9 Exact Steps for Complete Private Cloud Security

Posted on by Mark Gibson | Updated:
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Why should we be concerned with private cloud security? And when thinking about security, should you choose private cloud vs public cloud?

Defined as the delivery of hosted services, including software, hardware, and storage, over the Internet, cloud computing has evolved drastically over the past ten years and stats indicate no signs of it slowing down any time soon. 

According to the Hosting Tribunal, 94 percent of enterprises already use a cloud service, and Gartner predicts that 40 percent of all enterprise workloads will be deployed in CIPS (cloud infrastructure and platform services) in 2023, up from only 20 percent in 2020.”

If you are looking at moving to the cloud, there are plenty of options to choose from.

When it comes to the cloud service market, providers typically distinguish between three service models: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.

  1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where you pay for software and database access, while the service provider manages the cloud platform and infrastructure.
  2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where you are granted access to a computing platform in the form of an operating system, web servers, databases, and access to programming language environments.
  3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offers each resource as a separate service component, allowing you to pay only for what you currently use. Resources include off-site storage (backup), virtual machines, and data partitioning.

This means you are faced with the decision of choosing what kind of cloud environment to adopt. Depending on your security priorities and the nature of your business, you may be considering private cloud vs public cloud.

Before discussing the pros and cons of either, let us take a look at the available types of cloud computing.

Types of Cloud Computing

According to their deployment models, cloud types are most commonly categorized as public, private, or hybrid. Further deployment models include multi-cloud, community clouds, distributed clouds, Big Data Clouds, and others.

1. Public Cloud

Simply put, a public cloud is a resource owned by a third party that offers its own infrastructure, applications, and space allocation typically rented for a fee. 

Using a public cloud service allows you to save costs on data center maintenance and organization.

In this case, the cloud service provider manages the virtualization software and provides network support.

Resources are thereby pooled by the provider and distributed via the public Internet or a private connection to multiple customers.

Using a public cloud solution is the simplest in terms of maintenance - the end users need not concern themselves with the costs of renting, maintaining, or operating a data center and can instead focus on using the services provided to them and managed by a third party.

The biggest public cloud providers on the market at this time are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. These companies provide hardware, software, network, storage, and on-site infrastructure in exchange for a fee while putting emphasis on the idea of shared responsibility.

In the end, as you consider private vs public cloud security, know that you are responsible for your own data.

2. Private Cloud

You may opt to use private cloud precisely out of security concerns - multi-tenant public services may suffice for a lot of users, but the ability to keep sensitive data inside your firewall that is managed on-location invariably makes private cloud more secure vs public cloud.

Even if you decide to rent a data center space, the discerning characteristic of a private cloud is its dedication to a single user (as opposed to the previously mentioned multi-tenant system) and isolated access.  If you want more security and privacy, dedicated server hosting may also be a solution.

While you might choose a private cloud in order to best protect your sensitive data, you still need to consider the costs of renting or building infrastructure which will support it, as well as qualified configuration and maintenance personnel. 

For this reason, managed private clouds can be a good solution if your IT staff is scarce or otherwise not specialized in cloud engineering. Managed private clouds offer deployment and maintenance by a third party while still retaining the essential isolated access and dedication to a single end customer. 

A providers like Liquid Web offer a private cloud powered by VMware, which is a secure managed private cloud service that allows you to join resources from two or more physical servers into a single pool of resources that can be distributed through a selected quantity of virtual machines (VMs).

In terms of security, setting up your IT infrastructure in such an environment and distributing resources through VMs creates a valuable separation between system administration access and end-user access. In other words, through VMware, management interfaces are isolated from and security controls (i.e. firewalls, access control lists) added to virtual machines, ensuring extra layers of security.

3. Hybrid Cloud

Both public and private cloud solutions have their benefits, so why not utilize both? 

You might opt to use a hybrid cloud solution, which is essentially an integration of both public and private clouds.

As you consider public vs private cloud security, you may like the scalability and high availability of public clouds while using a private cloud only for the most sensitive business data. 

When properly configured, hybrid clouds allow their users the best of both worlds -  a high degree of sensitive data protection combined with the flexibility of public clouds serving multiple users. This system is highly sought after in the branches of banking, finances, and healthcare as it allows crucial data to be stored on-site while using public resources on-demand. 

This concept is known as cloud bursting and describes applications or processes that might normally run in the private cloud being transferred to the integrated public cloud due to high demand, and scaling back down into the private cloud once additional resources (such as bandwidth and processing speed) are no longer necessary. 

4. Multi Cloud and Other Cloud Models

After examining the hybrid cloud model, it is important to mention the multi-cloud model as well. As opposed to a hybrid model which uses different deployment types, a multi cloud uses multiple cloud services in a single architecture.

As its name suggests, the main feature of this model is the high availability and redundancy of multiple different services provided.

Your organization might like to use the multi-cloud approach for both disaster recovery and optimizing costs between different providers and different services. For instance, your multi-cloud architecture might use a single provider for SaaS solutions, but use another for your platform or infrastructure services.

Other notable models include Big Data clouds (dedicated specifically to storing and analyzing big data), community clouds (where infrastructure is shared between several organizations), and poly clouds (where the multiple services used are with the same provider). 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Cloud for Security

Is Private Cloud More Secure?

Whether you have decided to invest in a private cloud architecture or are just weighing your options, there are pros and cons to be considered.

Assuming that most private cloud users opt for it due to increasing security challenges, here are a few considerations.

