Every day, more and more businesses move more and more applications, data, IT systems, and other operations onto the cloud.

And why not? Cloud computing makes a lot of sense when employee teams are spread across different states and countries, with departments and offices simultaneously seeking access to the same data. The cloud also lets smaller companies use highly efficient software solutions without the considerable upfront cost of developing software; the company simply uses a pay-as-you-go model and starts going.

When a business moves into a cloud environment, however, that creates a new list of cybersecurity and compliance risks. Cloud computing happens in real-time, which is excellent for transaction speed — but it also creates the opportunity for attacks on the cloud service servers. These attacks can travel via your IP address to your local network.

This is one reason why it’s important to isolate your on-site IT systems from the cloud environments to which they are connected. This article explains why that is, and how to keep your systems isolated as necessary.

Let’s begin with the basics. A strong Access Control Manager (ACM) system must be used to protect your on-site IT from any uninvited guests that might be trying to jump from the cloud environment to your stored data.

Cloud service providers already do take steps along these lines. Cloud providers use virtualization to create Virtual Machines (VMs) that separate clients, operating systems, and platforms. Virtualization can also create multiple operating systems that run in isolation on the same computer.

Virtualized cloud structures are often created using open-source software such as KVM and operated by Linux, an open-source operating system (OS). Most open-source programs work well together, with few compatibility issues.

Still, sometimes those systems do conflict. For example, one program in a cloud environment may try to monopolize all the computer power during its runtime. That will slow down other VMs and may lead to a general system slowdown because all cloud environments share resources across platforms.

Clouds Are Not All Created Equally

There are different types of cloud environments, so let’s have a quick cloud infrastructure refresher. The most common cloud environments are as follows. 

  • A private cloud is a cloud environment owned by the corporation that uses it and is only accessible by cloud users from that business.
  • A public cloud is an environment managed by one service provider, where many unrelated users create individual accounts. Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud are all examples of public cloud environments.
  • Hybrid clouds combine several cloud environments, each with a different structure. From a user’s perspective this cloud environment looks and performs like a single application, but the system uses Local Area Networks (LAN) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to connect the different clouds.
  • Multiclouds are made of two or more different clouds. Sometimes this cloud solution is chosen to improve access control and optimization.

Cloud service providers offer many different platforms (cloud applications) to clients seeking cloud services. It’s essential to pick the right cloud environment for your project. The most common services offered by cloud computing providers include:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) can be a mobile app accessed through a web browser. Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM systems) such as Salesforce are excellent examples of a SaaS service.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a system where a third-party provider supplies the hardware and software needed for a specific application development. Windows Azure and Google App Engine are good examples of PaaS.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is more of a turnkey model, where customers buy access to computing resources, data storage, operating systems, and data processing in a real-time, pay-as-you-go manner. DigitalOcean and Google Computer Engine are good examples of IaaS.

As convenient and familiar as cloud computing has become, it’s essential to know that it comes with a whole new set of cyber vulnerabilities and risks. Most are associated with shared resources inside the Application Configuration Management system and authentication requirements.

What Is Isolation in Cloud Computing, and Why Is It Important?

In the summer of 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) experienced an outage that hurt sites such as Hulu, HBO, and Shopify. AWS is a cloud computing platform that uses a mix of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS cloud offerings to serve its clients. Along with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, AWS is one of the world’s three biggest cloud platform providers.

One outage, such as the one that struck AWS in 2021, can have a massive impact across many platforms because all cloud environments share resources across their data centers.

The question then arises: What can you do to protect your stored and sensitive data?

Data isolation is the physical, network, and operational separation of data to protect it from cyberattacks, both from external and internal actors. This can take various shapes, such as classic air gaps (which isolate data physically and electronically), virtual air gaps (which safeguard backups with temporary network connections and rigorous access controls), or other high-security measures.

How Does Data Isolation in Cloud Computing Work?

Businesses can implement data isolation to varied degrees. These range from physically and digitally unplugging systems to having transitory network connections paired with tiered access controls. The challenge is to strike a balance between isolation and business continuity requirements. Each isolation technique must contribute to the organization’s Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) — two vital performance metrics for business continuity.

Because total physical and electronic isolation (which is the textbook air gap definition) doesn’t really fit with today’s “always on” business demands, innovative isolation solutions that use robust access controls and transient network connections have arisen.

For example, you could use a public cloud provider to preserve duplicated data that can only be accessed by a secure connection brought up and down in the same instance. In the event of ransomware or a crisis, the off-site data (or air-gapped data copy) would be available in close to real-time in a cloud air gap.

Isolation in Cloud Computing Platforms

In a multi-tenant cloud or a public cloud, you must be sure that the cloud service provider handles its provisioning and virtualization so that there is plenty of CPU power when you need it.

The IaaS solution (the turnkey cloud hosting model) often offers the best cloud computing isolation, including “container services,” which substantially reduce the risk of side-channel attacks should a hacker enter the cloud.

As you develop a cloud computing strategy, make sure you update your security policies and data security requirements to match this new work environment.

What Are the Advantages of Cloud Isolation?

A solid cloud computing isolation strategy returns some control over your sensitive data to you. If the cloud data center suffers a major breach, but you’ve already implemented a strong isolation strategy, you have better control of the data you have stored in the cloud environment.

Data Isolation Techniques and Best Practices

So how can you protect your sensitive data in the cloud? Consider these practices.

  • Select the best cloud hosting service for your needs.
  • Isolate applications on your on-campus network from the cloud.
  • Use virtualization and virtual machines to isolate and run individual processes and algorithms.
  • Keep an eye on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). An API is a facilitator through which two applications can communicate. APIs come with load balancers, which adjust how data is shared by Virtual Machines (VM). This type of allocation is crucial to assure the high performance of your cloud computing system.
  • Use encryption and sophisticated access management technology.

How to Improve Your Cloud Security with ZenGRC Today

As cyber risk in cloud settings grows, it is more vital than ever to have a scalable mechanism for reducing risk, maintaining compliance, and responding to evolving threats. Using a cloud security solution is critical for limiting short-term hazards while developing risk management strategies to cope with new concerns.

ZenGRC is a centralized platform for monitoring and managing data in your organization. It can help with governance operations automation, consolidation of proof of compliance with security regulations, and identifying security hazards before they become liabilities.

ZenGRC ensures that your company implements mitigation measures and that your cloud environment meets all compliance requirements, whether for HIPAA, NIST, FedRAMP, or other responsibilities.

You can also perform self-audits at any moment by clicking a button. Your audit trail documentation is also collected and stored in the product’s “single source of truth” database for simple retrieval during audits.

The ZenGRC platform provides a uniform user experience that allows you to monitor and manage risk in real-time, regardless of where your data is kept.

Automation can significantly simplify the task of risk management associated with cloud computing. Let us help you keep a competitive edge in today’s global business world; schedule a demo today.