Should We Stay or Should We Go?

On-premises or in the cloud, security is your concern

Blog Should We Stay or Should We Go?

| 5 min read

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"Look at them! They go on and on migrating to the cloud while we remain here in our nests. Should we follow them? Or should we stay here? What would be the best?" This is something that certain birds, sorry, certain firms that are still on-premises, keep asking themselves during the present era of colossal digital transformation.

Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure are the cloud computing platforms that, in recent years, have been leading this growing technological mutation, hosting in their infrastructure systems and data of companies of all types and sizes worldwide. These IT Goliaths have been persuading organizations to migrate from on-premises or in-house environments to the cloud by offering benefits such as increased computational power, speed, data storage, scalability, and cost reduction.

However, many companies are still reluctant to migrate entirely or partially to the cloud, which can sometimes be well justified and sometimes not. On certain occasions, for some organizations, although we could assume that they're becoming fewer in number, moving to the cloud may not be the best thing to do or may be unnecessary. Factors such as the company's size, the industry to which it belongs, its IT operations, economic capacity, business goals, and even its planning ability and discipline come into play here. Yet, staying on-premises because they are already used to working that way or because they believe they could face more security risks in the cloud may not be compelling justifications. Let's briefly compare the two environments.

On-premises vs. cloud environments

When, as a company, you have an on-premises infrastructure, you must take care of acquiring, installing, and maintaining your hardware and software, as well as storing and protecting your data. One of the benefits of this approach is being able to control all components and operations of your systems, including the security of your assets and sensitive data. The disadvantage may be that you must have the necessary tools and well-trained personnel for proper maintenance.

Both monitoring and maintenance of uptime and security in on-premises environments must be performed around the clock. You must always be aware of software updates and patches and the status and protection of your physical infrastructure, which can often become a huge burden, especially if you can't count on sufficient resources. (This overload is quite appealing to cybercriminals.) Holding total control in on-premises systems can sometimes even mean that your company will focus more on keeping everything running and secure than innovating in the marketplace.

Such a burden can be significantly reduced when you migrate to the cloud. Not having a corporate infrastructure to maintain there, you can considerably reduce costs. In the cloud environment, there is no need for such a substantial investment in tools and staff. Primarily because the big cloud providers have already invested vast amounts of money in state-of-the-art security methods for 24/7 software and hardware monitoring. They know that with such a ubiquitous service, they cannot afford to be victims of successful cyberattacks.

However, one of the most serious drawbacks regarding cloud security is the so-called "shared responsibility model," which is sometimes misunderstood. As we explained in a post focused on this model, cloud providers in their services are mainly responsible for complying with security requirements at the infrastructure level, for which they are evaluated and certified. In contrast, as the customer, it is up to you to comply with security requirements for your data, applications, or other systems (this will vary depending on the service you purchased, whether infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, or software-as-a-service).

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The point is that within the cloud, you must continue to pay attention to your company's security (albeit to a lesser extent) and ensure compliance according to your region and industry. Not properly recognizing this responsibility and not having changed the mindset to understand the logic of this relatively new environment represents a considerable risk. In fact, many breaches can occur simply because of misconfigured cloud storage settings. However, proper migration and configuration will likely guarantee a reduction in your company's attack surface.

If your company is part of the cloud, your data resides on the provider's servers. Although they have invested heavily in security, it is not wise to rule out the risk of someone at some point infiltrating one of their server environments and, from there, being able to extract and compromise information, not just from one but from many organizations. Nevertheless, since many attacks, such as phishing, tend to occur through user workstations and these are segmented in the cloud, this helps avoid many access risks. To contribute to the mitigation of your risk exposure in the cloud, you will have to manage robust and advanced information encryption processes for your company's sensitive data. Also, it is recommended that you use multi-factor authentication, limit access by IP address, and, of course, choose a reputable and reliable cloud provider.

Apart from the above, another disadvantage of the on-prem infrastructure is its limited scalability. If, at a given moment, for instance, you have a fixed number of servers but temporarily require a little more storage or computational power resources, acquiring a new server just for that purpose will surely not be cost-effective. On the other hand, if you are in the cloud, you will pay for the resources and services you need on demand. That is, you can add or remove resources as required, keeping in mind to avoid consuming more than planned and consequential losses. Here, some companies' problems arise when they don't have adequate forward planning and discipline in managing these resources.

Finally, another advantage of hosting your data and apps in the cloud is that it provides data and network backup capabilities. There, your data is stored in multiple data centers, so the failure in one of them will not impede you from accessing your information; that is, it will not affect its availability. Something similar happens in the case of servers. Some cloud providers offer virtualized servers, which allow easy migrations between them when there are breakdowns in their operations. In this regard, the problem with on-premises environments is that the work usually depends on a few physical servers. So, if these are damaged, it can mean exorbitant losses.

Hybrid environments

When you want to take advantage of the cloud but not abandon the on-premises infrastructure or when you plan to migrate gradually, there is another option: hybrid environments. The first case is very common among those organizations that still rely heavily on total control over their sensitive data and critical systems. These are stored and maintained in the on-premises environment. On the other hand, those data and systems that do not comply with these privacy characteristics are hosted in the cloud, of which the company in question seeks to take full advantage of its flexibility, agility and cost reduction.

Wherever you are, Fluid Attacks is for you

While we at Fluid Attacks advocate migrating to the cloud, something we did years ago with our data and products, we also recognize that it may still be unnecessary or too complicated for some organizations. Whether you migrate or not, we want to emphasize that continuous security monitoring is still your responsibility. Whether you work on-premises or in a cloud, hybrid, or even multi-cloud infrastructure, you need to be fully aware of your environment's integrated and interconnected components and their security vulnerabilities to remediate.

If you want to leave your most important data and systems on-premises for the peace of mind it gives you to maintain direct control over them, it is still wise to remember that this material must be thoroughly reviewed to ensure its security. Concealment in cybersecurity is not synonymous with privacy. If you are in the cloud, don't forget your security responsibilities there: Comprehensively understand the service offered by the provider, fully evaluate your configurations and constantly test the security status of your data and applications.

From Fluid Attacks, with our automated tools, artificial intelligence and hacking team, whether you are here or there, we can help you fulfill your cybersecurity responsibilities. Don't hesitate to contact us. Click here if you want to start with a free trial.

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