The term “cloud infrastructure” refers to both the hardware systems and software applications that support a cloud computing environment. This might include cloud storage, virtualization applications, IT management tools, API connectivity, and relevant cloud service providers.
In a cloud computing environment, all of the aforementioned IT infrastructure components would be hosted offsite by a service provider and delivered through an internet network.
To do this, hosting providers employ their own network servers, switches, security firewalls, load balancers, and any other related virtual machines that facilitate your connectivity.
How Does Cloud Infrastructure Work?
Cloud infrastructure works essentially by decentralizing and off-loading your data processing capabilities to a network of technology service providers, as opposed to having physical hardware on your corporate premises.
Every cloud application is hosted by a company that has taken on the role of operating and maintaining massive data centers, which provide the computing power, storage, and even security that you use to run your business.
Prominent examples of cloud hosting providers include IBM, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the Google Cloud Platform, but there are many others as well.
Typically these companies sell their clients the right to use their cloud environment operating systems, along with some added cloud resources for end-users. These include resources like business process automation, high-end cloud security, and service level agreements (SLA) which essentially are a guarantee against outages.
Cloud computing offers a few different delivery models:
The most common, available to everyone from anywhere with your login credentials.
Similar to the public cloud, but with infrastructure such as data storage service, IT or developer staff, and added security to protect sensitive data. The private cloud is usually offered through Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), or Platform as a Service (PaaS) models.
Hybrid cloud computing can take several forms. It typically includes a mixture of in-house infrastructure and offsite cloud functionality.
Either an organization can use virtual resources hosted on its own hardware, or the business can use virtual resources with added scalability and redundancy provided by a remote data center.
The latter option provides added reliability without having to assume the responsibility of onsite infrastructure.
What Are the Main Components of Cloud Infrastructure?
In a cloud computing environment, your cloud infrastructure components are those in the back-end that facilitate your computing power. The main physical components of cloud infrastructure are internet servers, networking equipment, and data storage apparatus.
These core elements are similar to what you might find within an enterprise data center. A cloud provider’s center, however, would be on a much greater scale, since it could be powering numerous enterprise companies.
In addition to servers, networking hardware, and data storage, a major public cloud provider might also have multi-cloud servers, persistent storage, and local area network equipment like routers and switches.
Additionally, unlike a stand-alone data center, a multi-cloud provider uses a combination of solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) to provide storage to an area network.
These distributed file systems are specially designed to store massive amounts of big data. They allow cloud providers to offer large storage capacity by adding additional server nodes, as needed, to meet demand.
What Are the Benefits of Using Cloud Infrastructure?
Cloud architecture offers multiple benefits for customers who are weighing cloud computing services over procuring, operating, and maintaining their own in-house computing resources and hardware.
Opting for cloud management eliminates costs associated with maintaining on-premises infrastructure. This could be anything from physical storage, utility bills, maintenance costs, and the cost to implement upgrades over time.
Instead, most cloud providers offer a pay-as-you-go model with the ability to optimize your cloud strategy as it makes sense for your business.
With these cost savings comes the ability to offload backups, upgrades, and maintenance; and likely having to employ your own engineers to solve problems as they arise with your equipment. In a cloud service, all of these elements are managed for you. Most business subscriptions include the ability to provision additional resources if you outgrow your initial investment.
As stated above, most cloud providers offer elastic scaling options that provide extended computing power or storage devices as you outgrow your initial setup.
These providers also have redundancy models and load balancers in place to shift traffic to a different server (say, in the event of a spike or security incident) in real-time. This greatly reduces the possibility of downtime and outages.
While there were many cloud computing security challenges when cloud providers first gained popularity, most have now been resolved. The leading cloud providers referenced in this article have invested heavily in improving their security features and monitoring mechanisms.
What Risks Are Involved in Using Cloud Infrastructure?
Of course, with every benefit, at least some risk is involved, particularly for those in compliance-regulated industries. And there’s a big difference when discussing cloud security versus traditional security requirements.
Thus, with more and more companies moving to cloud systems, it’s important to understand what those cloud security risks are and how they can be managed.
Some of the most prevalent cloud computing risks are:
- Cloud security compliance violations
- Data breaches
- System malware
- Loss of customer trust
- Loss of business
That’s not to say that every compliance-intensive industry must abandon hope of using cloud innovation. Many leading cloud service providers have invested in meeting the most common regulatory requirements for their clients’ industries.
Furthermore, through effective risk management, your organization can assure that it has performed necessary due diligence and confidently use the cloud services you want.
How to Achieve Cyber GRC in the Cloud
A number of security checks and controls must be established to assure you meet compliance requirements regardless of whether your IT infrastructure is onsite or in the cloud. Depending on the complexity of your business and systems, it can be nearly impossible to manage cloud security control with manual efforts alone.
Moreover, meeting your compliance obligations is only half the battle. Compliance requires continuous monitoring to assure that you maintain your risk stance over time and adapt your program to protect against emerging threats in your industry.
ZenGRC can help assure that your organization does its due diligence in risk analysis and mitigation so your cloud environment meets all compliance requirements, whether they be for HIPAA, NIST, FedRAMP, or other obligations.
ZenGRC’s functionality can also help you to implement initial self-audits with our compliance templates so you can hit the ground running. Then, its easy-to-use dashboard provides an integrated view of your regulated data, systems, services, and vendors- showing you where your gaps are and how to fill them.
ZenGRC also updates in real-time as compliance laws change so you can be sure that you’re never behind the risk management curve.
Worry-free governance, risk management, and compliance are the Zen way! Learn how ZenGRC can help you achieve a compliant cloud by booking a demo today.