Cloud security: Why clouds are more secure than your own datacenter

| 15th August, 2016

Widely acknowledged as one of the most disruptive technologies, cloud technology has caused such a paradigm shift in IT infrastructure management that we can divide history into pre-cloud and post-cloud era. Without cloud and mobility, companies like Facebook, Uber, Alibaba and Airbnb would be difficult to imagine.

Yet, there are still many businesses that think that owning IT infrastructure (on-premise data centers, for example) is preferable to cloud-based infrastructure because it is not safe enough. Their fear is buttressed by the fact that every other day they hear of a data breach or hacking incident.

Naturally, such companies often cite security as the main reason not to subscribe to cloud computing, but reality is that the major cloud providers have far deeper IT security funding and expertise than any bespoke datacenter.

The reason is very simple. It is the responsibility of the cloud companies to protect their customers from any kind of security threats and breaches. Think of the business impact to these cloud providers should they be breached. The impact would be devastating for the cloud service provider’s business—it is not one but 100’s of organizations that could suffer due to the breach. So, for a cloud service provider, security is a critical core competence.

For example, in November last year, Microsoft announced that over the past year, the IT giant has invested some US$1 billion in security and doubled its number of security executives. It even announced the launch of a new managed security services group and a new cyber defense operations center. As a vendor, Microsoft is doing all this as part of its new strategy of holistic and integrated security across its products and services.[1]

Now, which big enterprise would spend that kind of money and resources for security?

On-premise infrastructure can surely give you more control because it’s on-site—your IT team will have complete control over the data and if you want, you can keep data from ever leaving your premises. However, we have seen time and again that most breaches occur as an inside job. Comparatively, a cloud provider will offer you way more security than you could ever achieve on your own. How many times have you heard of security breaches due to unauthorized physical access to a cloud host’s data centers? Rather, employees are the weakest link when it comes to security.

On the contrary, cloud providers are paranoid about security risks throughout their technology stack and alert their customers immediately about any potential threat or disturbance. In fact, they are so proactive that they are continuously looking out for any potential attacks using pattern matching technology and AI systems.

Also, a cloud provider will have secure servers hosted in a variety of locations regionally or globally. This safeguards data better than keeping it on-premise.

That’s why hackers and cyber criminals find enterprise data centers as easy targets. Often, most enterprise data systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks or data breaches because they are typically a mix of technologies from different times (offering more gaps to users) and infrastructure is often aging, hence less secure.

As far as uptime is concerned, cloud systems can better guarantee uptime. According to IDC's study on companies using cloud services, the benefits of the vendor’s scale and size led to significantly fewer disruptions and lower costs. In the case of Amazon Web Services (AWS), IDC found that end users benefited from fewer service disruptions and quicker recovery, reducing downtime by 72% and saving nearly $32,600 per application per year.”[2] It’s no wonder that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a $600 million contract for cloud services with AWS.[3]

CIOs should wake up and smell the coffee. You are not Google or J P Morgan to be able to spend millions and billions on your datacenter’s security. Cloud is your best bet for data security.

[1] http://www.darkreading.com/endpoint/microsoft-invests-$1-billion-in-holistic-security-strategy/d/d-id/1323170

[2]IDC, Randy Perry, “The Business Value of Amazon Web Services Accelerates Over Time,” December 2013.

[3]Mike Kavis, Forbes, “2015 Outlook For Enterprise Cloud Adoption”, November 4, 2014.