Second Look: Data Security In A Hybrid Cloud

Today’s big cloud providers were built around an architecture for hosting and securing data. They will continue to thrive, only by keeping your workloads safe.

Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch; Writer/Speaker

March 9, 2015

4 Min Read

When it comes to cloud adoption, one of the longest standing debates revolves around data integrity and security. The FUD around cloud always has involved issues of security and information access. But what if we have it all wrong? What if we are actually misunderstanding the true, underlying business model of a modern cloud environment?

But before we get into that, let’s look at the current data breach landscape. A recent 2014 Ponemon study shows that a probability of a material data breach over the next two years involving a minimum of 10,000 records, at an on-premise data center, is nearly 19 percent. In addition, the study reports:

  • The cost of a data breach has increased. Breaking a downward trend over the past two years, both the organizational cost of data breach and the cost per lost or stolen record have gone up, on from $5.4 million to $5.9 million per organization studied. The cost per record increased from $188 to $201. 

  • Malicious or criminal attacks result in the highest per capita data breach cost. Consistent with prior reports, data loss or exfiltration resulting from a malicious or criminal attack yielded the highest cost at an average of $246 per compromised record. In contrast, both system glitches and employee mistakes resulted in a much lower average per capita cost at $171 and $160, respectively.

With that in mind, let’s pause the conversation here and actually look at some of the biggest recent data breaches.

  • Anthem (2014-2015): 80 million records (Social Security numbers, addresses, emails, names)

  • Target (2014): 70 million records (credit cards, emails, addresses)

  • Sony (2014): 100+TB of data, 6,500 employee records.

  • Home Depot (2014): 56 million customer credit and debit card accounts as well as 53 million customer email addresses.

These data breaches are so widespread that there’s a good chance you were impacted by one of the aforementioned incidents. In fact, I was!

The simple point I am making here is that with more data, there will be more data breach targets. However, let’s consider where these breaches are happening most. When was the last time Amazon Web Services lost tens of millions of customer records? Or IBM SmartCloud? Has there ever been a massive breach at Rackspace or even Azure? No. Not yet, at least.

Data integrity, security, and big clouds
The line of business for big cloud providers is to host and secure data. They were built around this idea and architecture, specifically, multi-tenant secure hosting. As much as an organization like Anthem tries to embrace security, its line of business is providing healthcare services. That’s where the company makes money. Anthem had to adapt to the times instead of being born in them. AWS and Rackspace, on the other hand, make their money by making sure customer workloads are up and secure. And, they continue to evolve that model.

From a cloud adoption perspective, a recent Gartner report shows that the use of cloud computing is growing, and by 2016 this growth will increase to become the bulk of new IT spend. Furthermore, 2016 will be a defining year for cloud as private cloud begins to give way to hybrid cloud, and nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017, according to Gartner.

It’s also getting a lot easier for companies to migrate their workloads into some kind of cloud environment, which makes a cloud option much more competitive with a traditional on premise data center solution.

If you’re concerned about compliance and regulations, cloud providers are already providing options around even the strictest workloads. For example, AWS Compliance enables customers to understand the robust controls in place at AWS to maintain security and data protection. This includes PCI DSS, ISO, FedRAMP, DoD, FISMA, FIPS and more. You can now process protected healthcare information (PHI) through an AWS model, for example, and still be compliant. Beyond that, new kinds of cloud automation and orchestration tools allow you to create powerful extensions from your existing data center into a hybrid cloud model.

Platforms like OpenStack and CloudStack are revolutionizing how we extend cloud capabilities. Beyond that, the delivery of cloud-based services now allows for an even richer end-user experience while still enabling new concepts around mobility and IoT.

Moving forward, there will be a lot more data to control. And, a lot of it is already moving to the cloud. The latest Cisco Cloud Index report goes on to show that by 2018, more than three quarters (78 percent) of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers compared to 22 percent processed by traditional data centers.

Maybe it’s time to look at cloud as a very viable option for some of your company’s most critical workloads. Let’s chat about the pluses and minuses of the hybrid cloud in the comments.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch; Writer/Speaker


Bill Kleyman brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. Using the latest innovations, such as AI, machine learning, data center design, DevOps, cloud and advanced technologies, he delivers solutions to customers that help them achieve their business goals and remain competitive in their market. He was ranked #16 globally in the Onalytica study that reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape; and #4 in another Onalytica study that reviewed the industry's top Data Security Experts.


He enjoys writing, blogging and educating colleagues about everything related to technology. His published and referenced work can be found on WindowsITPro, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, AFCOM, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot and more.


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