Cloud Security vs. On-Site Security

By: Joseph Evans

A lot of technical sounding terms have been getting tossed around quite a bit lately. Words that quickly become a part of everyday language and yet many people don’t know what they mean. Phrases like the “the cloud”, “IoT”, and “graphic user interface” sound super technical, we hear them constantly, and might even use them without fully understanding what they mean. Before covering the topic of cloud and on-site security, let’s take it all the way back to the beginning and talk about the cloud and what it is.

In the most simplistic terms, the cloud is the internet. It is the virtual, connected world that we all inhabit every day. The internet has a terrestrial home, it exists on a network of servers all over the world and those servers find what you need and deliver it. The cloud refers to servers, software, and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. Most cloud services are accessible through web browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome and the services that utilize the cloud are Netflix, Dropbox, Snapfish and Microsoft OneDrive.

The advantage of the cloud is accessibility. You can access and edit your information on any device with an internet connection. You can work on a document at home, save it on OneDrive, then work on the exact same document when you get to the office. Cloud computing allows you to store thousands of personal photos to sites like Snapfish without eating up all the memory on your laptop

device with server blade

The cloud is a wide open resource that the world can access and because of that access, security is paramount. Cloud security is the protection of data stored online, protecting the data from theft, leakage, tampering and deletion. This pertains to anything and everything on the cloud from personal information to trade secrets.

For the longest time on-site services were the only option available to companies. They had their own servers and software and were responsible for protecting it as this was the only option. On-site computing came first and the entire network for a company was literally on-site, within their building. By having all their data on site there is more control over how the information is protected. A company would have to purchase the software in order to use it and assume all the responsibility for the security of it. To protect the information, companies have a variety of tools available like firewalls, penetration testing, tokenization, obfuscation and virtual private networks (VPN). Threats to cloud security are data breaches, service traffic high jacking and distributed denial of service attacks. Cyber security teams must stay up to date on the latest tricks that hackers will use to steal data.

Key Similarities and Differences

Three of the major differences between on-site and cloud computing solutions are cost, deployment and security. On-site services demand a full time staff to maintain the server and manage the security. There is also the cost of the power to run the servers and providing the space for them. Cloud services have none of those issues. Cloud computing resources are hosted on the premises of the service provider while the end user needs only an internet connection and device to access it. On-site solutions are responsible for the hosting and maintaining the solution and all the related processes. Finally, the security of on-site solutions and data is up to the company. Companies that have sensitive information for the government, banking industries and financial institutions will need the extra security available. Despite the drawbacks and cost, this makes more sense. Security breaches remain the number one concern of cloud based solutions. Rather than one company being responsible for the security of data, in the cloud, they all are. One vulnerability is enough to expose everything, and the threats are real.

woman standing near server rack

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

Of course, there is a combination of the two styles. The tech world is never content to sit back and accept that there are only two choices for anything. Hybrid cloud solutions are a mixed computing, storage, and services environment consisting of on-site infrastructure, private cloud solutions and public cloud like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure and communication between all the different platforms. Utilizing a combination of public and private clouds in conjunction with on-site computing means you have a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Cloud services can drive savings, but their main value is in supporting fast moving digital business transformations. But the main advantage in the hybrid solution is agility. The need to adapt and change direction fast lies at the core of digital businesses.

Knowing What’s Right for Your Business

Ultimately, only you can answer this question because no one knows your operation better than you do. But keep this in mind when deciding which direction to go. Not everything belongs in the public square, some information needs a better level of security than the cloud can provide. Hybrid clouds offer the security of an on-site solution and the mobility of the cloud base services. This approach allows applications to move across boundaries, between clouds and even between architectures. Where your data is stored today, might be the best place for it long term.


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