There is a lot of buzz online about the popularity of cloud computing. Companies are migrating to the cloud in droves. They are attracted by the convenience, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of the cloud environment. According to the Logic Monitor’s Survey: “The Future of the Cloud Study”, 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020.
Migrating to a cloud platform means relinquishing control of your data. This is why keeping data secure during migration is one of the top concerns for organizations. Transferring data to a cloud environment potentially exposes the data to breaches and data loss. Fortunately, there are security practices you can include in your cloud migration strategy to keep your data secure. In this article, we will explain what is a cloud migration strategy and five tips for secure cloud migration.
Cloud Migration Strategy Overview
Defining a cloud migration strategy is the first step for any company interested in moving to the cloud. A successful strategy is one that keeps the application disruption to a minimum and the budget under control. The plan should include key basic steps, as outlined below.
Step 1: Assess your data and applications
Before migrating data and application, make sure it’s a good fit for the new cloud environment.Your workload can include applications that are not yet ready to migrate. Also, there can be applications that simply work better in an on-premises environment. The same applies to data, you may choose to leave confidential data on-premises.
Step 2: Choose a migration method
There are three main methods to move your applications to the cloud. The method you choose depends on your workload compatibility with the cloud platform.
According to the requirements of your workload, you may opt for one of these three methods:
- Lift and shift—the fastest model. With this method, you transfer the workload “as is” without adjustments. This method works only when you transfer to a fully compatible environment. This model is best suited to companies with a fast-paced production.
- Replatform—it is a middle ground between the three methods. With this model, you make minimal adjustments to adapt the apps to the target platform.
- Refactoring—the most time-consuming and expensive method. With this model, you rewrite the entire application to make it compatible with the cloud platform. Developers often modify the app to take advantage of cloud-based features.
Step 3: Choose the right cloud provider
There are several considerations to make when choosing a cloud provider. The first aspect that comes to mind is cost. But there is more in a successful migration than keeping the budget low. A key aspect is the compatibility of your applications with the platform. Lack of compatibility can make you refactor your entire application. This increases the time and the cost of migration. Other things to consider include the scalability, flexibility, and reliability of the platform.
Security Challenges of Cloud Migration
Migrating to the cloud involves financial, security and governance risks. Security is the top concern for organizations migrating to the cloud, according to a 2019 Cloud Alliance report. The reality is that companies do lose some degree of control over their data when moving to the cloud. Attackers can exploit any blindspot to breach your security perimeter. Below, you’ll find a review of some of the top cloud migration challenges companies face.
Shifting the responsibility over IT security
Most cloud providers include state-of-the-art security features to ensure your data gets protected during migration. In addition, there are Software-as-a-Service providers that offer complete cloud security solutions. Some of the features include secure user identity management, access control mechanisms and migration monitoring. However, the ultimate responsibility for securing your data lies within your organization. Choosing the right solution to overcome these challenges should be part of your cloud migration strategy.
Implementing new security policies
Migrating to the cloud often involves drawing new security policies. It is especially important to separate the cloud provider’s responsibilities and those of the company. The organization still needs to implement a strong internal security posture. You cannot rely only on the security provided by the vendor. Some of the policies may include, for example, limit access to sensitive data. A simple but effective way to control access to the data is to implement the principle of least privilege so cloud users only have the minimum necessary access to data to perform their jobs.
5 Best Practices to Ensure a Secure Cloud Migration
Security concerns shouldn’t stop your organization from considering a move to the cloud. If you follow the best practices below, you can ensure the safety of your data and applications during and after migrating to the cloud.
1. Optimize the network
The public Internet is the default network used by public cloud providers. Large organizations may find it too slow and insecure to keep their sensitive data. Therefore, some third-party public cloud providers such as AWS offer a dedicated connection to its infrastructure. Microsoft Azure offers a service that establishes a direct connection between your network and Azure. Smaller companies may not need a dedicated network connection. It may be worthwhile to install a service faster than your local Internet Service Provider.
2. Keep compliance regulations
Any company that handles personal or financial data should comply with regulations like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). These regulations affect how companies store and manage sensitive data. Top cloud vendors help companies comply with regulations by incorporating these protocols in their services. For example, they offer identity and access management as well as incident response systems.
3. Encrypt sensitive data
Encryption is a given of data security. The term refers to the rearranging of the information, scrambling it the form it is not recognizable. To decode the data, the user needs an encryption key or password. Encrypting the data ensures an attacker cannot use it. Most cloud vendors provide encryption for data in transit. Keep in mind the encryption for data at rest only covers data already in the cloud. You should use an encryption tool during transfer.
4. Migrate in batches
It is a good practice to migrate the data in small batches. This strategy involves testing the migration with a capsule of representative data. In addition to minimizing the risks of data loss, you reduce downtime. Fixing technical and security issues that can come up during migration is also easier this way.
5. Use two-factor authentication
You can apply two-factor authentication to effectively reduce the risk of attackers gaining access during migration. This way only authorized users can upload sensitive data or applications.
Security concerns are not stopping organizations to move to the cloud in masses. Vendors and SaaS solutions provide strong security services to minimize threats. Still, companies can benefit from the best practices outlined in this article, as a guideline. A strong security posture starts with a strong security culture inside the organization.