Forward-thinking companies could announce they were using one cloud for their Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) needs back in the early days of the digital transformation. However, an increasing number of businesses are pursuing a multi-cloud approach, which involves using multiple cloud computing service providers.
Choices have fueled the shift to a multi-cloud strategy; utilizing many cloud service providers allows an enterprise to pick and choose which services and technologies better fit their needs.
Consider the existing mobile phone service provider market; there are several different providers, each claiming to provide different benefits. To better meet the needs of each customer, many families and companies have many mobile service providers. Similarly, each company has a unique set of criteria, and although certain cloud providers fulfill some of those requirements, others are best served by a different provider. For example, your company could use one cloud for HR applications and another for business applications.
While a multi-cloud strategy has many advantages, it still has some drawbacks to be conscious of. This article will go over the benefits and drawbacks of multi-cloud use, as well as the specific security challenges it presents, as well as eight best practices for securing your multi-cloud environment.
The Benefits of a Multi-Cloud Approach
With 84 percent of companies using the cloud implementing a multi-cloud approach, multi-cloud is rapidly becoming the trend. Furthermore, on average, these companies use a mix of four or five public and private clouds. According to a 2019 Cloud Security Study, multi-cloud deployment is the main cloud deployment approach for 42% of respondents.
It’s clear that businesses of all sizes are seeing the advantages of shifting away from the “one-organization, one-cloud” model and instead of distributing their workloads through various cloud service providers. This is due to a variety of factors, which will be addressed further down.
Reliability and redundancy are key to minimizing downtime.
In the event of an outage, a multi-cloud approach may help avoid downtime and disturbances. You’re out of luck if you’re running one cloud and your provider goes down. On October 22, 2019, for example, AWS was subjected to a DDoS attack that impacted S3 services. For almost eight hours—the length of a normal business day—a large number of websites on the East Coast of the United States were completely or partially down.
Then, in May of this year, a DNS outage hit a number of Microsoft Azure services. Azure Active Directory, SharePoint, and OneDrive were only a few of the utilities that were impacted. What is the root of the problem? Due to a misconfigured DNS update, a significant number of users were unable to
access these services for nearly two hours. Although these are examples from the largest cloud providers, there are plenty of others from smaller companies.
Obviously, a multi-cloud approach for all of your applications isn’t optimal in terms of operating and infrastructure costs, but it’s important for mission-critical applications. Clearly, depending on a single vendor have risks. Running high-availability applications and workloads on several cloud providers means that they will not fail if one fails.
Another explanation why businesses might choose multi-cloud is to allow cloud bursting. This means that as the demand for computing power and economic efficiencies increases, applications on one cloud platform will burst to another cloud platform that is already in operation.
Cloud bursting is useful for retailers during peak shopping seasons or for any other company that needs to satisfy demand in short bursts without going down. This will allow teams to scale their clouds to fit their workloads while also lowering costs with services like AWS Spot Instances.
Keeping Vendor Lock-In at Bay
Vendor lock-in refers to a company’s reliance on a single vendor for its goods and/or services and its inability to switch platforms without incurring significant costs. The cloud provider may impose lock-in, or it may be the result of technical problems and dependencies.
Lock-in can cause a slew of problems, particularly as businesses grow. For example, if you built your infrastructure on top of one cloud but your company has expanded and you want to switch to another, it can be difficult. By ensuring that another platform is available and can be used if and when needed, a multi-cloud strategy helps you to avoid lock-in.
Allowing You to Make Your Own Decisions
Using a multi-cloud strategy helps you to select and choose the best features of each platform. It enables you to develop a tailored, adaptable solution to suit your requirements. For instance, your company might want to use AWS’ machine learning developer tools but prefer Google’s high-speed database services. Multi cloud allows you to choose the best features from each provider to build your ideal setup.
Given that over 70% of companies have a cloud presence, it is unavoidable that the majority of companies undergoing a merger or acquisition would have to handle a multi-cloud use case.
Multi-cloud may seem to be the ideal solution for achieving your ideal cloud deployment, but it comes with a range of disadvantages. When adding more than one provider into the mix, there are a variety of important considerations to make.
Even one cloud platform has a steep learning curve, and mastering it requires a significant amount of time and effort. Having to learn and maintain a new platform is unquestionably more difficult.
