Successful Cloud Governance: 7 Key Components

The cloud allows organizations to save money, improve and accelerate innovation, and be agile in meeting market trends and competitive pressures. However, without a solid cloud governance model, costs can skyrocket and security becomes risky. Companies must create access, cost, and security rules to manage data and applications in the cloud without impeding employees’ ability to take advantage of cloud benefits.

It’s a tricky balance, and every organization will have slightly different requirements, but cloud governance best practices should follow these seven general guidelines.

1. Security Management

In more than 80 percent of today’s ransomware attacks, cybercriminals exploited common configuration errors in software and devices, which can be remedied by following security best practices.

This means that ransomware actors are not often using new and novel techniques. The same guidance around timely patching, credential hygiene, and a thorough review of changes to software and system settings and configurations can make a difference in an organization’s resilience to these attacks.

Three best practices for security management include:

  1. Prepare to defend and recover: Adopt an internal culture of Zero Trust, with assumed breach, while deploying a system of data recovery, backup, and secure access.
  2. Protect identities from compromise: Minimize the potential for credential theft and lateral movement, where attackers attempt to find cloud admin privileges, with the implementation of a privileged access strategy should an attacker gain entry.
  3. Prevent, detect, and respond to threats: Defend against threats across all workloads by leveraging comprehensive prevention, detection, and response capabilities with integrated security information and event management (SIEM) and extended detection and response (XDR) capabilities. Risky behavior notifications should be coming to you in real-time.

2. Compliance Management

Organizations must ensure that if they are storing data in the cloud, they are taking the necessary steps to maintain data compliance, or substantial penalties can result. You must consider high-impact data privacy and data governance regulations such as GDPR, PCI and HIPAA. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives rights to people to manage personal data collected by an organization. HIPAA health record compliance varies state by state. Payment card industry (PCI) compliance helps ensure the security of each one of your business’s credit card transactions.

Cloud governance ensures that sensitive data such as credit card or health record information isn’t emailable. GDPR controls ensure that personal data doesn’t leave the country if you have global offices.

3. Financial Management

Many businesses are finding that cloud costs can become out of control if not properly governed. And worse, there is very little insight into how much is being spent. Instances fired up for one project may never be deleted. Increasing capacity to support a burst in compute demand may never be throttled back. Lack of detailed billing and the complexity of distributed applications can simply mask costs from stakeholders. Looking at monthly bills from multiple providers offers no easy way to tie costs back to specific projects, applications, or business units.

Ideally, cloud governance provides real-time information in a single viewing plane that can eliminate uncertainty and avoid over-spending. To work, it must include the ability to automatically tag and de-commission resources, embed policy management and provide role-based access control to resources. And most critically, any cloud cost management solution must be implemented in such a way as to not slow down application development and delivery.

4. Data Management

As the ability to collect, store and analyze data expands, so does the challenge to effectively manage that data. Your governance strategy and practices should include clear guidance to manage the full lifecycle of data in your organization.

Begin with a data-classification scheme. Not all data is equally valuable or needs comparable levels of security. Sensitive and confidential data warrant more security controls than public information. The best practice for data in the cloud is to encrypt all data in transit and at rest—consider this your default behavior. Other controls, such as who can access or update data types, will vary according to the data classification and functional requirements around how the data is used.

Governance policies help data owners, product managers and application developers understand how to protect data based on its classification. This includes guidance on how to manage the lifecycle of data, such as how long to store data and when to move data from high-performance (and high-cost) storage systems to lower-cost archival systems. Manual data lifecycle management does not scale well, and it is prone to errors. Take advantage of cloud providers’ data management tools to automatically migrate data to different storage systems or delete data that is no longer useful. This is native to Microsoft Azure cloud management through sophisticated AI.

5. Operations Management

A clear, well-defined operations management practice is one of the best ways to prevent shadow IT operations from creeping into your cloud environment. Good cost monitoring and performance monitoring can also help identify when cloud resources are deployed outside of normal operating procedures. It may be a good idea to set up temporary sandboxes for a development environment to ensure that data doesn’t stick around too long once it’s no longer being used.

6. Performance Management

Performance management in cloud computing focuses on monitoring applications and infrastructure resources to ensure you deliver expected levels of IT services and efficient usage of cloud infrastructure.

For example, a consumer investment company was in the early stages of a cloud-enabled application innovation effort. Agile processes and DevOps were maturing well, but application performance was spiky. As a more mature transformation, the company started a program to monitor and automate sizing based on usage demands. The company eliminated sizing issues by using Azure performance management tools, resulting in a surprising five percent increase in transactions.

Azure Monitor helps you maximize the availability and performance of your applications and services. It delivers a comprehensive solution for collecting, analyzing, and acting on telemetry from your cloud and on-premises environments. This information helps you understand how your applications are performing and proactively identify issues that affect them and the resources they depend on. Learn more about Azure Monitor.

7. Asset and Configuration Management

A big challenge for organizations is to maintain a dynamic array of cloud infrastructure resources within the bounds of what they expect to deploy. Azure has several offerings to facilitate asset & configuration management including:

  • Azure Security Center is a unified infrastructure security management system that strengthens the security posture of your data centers and provides advanced threat protection across your hybrid workloads in the cloud – whether they’re in Azure or not – as well as on premises.
  • Azure Active Directory is an identity and access management-as-a-service solution that combines single-on capabilities to any cloud and on-premises application with advanced protection.
  • Azure AD Privileged Identity Management is a service that enables you to manage, control, and monitor access to important resources in your organization. These resources include resources in Azure AD, Azure, and other Microsoft Online Services like Office 365 or Microsoft Intune.
  • Azure Policy helps you manage and prevent IT issues with policy definitions that enforce rules and effects for your resources.
  • Azure Information Protection helps secure email, documents, and sensitive data that you share outside your company.

Cloud governance provides understanding, security, and trust around an organization’s data. Cloud computing should be viewed not as an IT project, but rather as a business strategy. Let us help you with that strategy to propel your business forward.

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