premise environment do still provide that degree of accuracy with security where we mention above, the level of control is leveraged by customized security tools and processes which are in the customers hands versus the cloud providers.
One of the main value propositions for the cloud is its scalability. While many may believe that the cloud’s scalability creates security risks via an increased attack surface, this may not be entirely accurate. In “theory”, the size of the security tools should scale alongside a cloud deployment. However, in execution this may prove to be a logistical and costly nightmare for many small to medium sized organization whom maybe resource constrained.
On the other hand, on-premises security is more hands-on. Unlike cloud tools which are mostly API driven interconnected with many different modules and system, on-premise security tools are often static and not necessarily connected, and may not use APIs. A majority of on-premise security tools are perimeter based. While these security options will be sufficient for a completely on-premise or private cloud deployment, they require regular assessments to ensure there are no security holes.
An on-premise deployment also benefits from VPN security. With VPN and API based security tools, an organization’s threat protection will grow at the same pace as the public cloud.
So which one is better?
For most of us this question can be a mixture of objective and subjective opinions and feelings. But ultimately the short answer is that either ecosystem could be a good fit for your business.
Let’s try and address the benefits of both.
On-premises solutions are infinitely customizable because your entire network, servers and data, are in your office or data center. While this could be costly, it allows organizations to develop a customized solution fit for their specific needs.
Regulation and Compliance
Many companies, especially those in the legal, healthcare, financial services and security industries, must comply with compliance regulations related to the storage and sharing of data. And many of these industries opt for managing applications and data within on-premise and private cloud deployments because of the flexibility and customizable options that are available. It is this flexibility/options that assist organizations to comply with industry laws and regulations much more easily than through a public cloud deployment. Organization with strict cybersecurity policies might feel more comfortable housing their data in the office instead of hundreds/thousands of miles away in an unknown data center.
In-House IT Personnel
Organizations who already have an internal IT function, could benefit from keeping an organization’s cybersecurity tools and policies in-house. While the up-front investments for hardware/software can add up, you would already have dedicated staff to manage the infrastructure after it's up and running, keeping data both secure and close by.
On-premise security can have cheaper up-front cost for small to medium sized businesses, especially if you already have in-house IT function. If an organization purchases its own servers, that investment could last a long time. Additionally, already having dedicated internal IT staff could save organizations the money of having to outsource support. The caveat is that there is a continuous cost to maintain and repair hardware which can add up and of course, the depreciation and outdating of hardware.
Objectively or subjectively, businesses in theory could find the public cloud to be more secure because their data isn't physically at the office for hackers or employees with bad intentions to easily take. Technically this lessens the odds of a data breach.
Additionally, your cloud-based data isn't as susceptible to acts of nature because data centers usually have strengthened walls and advanced fire/temperature gauging systems, among other security features and public cloud data center employees are there solely to protect your data.
While on-premise setups can also keep data secure with high efficiency from the start, as a cloud system learns your network and grows with you, over time it can become more secure than on-premise security.
Regulation and Compliance
While companies who must comply with data security regulations might be hesitant to keep data in the cloud, as long as their cloud security provider does their due diligence in staying compliant and up to code, risk could be mitigated. As mentioned earlier, there is the share responsibility and accountability factor played here. On-premise deployments do have the strongest adherence to compliance and regulation, however public cloud deployments will eventually catchup.
Technology evolves at a rapid pace that what's cutting-edge today can quickly become obsolete tomorrow. If on-premise data centers break or become obsolete, the cost and time to move data can be a burden.
With public cloud storage, data is housed in a data center forever. This is especially a benefit, because as more operations move online, having data already in a public cloud can streamline business processes.
Downtime can have a significant impact on businesses. The public cloud could be a solution to mitigate this problem, because it backs up your data in multiple places and can be restored very easily and fast.
Scalability is an area where the cloud has a clear advantage. With the cloud, it’s very easy to re-adjust resources to meet client demands. For instance, if an organization experienced rapid growth and needed to expand their infrastructure and computing power, the public cloud could do this with ease.
Get to the point – so which one is better??
The short answer is – depends on your priorities! Either type of security model could be a good fit for your organization. The BEST answer is that in these modern times, on-premise deployments are sometimes interchangeable and implemented as private or hybrid cloud deployments and vice versa. It’s all about the design - the private cloud deployment, if done correctly through carefully designed security protocols can reap benefits from both on-premise deployments integrated with public cloud services either onsite or offsite depending on the investment an organization is willing to make upfront and the deployment is strictly designed to service the nature of the organization and its customers. For example, certain less risk but scalable services can be deployed to the public cloud infrastructure which could be isolated from an on-premise or private cloud deployment or a multi-hop secure proxy service or a secure Network Operations Center (NOC) could be in place if the on-premise and public cloud services needed to integrate or exchange data or configuration across an organizations services.
In these times of cybersecurity disarray and with a grim outlook for the future with the rise of more sophisticated breaches with huge financial investments behind these attacks and cutting-edge tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) being employed by threat actors – the case for private clouds is much stronger than ever.
MindLink as an end-to-end solution can be deployed across as an on-premise deployment but also across a private cloud topology where crucial chat data can be secured within an organization’s network perimeter or data center. MindLink has an API service which could potentially integrate with services across the public cloud following the proper security protocols and after ensuring the policies and technology is in place to facilitate this exchange.
With all we have discussed above, we must remember that compliance and regulation will continue to evolve and become much stricter and robust than ever before. A private cloud deployment may tick all of the boxes for a security conscious organization which wants to flex a little muscle towards public cloud services.