Private Cloud Security: Pros and Cons

Published: April 17, 2019

Private cloud security: What’s the difference?

As companies migrate workloads to a cloud infrastructure, one of the most important decisions they make is whether to use a public or private cloud. While some applications and services are perfectly suited to a public cloud environment, mission-critical workloads handling sensitive data are often a better match for a private cloud.

Security is usually at the heart of the decision. By keeping workloads, services and databases behind corporate firewalls in a private cloud, organizations control how to protect their IT assets from prying eyes, something that is more challenging when sharing a public cloud with other entities. That’s the upside. The downside is that control comes with complexity and cost since you’re no longer leveraging a third party’s shared security infrastructure.

What Is Private Cloud?

A private cloud typically resides inside the organization’s infrastructure, emulating the public cloud model with virtualized resources that deliver the flexibility, scalability and agility a modern business requires to compete in today’s dynamic markets. Building a cloud in house, of course, requires expertise and resources to maintain and secure the infrastructure, something that not all companies have the wherewithal to handle.

However, a private cloud doesn’t necessarily have to be behind the corporate firewall. There are providers that host private clouds with dedicated connections that eliminate the need to share connectivity or infrastructure with other companies. In this model, security is approached much the same as in a public cloud , with the provider maintaining and updating the security infrastructure on behalf of clients.

Private clouds are best suited to environments handling highly sensitive data such as medical, finance and legal records, as well as trade secrets and proprietary information. Industries such as healthcare, finance and retail have to comply with strict regulations and standards. They have to ensure proper controls are in place and know where the data is at all times. A private cloud helps gives you full control of the implementation and administration of the security apparatus to ensure compliance.

Is It Really More Secure?

It’s a fair question to ask if a private cloud is truly more secure than the public model. After all, a company with shoddy security practices for its on-premise network may not do much better in securing a private cloud. If you’re a bad driver, that doesn’t change regardless of whether you drive a beat-up old rust-bucket or a shiny new souped-up sports car.

That aside, a private cloud is inherently more secure for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you’re not using a multitenant public cloud environment where nosy neighbors potentially might gain access to some of your data, whether intentionally or not. The other reason is that since you presumably already have a security infrastructure in place for your on-premise network – and data center, if you have one – you should already have a solid foundation to secure your private cloud.

Whether you secure a virtual or physical environment on premise, the security controls are essentially the same. You’ll still need firewalls to filter incoming and outgoing traffic, round-the-clock monitoring to head off issues before they cause major problems, network segmentation to control data flow between different parts of the network, user authentication and endpoint protection.

And to keep up with the latest threats, you should take advantage of threat intelligence feeds, as well as advanced tools and practices such as penetration testing and machine learning algorithms trained to spot previously unknown threats.

Downside of Private Clouds

There is much to recommend a private cloud from a security standpoint, but as already noted there is also a downside. You are responsible for all of the management, maintenance and security tasks involved in running a private cloud, unless you leverage a hosting service for the cloud – or parts of it. In time, you have to replace servers and upgrade the physical infrastructure to keep up with added demand and technology advances.

All of this translates to cost and complexity. You need an IT staff with updated skills to keep the private cloud operating as it should. And where the operation of a private cloud touches users outside IT, it’s important they understand how to access the data and applications handled in the private cloud. Before the implementation of a private cloud, all stakeholders should be brought up to speed on how it will impact their lives.

A private cloud is certainly a big responsibility, but when you think about it, the same is true for any on-premise environment. The upshot is you get a more scalable, flexible infrastructure than legacy networks, and you get control over security. And while it’s costly and complex, it’s certainly worth considering.

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