Cloud Audit in a Nutshell - Why, How, and with Whom

Radosław Kubryń

Nov 5, 2021 • 13 min read
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According to predictions, by 2025 there will be around 100 zettabytes of data stored in the cloud globally. That’s 100 billion (100 and 12 zeros) GBs. The iPhone 12 has a max of 256 GB of data storage, to give you a clue how massive that amount is.

Companies already use the cloud for their everyday data requirements, but they need reliable and efficient infrastructure to meet increasing demands with minimal management effort. That’s where cloud audit services come in.

In 2021, there is no shortage of cloud service providers for businesses looking to switch their activities to the cloud. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Alibaba provide their own cloud services, coming in at different prices and capabilities to suit every type of enterprise.

To create a reliable environment for businesses, these services have to be checked to ensure secure, on-demand network access to data and business continuity. Companies want to ensure these end-results so the cloud audit process is gaining in popularity.

Cloud audits can come in multiple varieties depending on the type or scope of the audit. Audits are usually conducted by an independent group of auditors who investigate the potential of provided cloud services. Internal audits are a rather less popular option due to possible bias in the analysis.

The goal of a cloud audit is to verify crucial cloud capabilities that state its reliability in its security requirements, performance efficiency, and to make sure that costs are optimized.

What is a cloud audit?

A cloud computing audit is similar to other types of audits conducted within a business. Its main goal is to check and improve data availability and consider the overall performance and security aspects that should be ensured by the cloud service provider.

The process usually involves a technical investigation and presentation of the results in the form of a report on the existing cloud infrastructure performance and control frameworks according to the client’s specifications. There are multiple types of audits that can be performed depending on the chosen scope and business needs.

What is the role of an audit in cloud computing?

A cloud computing audit delivers insights about your cloud infrastructure’s current state and identifies room for potential improvements, optimization, and cloud compliance as well as risks, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.

It’s a tool that allows businesses to understand whether their providers and systems are complying with industry standards or are vulnerable to malicious attacks or internal breakdowns and what changes they can apply that can lead to cost reductions.

Cloud audits are used to find out this and other information such as projected costs for service implementation. The ultimate aim of the audit focuses on aligning expenditure with the actual demand for data storage, processing, and general accessibility of network and data.

How exactly do these insights bring tangible business results? Cloud auditing knowledge can be used to define the design and operational effectiveness in the following areas of cloud computing development:

  • Communication
  • Security reports and incidents
  • Network security
  • System development
  • Risk management
  • Data management
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Ethical company behavior

Cloud audit types

There are several main types of cloud audit. The type conducted depends on the area that a company chooses to investigate to acquire specific information valuable from the business point of view.

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Although there are a number of providers, the three main cloud computing companies that we audit cloud environments for are:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Cloud infrastructure, security, performance, and cost assessment audit

Cloud infrastructure is, essentially, the term used to describe all the aspects required to use cloud technology. This includes elements such as hardware (like servers), data storage, and network resources.

A cloud infrastructure security, performance, and cost assessment audit detects infrastructure misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and threats within the cloud environment.

It can also check whether a cloud has sufficient logging and monitoring capabilities, and verify the access and security policies, improving risk management.

Another aspect of the security audit extends to information encryption, and whether the data stored in the cloud is protected both in transit and at rest.

Finally, auditors assess cloud infrastructures against CIS benchmarks to find any misconfigurations or missing setups to optimize financial resources, as well as the time and effort needed to maintain the infrastructure. All these activities serve to improve the overall configurable computing resources utilization.

Vulnerability scanning audit

Vulnerability scanning focuses on the assessment of security vulnerabilities and weaknesses that pose a threat to the computer system’s reliability and security. It is usually automated and results in a more effective network and improved system protection from cyberattacks and other malicious activities.

Vulnerability scanning audits provide a full rundown of every potential point of attack and weakness found within computer software, including internal and external networks.

This type of cloud computing audit uses automated scanners to verify network boundaries, systems, and web applications for known vulnerabilities.

All findings of weak spots are verified and put into a report by qualified architects, and security and DevOps engineers.

A vulnerability scanning cloud audit may include a checkup of:

  • Networks
  • Systems
  • Cloud environments and infrastructures
  • Web applications and applications exposing network services
  • Docker/Kubernetes containers

Configuration hardening audit

Configuration hardening is another type of cloud audit and is essentially the process of checking that systems are proactively guarded against attacks by reducing the attack surface and having good system fortification.

A configuration hardening audit ensures that a system’s security configuration is appropriately set, that the operating system software is updated to stay ahead of new exploits, and that this process runs continuously, using as much automation as possible.

The essential goal of configuration hardening is preventing as many potential exploits as possible, however, it’s difficult for individual companies to see whether their configurations are correct.

Teams can help with this cloud auditing by assessing systems and critical service configurations to harden them against vendor-neutral benchmarks. These systems could be anything from virtual servers, workstation images, and docker images to applications, network devices, and security gateways.

