5 Cloud Computing Best Practices To Follow

Cloud Computing
7 minute read

“The cloud is just someone else’s computer.” 

You’ve probably heard the cliche before, but while it’s vastly oversimplified and neglects the benefits of cloud computing, it points to a key reason that this branch of cybersecurity can be so complex. With so much of your IT infrastructure and digital assets located within an external environment, secure cloud computing presents its own unique challenges — ones that enterprises must consider if they wish to stay safe.

Thankfully, there are several cloud computing best practices you can implement to minimize your attack surface area while taking full advantage of all that the cloud has to offer. This guide will demonstrate the necessity of following these cloud computing best practices, answer some basic questions such as “How does cloud computing work?”, and highlight the top five cloud computing best practices that you should prioritize.

The Importance of Following Cloud Computing Best Practices

The cloud offers businesses all sorts of benefits in such a data-heavy world. By outsourcing your IT infrastructure, platform, or software to a virtual network more suited for the job, cloud computing makes companies more agile, productive, and profitable — with one of the greatest benefits being data storage. 

Cybersecurity Venture’s “2020 Data Attack Surface Report” projects that over 100 zettabytes (100 trillion gigabytes) will be stored on the cloud by 2025. This accounts for half of all data storage, and it’s up from 25% in 2015. Such massive data demands will become increasingly difficult for businesses to manage as the world leans on technology even more. It makes cloud service providers (CSPs) — and the cloud computing best practices that govern them — a critical part of successful business processes.

Having so many of their digital assets in one external location also means that failure to protect their cloud-based data can cost businesses more than ever. Possible consequences of a breach in the cloud include: 

  • Stolen data 
  • Prolonged downtime
  • Lost productivity
  • Compliance violations and subsequent fines
  • Damaged brand trust

These outcomes can affect an organization’s day-to-day business outcomes in multiple ways, but the ultimate outcome of them all is lost profit — which is why following cloud computing best practices is a must. 

Key Best Practices To Follow

If your organization hopes to capitalize on all the cloud computing advantages available to you, you’ll need to follow best practices at every turn. Some of these are more technical, such as implementing data encryption services or multi-factor authentication (MFA), while others involve simple awareness and communication, like understanding industry-specific regulatory requirements or which cloud computing types to use. Other cloud computing best practices exist, but these top five are a good place to start. 

1. Choose the Right Cloud Service Provider (CSP)

The first step in making the switch to the cloud is deciding which CSP is right for you. The three major CSPs are Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), though others — such as IBM Cloud — exist as well.

Choosing the best CSP depends largely on your industry and application, as a business developing natural language processing (NLP) for machine learning may require different services than one specializing in robotic process automation in healthcare. However, there are some questions you may want to ask your future CSP before signing on to help you make the right choice, such as:

  • Where are your servers located geographically?
  • How much technical support do you provide?
  • What are the results of your most recent penetration tests?
  • What is your protocol should security events or incidents occur?
  • What practices for cloud security do you currently implement?

Questions of pricing or technical support are of course important as well, but if its security practices seem to be lacking, consider another provider.

2. Understand the Shared Responsibility Model

Part of determining which CSP fits your business needs is understanding what you’ll expect from them and what they’ll expect from you.

It’s impossible to outsource your entire IT infrastructure, so even when you’re dealing with CSPs, you’ll still have to bear some of the cloud computing security load. The agreement describing which duties belong to each party is called the shared responsibility model (SRM), and knowing the differences between them can help you decide which cloud computing service aligns with your business needs. The three basic types of cloud computing models are:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where vendors supply and secure foundational resources that support their customers’ frameworks. These may include virtualized servers, storage capacity, and network equipment, while customers are responsible for the assets they upload (code, applications, containers, etc.)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS), where vendors provide and secure the hardware and software necessary for their customers’ computing operations, while the customer must manage all endpoints, user and network security, and workloads.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS), where vendors centrally host the systems needed for running entire applications online, and subscribers must only log in. The CSP handles application security, while the customer manages network security, misconfigurations, and workloads. 

Understanding which party is responsible for each aspect of your attack surface area can help prevent miscommunications from arising so that no threat will go unaddressed.

3. Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Unauthorized access is one of the biggest dangers in cloud computing security. That makes it essential for users to receive only the minimum permissions level needed to perform their tasks — and their identity must always be confirmed.

IAM achieves these two ends in several ways. First, users must verify their identity via multi-factor authentication, biometric scans, or other means, ensuring that they are who they claim. Next, they must adhere to access policies such as zero trust or the least privilege principle, which grants the minimum allowable amount of access possible to each user to ensure that no data is touched unnecessarily. 

Another part of IAM is creating a rigorous password policy to reduce the likelihood of a breach, so require elaborate password criteria and periodic updates to prevent a hack. 

4. Encrypt Your Data

Data encryption is a highly effective way to keep your digital assets safe, so it’s one of the top cloud computing best practices you can implement.

Some CSPs offer data encryption services, but you can also use third-party encryption companies as well. Whichever method you choose, remember that not only is your data lying in someone else’s repository, but it’s also being transmitted across the web. That means you’ll need to encrypt your data both in the cloud and in transit — and all without making your product more complex for your end users. 

5. Monitor and Audit Your Cloud Environment

Even the most highly encrypted data could still be compromised if a user had access to the right key, so the most important part of keeping your cloud environment safe is monitoring early and often. 

Several security tools exist that can help your security teams oversee your cloud operations without disrupting your business continuity. Security Information and Event Management Software (SIEM) can help you audit your cloud environment by logging user events and data interactions, all while adhering to the security controls that apply to your industry. This makes detection and remediation a much smoother process, so use tools like these to keep an eye on your clouds.

Cut Costs and Increase Productivity With Cloud-Based Solutions

Cloud-based solutions help your organization perform its operations with greater efficiency than if you were dedicating your resources to your own private clouds. However, cloud solutions do require you to implement several best practices to keep them secure. 

At Consensus, our digital fax solutions and e-signature solutions enable users to send data and sign remotely through the cloud. They’re compliant with industry best practices and can free up your resources for achieving your company’s dreams. Contact us today for a free demo to see what we can do.