What Is The Cloud? Demystifying Cloud Computing
Cyber Security Audit

What Is The Cloud? Demystifying Cloud Computing

Is the Cloud Right for My Company?

Businesses are continually seeking innovative ways to perfect their operations, enhance productivity, and stay ahead of the competition.  

If that sounds like your organization, chances are you’ve thought about moving to the cloud before.  

But what is the cloud, exactly? Does migrating to it really benefit your business?  

Understanding The Cloud 

What does the seemingly nebulous term “cloud” or “cloud computing” refer to?  

Cloud computing is web-based. All that is needed is internet access and a working web browser).  

Email services such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo! use the cloud to store and access data. Online document-sharing platforms, such as Google drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, SharePoint uses the cloud. Software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) companies also leverage the cloud. 

An individual using the cloud is connecting to a virtual server. Instead of a physical server onsite at a company’s office, the cloud is a server accessed over the internet. To be clear, cloud servers do have a physical server.  They’re just located at data centers outside of your control.  

Onsite servers are a more traditional approach to managing a company server.  This type of server(s) setup is referred to as on-premise (or on-prem) as it is located at the company’s office.  

The hardware is either owned by the company or rented directly from an IT company. The security and hardware are managed by an IT company, independent IT contractor or an IT staff person that works for the company. 

The Cost of Cloud vs Physical 

The cost of a physical server and setup may be more expensive up-front than a cloud-based server. However, over time a cloud server typically costs more.  

For example, an on-premise server may cost a company $9000. If the on-premise server has a three-year life span, then a cloud server needs to cost less than $250 per month to be more financially economical.  

So, this situation becomes a question of operating expense vs a capital expense. Companies may not have the capital for a server project and that makes the cloud more attractive. 

Hardware leasing options can help overcome this hurdle. They convert capital expenses into operating expenses as an alternative to feeling obligated to moving to the cloud. Ultimately the decision should be made based on business needs and not just financial needs. 

Public cloud, such as Amazon Web Services, may seem more affordable up front but there are often hidden expenses. The pricing models are confusing and the public cloud calculators do not tell you the full story.  

Do you need fast or slow data storage, does it include network bandwidth to access the data, do you need a secure VPN, is backup included, or do you need advanced support? All these options add up. What looks like a small investment can balloon if you are not careful. 

We often find internet speeds to be one of the largest hidden costs of cloud computing and often the least understood. If many people work in your office, they are used to fast access to their data.  

Moving to the cloud can cause employees to have a slower (less productive) experience. In that case companies will consider buying faster internet speeds to improve access to resources.  

We’ve seen these costs be at a minimum of a few hundred dollars and to $2000 per month. If this isn’tfactored into the initial decision,it can be quite a shock. 

What is cloud security?  

There are valid reasons for moving to the cloud. Microsoft 365 is a great example of using the cloud to address security issues.  

On-premise Microsoft Exchange email opens a large hole for hackers. It is difficult to keep secure. Email servers have to be patched quickly to prevent exploitation. Even after installing the patches, vulnerabilities in March 2021, September 2021 , and late 2022 showed that patching may not be enough to stop exploits.  

Additionally, on-prem Exchange is normally part of the internal server domain. If an Exchange server gets hacked it will often lead to other exploits on the internal network. Moving to Microsoft 365 is a great way to use the cloud to increase cyber security. 

Using a cloud-based resource is one way to increase access to a line-of-business application while mitigating cyber security risks to your company’s internal network.  

For example, if you need to give your sales team access to customer relationship management (CRM) software when they are out of the office, and you host this data on your internal server then you will have to make configurations to make the internal server available to remote employees.  

These configurations are commonly a VPN connection or sometimes rules on your firewall that open your network to being vulnerable to criminal attacks. Moving data to the cloud can sometimes improve the ease of access for remote employees while keeping risk isolated from your internal network.  

If working remotely is not pertinent, then keeping the data on-premise can be much more secure. The server is not opening sensitive information to a third party through VPN and firewall connections. It is easier to control how data is locked down and who has access.  

All these factors need to be taken into consideration when looking at what option works for the longevity of your company. 

At 4BIS Cyber Security we offer multiple types of cloud servers including secure private cloud servers and hybrid servers. From a security standpoint, a cloud service provider should prevent data from being released on the backend.  

A cloud service provider is not responsible for user errors. Iif a user provides or shares data (such as a password) with someone else the service provider won’twill not be held liable. 

Disaster Recovery 

Backups of servers hosted in-house are the responsibility of your organization or the IT company managing your network. Time needs to be set aside to examine how frequent backups are needed, how often they are to be verified and mounted, offsite replication, and the security considerations of the appliances running the backups.  

Lastly, a Disaster Recovery Plan should be written, tested, and reevaluated for changing organizational needs. Depending on the cloud provider most, if not all considerations, are handled by the hosting company.  

Clients often have no control over how cloud resources are backed up, how long the data is stored, or how quick the recovery times are. Extra backup services are an option for some cloud providers. Microsoft 365 third-party backups are an example of this. Microsoft provides redundancy but not backups for Microsoft 365. 

Considerations for a Disaster Recovery Readiness solution is guided by the amount of downtime your company can sustain (the Recovery Time Objective (RTO)).  

How long will it take to get this mission-critical system back online? How much data loss is acceptable? (This is the Recovery Point Objective (RPO).  

If backups happen once per night, then a restore will not contain any data after the backup happens. Some organizations require losses no greater than fifteen minutes. This need can increase costs. An experienced cyber security provider will work with companies to go over the options to find what disaster recovery plan works best for them.