Misconfigurations and absent security controls can be detected in advance to provide your business with a detailed report with configuration hardening recommendations.

A configuration hardening audit and review includes assessing:

  • Virtual and physical systems in the cloud
  • Containers, clusters, and virtual machines
  • Network devices: firewalls, load balancers, WAFs

SDLC pipeline configuration hardening and review audit

The software development life cycle (SDLC) can be completed through various different methodologies. These include the waterfall model, V-Model, prototyping model, and the spiral method. Each of these methodologies provides its own pros and cons, but the most important thing is that the process itself is secure and there are no vulnerabilities.

Proper configuration of SDLC pipelines is important as this process underlies the creation of working software. If your CI/CD pipeline is insecure, sensitive data may be exposed to outside sources.

Specialists can verify your CI/CD resiliency and detect cloud security vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Making sure your SDLC environment configuration is secure is the best way to ensure that no secrets are exposed and that you’re in line with current security standards.

What deliverables are produced from a cloud audit?

Once a cloud audit has been completed, your company will receive a report based on the findings of the auditor and a proposal with a recommended implementation list. Both documents are presented in an easily digestible format to make it easy for those with less tech experience to understand.

Cloud audit report

The cloud audit report includes all of the findings from the cloud infrastructure investigation and describes its current state. Findings are usually compared to benchmarks like industrial or technical standards to review if the investigated cloud infrastructure is actually in good shape or there are areas that require swift action and implementation of improvements.

Common findings are in areas such as:

  • IT Infrastructure diagnosis and discovery (with a deep application performance insight)
  • Performance requirements
  • List of identified interdependencies between particular segments of the cloud system
  • Requirements for security and cloud compliance
  • Objectives for virtualization
  • Objectives for possible/needed integrations

Proposals

The proposal document is complementary to the report findings and includes a list of possible cost reductions, development/actions required to achieve them, and an estimate of a timeframe in which they can be implemented.

It’s mostly oriented on limiting resources that aren’t in use but still generate unnecessary costs. A better match between the demand and the capacity allows businesses to streamline their processes by eliminating elements that not only don’t support them but can often be a vulnerability.

Possible optimization can be even greater if a company collaborates with a highly specialized, certified cloud provider partner to implement necessary infrastructure changes. Such companies offer experts with high competency of the infrastructure offered by a cloud provider.

There are several partnerships that offer customers better terms for their cloud system optimization:

Cloud audit benefits

Cloud computing audits always mean a gain for the business. They come with different benefits, depending on the type of audit being conducted but the assured results are:

  • Cost reduction – eliminating obsolete services and unused resources ensures that money stays in the company's pocket
  • Increased cloud security level – a more secure cloud means less expensive breakdowns as the infrastructure is less vulnerable to any type of malfunction
  • Enhanced efficiency – better utilization results in seamless, shortened processes that don’t use unnecessary resources
  • Verification of data security – cloud compliance and the ability for swift disaster recovery after disastrous events such as unauthorized access to sensitive data or a large-scale blackout is a must for any business

How do you conduct a cloud audit? The Netguru way

The entire cloud audit process can take different lengths of time depending on a few factors such as the chosen scope, type, and the size of the target IT infrastructure.

Speaking from experience, on average the audit process takes somewhere between five and 14 days to complete and includes the creation of the audit report. There are seven main steps to our cloud audit process:

1. Analysis of a chosen cloud provider infrastructure

We have to make an initial analysis of your infrastructure to decide the length and scope of the audit

2. Estimation of cloud audit

Then, we can estimate the workload and the date when the audit will be ready

3. Deep review of infrastructure

Your infrastructure will be scanned for vulnerabilities and reviewed to see what optimization can be introduced to increase efficiency

4. Security, performance, and cost savings test

Cloud security and performance are tested against benchmarks, and we also run a cost savings test

5. Creating the report detailing security, performance, and cost savings

The report is created and delivered to you in a form that is easily understood and simple to navigate

6. Proposal of recommendations with estimated costs and timings for implementation

We recommend changes to be made to the infrastructure and estimate the costs and time this would take to implement

7. Implementation by Netguru

If you decide to proceed with the recommendations with us, we will assemble a team of experts that will work on your cloud optimization according to the findings from the cloud audit report

Choosing the right partner to enhance your cloud performance

Proceeding with a cloud audit is one of the best ways to ensure your business is conducting its cloud operations properly and with the greatest efficiency. Identifying exploits, understanding obsolete areas of your processes, and streamlining performance can all be done with cloud auditing knowledge and skills.

All of these aspects are designed to save your company money and optimize its cloud computing capabilities. Whether the optimization requires expertise and skills in cloud, security, or developing machine learning models, we are here to help you not only solve your business challenges but to save you money and increase your system performance.

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Radosław Kubryń

IT Manager, DevOps, Engineer.
Fuel your digital growth with cloud solutions