A Scarcity of Qualified Professionals
Because of the added difficulty of multi-cloud, finding developers, security experts, and engineers with the right skill set to handle the various platforms is more difficult. They must be able to develop across multiple channels, as well as protect and maintain multiple infrastructures.
Although using several clouds can save money because you can pick and choose which services you need from each, it also necessitates a detailed understanding of each provider’s pricing structure and cost per service. It can be more difficult to keep track of these expenditures and the total costs when you have several vendors. And the cost per service and pricing structure are often shifting.
Errors Caused by Users
The majority of security issues in IaaS/PaaS implementations are caused by the cloud consumer’s lack of awareness. “Through 2025, 99 percent of cloud protection vulnerabilities would be the responsibility of the customer,” according to Gartner. The numerous options and configurations available in multi-cloud environments will increase the probability of user error. Furthermore, vendors are continuously adapting and developing their offerings in the dynamic cloud world. It is difficult for users to keep up with this.
Choosing the Right Tools Is Difficult
It can be difficult to decide which tools best fit your organization’s needs since each provider has its own collection of tools. Furthermore, one vendor’s tools do not correspond to those of the other vendors.
Additional Security Risks
Maintaining several clouds entails securing a wider landscape, which increases the likelihood of problems. When using multiple providers, there are a few significant security challenges to consider:
Synchronizing security policies across vendors: Since each provider has its own set of controls, it’s difficult to maintain consistency across platforms by synchronising decisions.
In multi-cloud environments, visibility into multiple systems, each with its own security features and granularity, is especially difficult.
Monitoring: Although each provider has various monitoring solutions, you must account for the full scope of your implementation in your monitoring. Leaving something out raises the possibility of a security breach.
Increased attack surface: Having more providers means there are more options available and a wider attack surface for attackers to exploit.
Multi-Cloud Security Best Practices
Despite these drawbacks, businesses are gradually opting for multi-cloud solutions. It’s easy to see why, given the numerous benefits multi-cloud provides and the rapid speed of growth in the sector. Organizations can greatly enhance the security of their multi-cloud implementations by incorporating the best practises mentioned below.
Synchronize policies and configurations: If you’re using multi-cloud for availability, and your operations are similar on both clouds, you can keep the same security settings on both. Through synchronising policies and configurations across providers, this can be accomplished.
For different services, use different security policies: Specific security policies should be developed for each provider if the company uses different workloads/applications. If you’re planning to create a new BI service, for example, the benefits of building it on each platform should be considered first. The security policies should then be focused on the platform that has been selected.
Automate: Using a system that automates multiple tasks decreases the risk of human error while still allowing you to remain agile. However, make sure to approach automation not only from a DevOps standpoint, but also from a DevSecOps standpoint, to ensure that protection is a primary consideration and driver in the entire process.
Select the appropriate tools: Look for tools and products that will allow you to synchronise your security policies through multiple providers. Your security policies should be written in broad terms, and the tools should interpret them based on how the different providers operate.
Develop a security management strategy that brings together logs, alarms, and events from various channels in one place. Even better are tools that automatically remediate problems or offer advice on remediation strategies.
Find tools to help you ensure compliance across several channels in a consistent and effective manner.
Simplify the sprawl by using a “single-pane-of-glass” tool that offers administrators a single point of control over all of their cloud deployments’ application and data protection.
Reduce the number of “point protection solutions”: Reduce the number of “point security solutions” that don’t work well together. Each new point solution necessitates additional expertise, as well as new integrations and deployments. This adds to the difficulty and raises the chances of making a mistake.
Similarly, both cloud providers provide security services. Although these may be useful in the vendor’s single cloud deployment, they are inadequate when it comes to multi-cloud protection. You can’t expect each cloud provider to secure only its own services (for example, AWS for AWS services, Azure for Azure, and so on) and expect comprehensive security coverage. You need a single tool that can cover all of your deployments in a cohesive and consistent manner.
Prioritizing Cloud Security
The jury is still out on whether multi-cloud is the best setup. Before embarking on a multi-cloud journey, every organisation must consider its priorities, needs, and limitations, particularly in terms of security.
Finding a dedicated multi-cloud protection solution that will provide flawless coverage between clouds is the key to an effective multicloud security strategy. And the right tool should be able to be tailored to your company’s specific requirements without confining you to its structure. Choosing a solution that prioritizes your needs helps you to reap all of the advantages of multi-cloud while maintaining a stable and compliant environment.