Addressing Common Concerns 

Servers that are on-prem or in a private cloud are easier to support and manage than public cloud services. With onsite or a private cloud your IT team has direct access to these resources.  

If there’s a hardware and/or software failure they can potentially fix the issue faster. Public cloud servers may require third party intervention, so it could take longer to get an issue resolved.  

For example, one of our clients was using a third-party cloud provider to host their web server. This web server was a crucial part of their business. The host physical server it was running on was having issues that involved the server needing to be manually rebooted at least once a month.  

The administrator for that cloud server lived two hours away from the data center. This obviously caused massive problems for our client as they were unable to access their web server monthly for at least a couple of hours. When they moved the server to our 4BIS Cyber Security private cloud and have not had that issue again. 

However, compliance can be an issue with cloud servers. Certain regulations have requirements that need additional consideration. Shared resources housing PHI for HIPAA cannot contain data for non-HIPAA companies.  

Other regulations require no data housed outside of the United States. HIPAA, FTC Data Safeguards, PCI, personal data, GDPR regulations mandate some of the common regulations; it is up to the individual companies to ensure that cloud service providers are following the regulations needed for their industry 

Finding a Reliable and Compliant Cloud Service Provider 

Ensure that the cloud service provider is a stable company with a healthy financial standing.  

Experience in cloud and hybrid servers and certified personnel should also be on your list of requirements. 

Finding an IT cyber security provider that works with other companies in the same industry as yours is always a plus as that should allow them to be familiar with industry-specific regulations. The service provider should ensure that regular backups of data are occurring, ensure physical security and regularly stay up to date with deploying security updates and patches. 

Questions to Ask a Cloud Security Platform or Provider 

When considering what type of server is best for your company: ask yourself the following questions to find out what will best meet the needs of your company:  

  • Does most of your staff work from your office or remotely?
    Do you have uptime issues? 
  • Do you have space on company property to have a server? Servers need a temperature-controlled climate and not everyone should have access to the room. It will require a stable internet connection. 
  • Can your bandwidth handle a move to the cloud? 
  • Do you have a specific application that makes sense to move to the cloud? 
  • Are you hosting internet-facing applications from your office such as email?  

The Cloud Migration Process 

Once a cloud readiness assessment is completed, and it is decided that a cloud server is right for your company, a cloud migration plan should be created.  

Cloud migration requires an experienced IT provider to execute a migration and to ensure data integrity. When migrating servers to the cloud, there needs to be an understanding that file formats need to be converted. It’s imperative to have a trusted IT solutions provider to lead the process. 

Some of the steps in a migration process include assessing the workload, assessing data for migration, and choosing the right cloud deployment model. 

Finally, IT support should communicate with staff and then test the migration process, before completing the task. A lot of bandwidth is needed as it is a lengthy process and can be a costly process. 

Cost Analysis and ROI of Cloud Migration 

Pro-Cloud Operating cost (ongoing) vs Capital cost (setup project costs). Capital cost is more money upfront. However, cloud storage and computing require a stronger internet. 

On-premise is cheaper over a longer period. Higher upfront costs can be mitigated with financing. Power, cooling (temp controlled server room), redundancy. All can be large capital projects to consider as well as initial setup, migration expenses, and ongoing maintenance. 

Understanding The Cloud FAQs 

Does the cloud provide better support to remote workforce? 

For employees working remotely, cloud services can be more reliable than on-premise servers. Cloud providers normally have faster and redundant internet connections allowing your remote workforce to reliably get the data they need. 

What is cloud storage? 

Cloud computing is the ability to actively use applications. Cloud storage, refers to how documents and files are stored.  

Billions of individuals use cloud storage every day. You use it when you back up data and photos to the cloud or your entire phone.  

Common types of cloud storage includes: OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox. 

How does cloud storage work? 

Cloud storage works by data (any digital data) being uploaded automatically or manually to a server via the internet. An individual can retrieve the data through a web-facing interface i.e.- logging into a portal/website to access the files. 

Cloud Security Solutions: Protect Your Sensitive Data 

Moving to the cloud is a critical consideration for your company. It takes time and resources to go through the migration and you don’t want to get it wrong.  

Be wary of cloud security companies that push you to move to the cloud without investigating your needs first. The cloud is right for some companies and wrong for others. Sometimes, hybrid clouds are the best solution.  

One client had all their file servers in the Microsoft Azure cloud environment. But they had almost no remote users. So, in the end, they decided to migrate their data back to their office. This could’ve been avoided if they partnered with a company that understands their current situation and business demands. 

At 4BIS Cyber Security, we provide cloud services and security measures that allow your staff to work efficiently.  We are experts at helping people navigate this difficult process to find what works for their company.  

View our high-value range of cloud services here and please contact us to discuss options for your company.

Author

  • Christina Teed

    Christina is a highly experienced professional with over fifteen years of work in various fields. She holds a Bachelor's degree in English Education and Theatre, which has provided her with a strong foundation in communication. Throughout her career, Christina has developed a diverse range of skills including program management, public speaking, leadership development, interpersonal skills, education, operations, project management, and leadership. At 4BIS Cybersecurity, Christina has held several roles including working as a tech on the helpdesk, various administrative responsibilities, digital creator, and content creation. With her wealth of skills and experience, she brings a unique blend of creativity, communication, and leadership to her work, making her a reliable and effective professional. However, Christina's favorite role in life is that of a dedicated wife and mom.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Enter your email to receive the latest news and to learn about interesting events.