The transition to cloud infrastructure has forced organizations to radically rethink how they regulate access to data, control costs, and manage application workloads. While the technical aspects of migrating assets to the cloud can be daunting on its own, moving into a new environment also requires changes in the internal rules and policies that govern the way people interact with data and IT infrastructure. Implementing a cloud governance strategy allows businesses to manage risk more effectively and set up a sustainable future in the cloud.
What is Cloud Governance?
Cloud governance is the framework that defines how organizations utilize cloud resources and establish rules of conduct for how individuals access data and applications stored in the cloud. A good cloud governance policy should be both strategic and tactical in focus. From a strategic standpoint, it defines how the organization is using cloud platforms to facilitate key business functions and goals. On a tactical front, it should identify specific use cases and establish guidelines for how those activities ought to be conducted.
Since cloud infrastructure differs from traditional IT architecture, it requires organizations to ask different questions and implement different controls to ensure that risks are being managed effectively. The fact that cloud services can be accessed from any location, for instance, forces companies to ask different questions about how to manage and monitor access to their networks. By implementing cloud governance policies, they can eliminate uncertainty and establish a greater level of consistency around the way information and assets are accessed and managed.
Key Considerations in Cloud Governance
Since every organization is different, there is no standard model of cloud governance. It falls to individual companies to determine which policies are most important to their business and how they should be managed to minimize risk. Although policies often vary, most organizations focus on three key considerations when developing their cloud governance strategy.
The data and applications stored in the cloud are ultimately being accessed by individuals, so it’s important to understand who needs to access secure assets and why. This could include internal employees, vendors, customers, and other individuals who might have reason to utilize secure resources stored in the cloud. Identifying these people eliminates ambiguity and makes it easier to establish permissions and authorizations for accessing sensitive assets.
Under a strong cloud governance model, there should always be a clearly-defined process in place for any action associated with accessing, utilizing, or managing cloud assets. In most cases, these processes outline security precautions and involve documentation that makes it easier to track how resources are being accessed and utilized over time. This is especially important for cloud resources, which can frequently be accessed from multiple locations and devices. Performing tasks according to clearly defined policies establishes consistency and creates a trail or documentation that ensures accountability.
Cloud-based services involve a long list of technologies deployed by vendors, but it’s incumbent upon organizations to understand how the different aspects of their tech stack interact with one another. Whether a company is using a purely cloud-based deployment or implementing a hybrid environment that incorporates cloud assets and physical servers, cloud governance policy should clearly lay out how different technologies interact with each other and how the organization’s tech stack is managed.
Benefits of Cloud Governance
A well-implemented cloud governance policy enhances transparency throughout an organization and makes it easy to explain how key data and assets are being managed within a cloud environment. Without cloud governance, organizations would have a hard time managing their IT systems effectively outside of a legacy on-premises data solution.
From a practical standpoint, it’s worth noting that effectively managing cloud resources can deliver significant cost savings to an organization. Understanding how resources are provisioned and managed makes it easier to implement automation strategies that save time and reduce human error. Since most cloud platforms provide the resources and support necessary to automate key IT tasks, it’s much easier to manage a cloud-based deployment than an outdated legacy solution that relies upon physical infrastructure.
Establishing clear guidelines that dictate where data should be stored, who can access that data, and under what conditions they’re allowed to do so is a critical aspect of any cloud governance strategy. A good plan should be able to identify potential vulnerabilities, implement plans to mitigate risk, and establish quantitative metrics for evaluating success.
When migrating to a new environment, organizations can’t simply take it for granted that their new provider will meet their regulatory requirements. By incorporating compliance standards and reviews into a cloud governance policy, companies can ensure that they’re always meeting industry-specific compliance standards no matter where they’re storing data. Regularly documenting compliance status as part of a cloud governance strategy also makes it easier to comply with audits and reviews conducted to verify that all processes and technology are aligned with the relevant industry standards.
Designating which people within an organization have access to key data and applications makes it easier to manage cloud environments securely. To minimize potential security risks, employees should only be able to access areas of the network that pertain to their job function and responsibilities. This zero trust approach to security reduces the risk of mistakes and inadvertent data breaches. Cloud governance policies can also establish who is allowed to utilize available cloud resources. This is especially important because spinning up new applications without authorization or tampering with cloud infrastructure could significantly impact costs and potentially create new security risks.
In part 2 of this post we will take a look at the guidelines for cloud governance.