What are the Advantages of Private Cloud?

1. Security

It is up to you to configure the cloud in a way that fits the needs of your business precisely. Behind your firewall and with exclusive access for the end user, a private cloud solution is an excellent fit if you want to keep your sensitive data secure and under control.

2. Availability

Unlike multi-tenant public cloud solutions, your private cloud caters to your needs alone. Where a public cloud might experience downtime or slow processing speeds due to multiple concurrent requests, a private cloud will, by design, only be available to you and therefore highly available.

Additionally, when utilizing the public cloud, certain security processes (i.e. network monitoring tools, two-factor authentication) need to be compatible with your vendor’s systems, thereby making you dependent on the vendor for security concerns.

3. Customization and Functionality

As the resources of a private cloud are not shared, the internal IT staff can decide precisely how to manage and configure the resources available. Everything from the operating system to the small application tweaks is up to you, and the cloud functions can be tailored to your specific needs.

When identifying your needs, it is important that you consider your existing IT team and their specialized knowledge along with the costs of investment and maintenance. Securing a public cloud takes a lot of learning, and the skills of current staff often do not translate. 

From that standpoint, the ability to customize and directly manage every resource on a private cloud invariably minimizes potential security risks that stem from a lack of skill by allowing you to swiftly implement additional security tools and measures or reconfigure existing ones.

What are the Disadvantages of Private Cloud?

1. Cost of Infrastructure

The majority of private clouds are third-party infrastructure leases, which do involve higher costs for management and operation overhead.

However, if you are concerned with the safety of your data, another option is to invest in your own infrastructure which comes with its own costs and is less flexible than hosted clouds. Bare metal servers, routers or switches, cooling devices, and cables all come into account when considering an on-premises approach.

2. Maintenance

If you choose to host on-site infrastructure, maintenance is a consideration, whether hardware, software, or network security. Alternatively, if you host third-party infrastructure, you will have full management handled by the cloud provider.

This will either decrease your IT department’s available time for other duties or might require additional employees when hosting in-house. It is also crucial that your IT staff is knowledgeable in both server and cloud maintenance, especially pertaining to cloud security.

3. Decreased Flexibility

In general, a public cloud host will offer scaling services in case of high demand. If your resources can suddenly no longer accommodate the demands upon it, a flexible scaling model might be offered. In this case, you are accommodated with more resources for a specific amount of time, or until the high demand has passed. 

This can be supplemented in private clouds by cloud bursting; however, if you aren’t willing to invest in a hybrid model, high scalability of services will not be available to you.After all, you are using precisely those resources you have configured for use.

How to Secure Your Private Cloud

Here are the nine steps you need to take to secure your private cloud and avoid any security issues:

1. Keep Your Data Safe

Use a threat detection system and log management to monitor access to your data and look for unfamiliar activity, security policy violations, anomalies, or other malicious activity. Services such as F5 AIP can help with detecting threats in real time.

2. Build-In Physical Security

Even if your network is as secure as possible, data can still be breached in case of poor physical security around your private cloud. With managed hosting, physical security is taken care of for your organization.

Access to the data center is strictly monitored and only authorized individuals can access servers.

3. Have a Disaster Recovery Measure in Place

Implement local and remote backup solutions such as Acronis Cyber Backups. Also, ensure that backups are taken frequently, on a recurring schedule, and tested for functionality. Finally, ensure backups are on different mediums so that if one fails or a backup contains ransomware, you have others to restore from.

4. Educate Your Staff

You need to confirm that your staff consists of educated and experienced teams of security experts who are well versed in security standards and cloud security best practices. Also, include regular security awareness drills for administrators, developers, and end users to tighten down your organization’s security posture.

5. Data Encryption

Check if your organization is using data encryption, a method of security that encodes data and only allows decrypted access to the user with the appropriate encryption key. Data encryption provides security beyond securing data with a strong password or two-factor authentication.

6. Firewall

Filter traffic to your infrastructure using a physical or logical device known as a firewall. Firewalls act as a security gatekeeper, keeping healthy traffic flowing in while blocking different types of malicious web traffic from entering your private cloud.

7. Server Hardening

Further secure your server with security configurations, known as server hardening or system hardening, to diminish your private cloud’s openness to security vulnerabilities. The exposure, or attack surface, is the totality of the flaws and entry points that cyber attackers can use to compromise a system.

8. Website Security

For those hosting websites on private cloud, increase security for your site using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. SSL certificates are the global security standard in technology, providing encrypted communication between web servers and browsers. There are many types of SSL certificates to choose from, depending on your unique needs.

9. Web Application Protection

Deploy a web application firewall (WAF), DDoS Server Protection, and appropriate domain name system (DNS) security to mitigate exposure to cyber attacks such as DDoS, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), cross-site scripting (XSS), and SQL or remote code injection.

Choosing the Best Cloud Security for Your Private or Public Cloud

Whether you decide that a public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid solution is your best choice for your security needs, make sure it’s the right choice for you.

The incredible rise in popularity cloud services have seen in the last couple of years is due to the fact that they are easily accessible and incredibly flexible. One thing is for certain, and that is the guarantee that cloud services are here to stay. With proper research, you are bound to find a service that works for you.

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About the Author

Mark Gibson

Mark is a Linux Technician at Liquid Web. Formerly a collegiate athlete and a San Diego State graduate, Mark is excited about the opportunity to keep building upon his IT career and pursuing his passion for Information Technology.

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