Is Private Cloud Secure?

April 19, 2021 Mark Gibson

Cloud Computing and Security Trends

Why should we be concerned with private cloud security? And for those considering the most secure cloud, is private or public cloud a better choice?

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) by 2023, up from only 20 percent in 2020.”

In terms of security, according to Statista, as of May 2020, top cloud security concerns revolve around data. More specifically, data loss and leakage and data privacy/confidentiality ranked as the highest security concerns for 69 and 66 percent of respondents, respectively.

Additionally, according to the 2020 Cloud Security Report, 68 percent of organizations cite cloud misconfiguration as their greatest cloud security concern. This, along with the fact that a lack of qualified staff is listed as the biggest barrier to cloud adoption, indicates a need to have comprehensive information on cloud computing and cloud implementation methods readily available and designed to facilitate cloud implementation on an organizational level.

When it comes to the cloud service market, providers typically distinguish between three service models:

  1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where customers pay for software and database access, while the service provider manages the cloud platform and infrastructure.
  2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where customers 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), which 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.

From a customer perspective, organizations are faced with the decision of choosing what kind of cloud environment to adopt. Depending on its priorities and the nature of its business, an organization most often opts for either a 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. 

Looking for a scalable, reliable, and highly available cloud solution? Download our 451 Research: Business Impact Brief and find out how private cloud positions SMBs for efficiency and growth.

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 which offers its own infrastructure, applications, and space allocation, typically rented for a fee. 

Using a public cloud service allows companies 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 AWS, 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, the user is responsible for their own data. 

2. Private Cloud

Many companies may opt to use a 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 a company’s firewall that is managed on-location invariably makes private cloud more secure than public cloud for many organizations.

Even if a company decides 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. 

While companies might choose a private cloud in order to best protect their sensitive data, they 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 are a popular solution in SMB organizations where 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, high performance via solutions such as VMware, and dedication to a single end customer. 

Liquid Web offers a VMware Private Cloud service; a 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 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? 

Some companies or organizations might opt to use a hybrid cloud solution, which is essentially an integration of both a public and private cloud. 

Such companies 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 multiple different services provide. 

Bigger organizations might like to use the multi cloud approach for both disaster recovery and optimizing costs between different providers and different services. 

For instance, a multi cloud architecture might use a single provider for their SaaS solutions, but use another for their 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 cloud (where the multiple services used are with the same provider). 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Cloud for Security

Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Cloud

Is private cloud actually more secure than public cloud? 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 and your organization to configure the cloud in a way that fits the needs of your business precisely. Behind the company firewall and with exclusive access for the end user, a private cloud solution is an excellent fit for companies who want to keep their 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 are up to you, the end user, 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 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 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 does 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-premise approach.

2. Maintenance

For those that choose to host on-site infrastructure, maintenance is a consideration, whether hardware, software, or network security. Those that host third-party infrastructure have full management handled by the cloud provider. 

This will either decrease the IT department’s available time for other duties or might require additional employees when hosting in-house.

It is also crucial that the 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 Make Your Private Cloud Secure

1. Keep Your Data Safe

At Liquid Web, solutions for keeping your data safe include a threat detection and log manager that allows you to monitor access to your data and analyze logs for detailed information.

2. Pay Attention to Physical Security

Even if your network is as secure as possible, data can still be breached in case of poor physical security around your infrastructure. Ensure that your physical servers are appropriately secured and access to them limited to administrators.

3. Have a Disaster Recovery Measure in Place

Implement backup solutions such as cloud server backup and Acronis Cyber Backup.

4. Educate Your Staff

Ensure that your staff consists of educated and experienced teams of security experts who are well versed in security standards and best practices.

Private Cloud vs Public Cloud: Choosing the Right Cloud

Whether you decide that a public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid solution is your best choice, 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.

Looking for a Scalable, Reliable, and Highly Available Cloud Solution? Download Our 451 Research: Business Impact Brief and Find Out How Private Cloud Positions SMBs for Efficiency and Growth.
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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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