Cloud Migration – How to Ensure Data Security When Moving to the Cloud

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Krzysztof Łuczak

Jun 17, 2021 • 7 min read
Ensuring data security during moving to the cloud

Data security should be top priority when working with sensitive information. How do you ensure your cloud data security when moving your data to the cloud?

Although you may be secure with your on-premise security and confident in the security of your cloud service provider, cloud migration presents its own unique challenges. Data traffic must be encrypted, system parts must be isolated, and the correct permissions must be reviewed. By following a step by step process for cloud migration security, your business can ensure its cloud data security is maintained throughout the process.

Advantages of migrating to the cloud

Migrating to cloud services comes with plenty of advantages. Briefly, some of these include:

  • Minimal upfront costs: No hardware setup means a reduced upfront cost when starting to use cloud services.
  • Easy scalability: Scaling services up and down depending on relative demand is easy using the cloud. It also means you only pay for what you use, maximizing cost efficiency.
  • Reduced maintenance: Using the cloud means your developers have to do minimal maintenance compared to on-premise. This gives your team more time to improve and create new applications.

Is data safe in the cloud?

Although cloud services come packaged with security features, many people tend to worry about the amount of people who could theoretically access their cloud with the right privileges. However, cloud services such as AWS.

How is data protected?

Cloud data and traffic is often encrypted to ensure its safety. This involves scrambling the data of any given file, meaning it is unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the data encryption key. This ensures that only people with the right data encryption keys can access your data.

Traffic between cloud services also passes through an internal network. This means that the traffic should be private to your team and free from outside interference.

Having multiple cloud accounts allows your business to isolate different environments. This means your employees will only have access to the resources relevant to them that are attached to their account.

What about data leaks?

Cloud data leaks have been known to happen before, but these are fortunately uncommon due to new security precautions provided by cloud services. Cloud services allow you to verify every modification made within an account, meaning that unverified modifications can be found and dealt with ASAP.

Most cloud providers come with extra services that help prevent data leaks. For AWS, their service is called Trusted Advisor, and provides extensive guidance on following cloud data best practices as well as improved security.

The security challenges of cloud migration

Cloud migration comes with its own set of security challenges that must be solved before you can move your data.

Challenge 1 – System isolation

It’s vital to isolate certain parts of your system to reduce the number of dependencies and connections. Some elements of your system should be publicly visible, and others should not be visible. Defining which part falls into which category is key to being able to monitor each element as best as you can.

Challenge 2 – Permissions

Because the cloud is generally open to anyone who has the right privileges, cloud services often have a very granular permissions model. This means that accounts are only given the minimum necessary permissions to reduce risk. This also means that there are a small number of degrees between each permission level. It means that cloud services conform to the principle of least privilege.

Best practices when ensuring cloud data security

There are a number of best practices to follow when transferring data to the cloud to ensure your security is being upheld to the highest standards.

Principle of least privilege

Working to a principle of least privilege is essential to ensuring data security. This involves assigning the minimum number of permissions for any server or user that are necessary for that entity to perform its normal functions.

Preparation to migrate

Only the elements that are essential for system operation should be migrated first. This involves finding and assigning essential operation status to these elements to ensure they are migrated together. Every other part should have a separate migration process. System security can only be optimally upheld when the system is tidy, allowing you to maintain control of the entire process.

Follow cloud provider advice

Each cloud provider has a set of rules and processes that it uses to allow user to build a better system. These include general tips on how to achieve this within the cloud. A great example of this is Google Cloud’s Architecture Framework, which gives guides on best practices, implementations and general information about products and services.

Data security when moving to the cloud - a step by step process

Following a robust step by step process is an easy way to ensure that data is secure when migrating to the cloud.

1. A list of elements that need to be migrated should be drawn up first.

This includes essential operating elements that should have been previously identified. Migrating unnecessary elements could compromise data security and, at minimum, is just a waste of time and money.

2. Read the best practices document that should be provided to you by your cloud provider.

Cloud providers should be seen as the ultimate experts on their product, meaning that advice and information given in best practices should prove to be invaluable. This is especially important when it comes to data security.

3. Creating a permissions list or diagram can help to visualize the granular nature of cloud privileges.

This can be related to the permissions of certain elements as well as the permissions of each person or team that will use your system. This should run on the principle of least privilege.

4. Divide your system into parts that can be distinguished by whether they should be publicly accessed or not.

This can again come in the form of a list or a diagram and should help to maintain maximum data security.

5. Decide and label which objects should be a high security priority.

This could be storage or a database containing sensitive information. These objects should be secured and isolated separately to ensure optimal security.

6. Create a cloud backup procedure that can be used in a cloud disaster recovery plan in the event of a disaster.

Although you may need to pay the cloud service provider for this extra privilege, this is a necessary step that gives you business peace of mind.

Protecting your data during a cloud migration

Cloud data security and cloud migration doesn’t have to be that complicated. As with anything technology and software based, following best practices and pre-designed protocols is the safest and easiest way to ensure long term success. This is especially true when it comes to cloud data security.

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Krzysztof Łuczak

Krzysztof works as DevOps Engineer in Netguru.
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