Compliance Considerations for Multi Cloud Security

Kerwyn Velasco
April 10, 2024
Explore multi cloud security with anecdotes

How having a Compliance data infrastructure can help scale for multi-cloud adoption

Enterprise organizations have an inherent need to manage their growth – sometimes hypergrowth – and the many changes that growth entails, including acquisitions, onboarding of new tools, and the need to reduce risk by securing their systems properly. Often, organizations look to the cloud – or multiple clouds – to help facilitate this growth without fully appreciating the challenges involved. This is akin to constructing a house without adhering to building codes and regulations. Just as an organization must manage its growth and adapt to changes, a homeowner must ensure their house accommodates their expanding needs and lifestyle changes. However, without following Compliance regulations, both the organization and the homeowner expose themselves to potential risks and other growth-related challenges. To help solve these cloud Compliance challenges, they may want to consider multi-cloud security.

Multi Cloud Security Concerns

If your organization is running enterprise applications on platform-as-a-service(PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from multiple cloud service providers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, IBM Cloud, then you know how challenging this juggling act can be. And you are certainly not alone. Flexera’s State of the Cloud Report 2023 indicates that 87% of organizations have embraced a multi cloud strategy, and 72% of large enterprises have adopted a hybrid cloud infrastructure. 

As organizations utilize an increasing number of services from multiple cloud vendors, running these services and managing multi cloud security becomes more complex. Flexera’s report shows that 80% of enterprises are challenged with multi-cloud management, with 72% struggling with Compliance. That comes as no surprise. Compliance is complex when dealing with one set of cloud infrastructure, but it can be nearly impossible when having to contend with multiple cloud providers.

Clouds, Clouds, Everywhere

What is the difference between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud? And are they similar to regular cloud? 

Cloud: In general terms, cloud computing is about accessing computing services over the Internet. It involves utilizing a network of remote Internet servers for data storage and processing rather than relying on local servers or personal devices.

Multi-cloud: Multi-cloud is an approach where an organization uses multiple cloud computing platforms or providers to fulfill different computing needs. It involves leveraging services from different cloud providers simultaneously, often based on the specific requirements of different applications or workloads. For example, a company might use one cloud provider for its data storage needs and another provider for their machine learning requirements.

Hybrid cloud: This is a combination of both public and private cloud infrastructure. It allows organizations to retain some control over their data infrastructure by maintaining a private cloud (on-premises infrastructure) while also utilizing public cloud services. With a hybrid cloud approach, companies can store sensitive or critical data on their private infrastructure while using the scalability and flexibility of public cloud resources for other workloads.

Multi Cloud: Pros and Cons

Multi cloud strategies are ideal for some organizations and not for others.

Reasons to choose multi cloud:

  • Flexibility: Everyone appreciates choices. Multi cloud allows organizations to select the services that are right for them – and their industry requirements -- across multiple clouds.
  • Geographic Reach: Not every cloud provider can deliver access to every location.  Multiple clouds can offer your organization access to additional specific markets and allow global expansion with ease.

  • Local Data Requirements: In countries with strict data sovereignty laws, organizations may be required to store data locally, necessitating a multi cloud strategy for Compliance purposes.

Reasons to avoid multi cloud:

  • Lack of uniformity: Each cloud provider operates in a silo, with different APIs and image formats.  If you plan to use a multi cloud strategy to balance risk by moving applications between clouds, you may have to think again.

  • Security risk: In a multi cloud environment, teams and workloads can become scattered, making it difficult to detect and fix issues before they become security disasters.

  • Time investment: This complexity means your team will spend considerable time managing workload across cloud providers.

  • High costs: Quite a few unexpected expenses can crop up when managing services across cloud providers. 
Pros Cons
Flexibility Lack of Uniformity
Geographic Reach Security Risk
Local Data Requirements Time Investment
High Cost

Multi Cloud Compliance Challenges: Navigating the Compliance Landscape

Compliance is critical to any organization's operations, ensuring adherence to industry standards, regulations, and frameworks. However, when implementing a multi cloud strategy, several complexities must be addressed to maintain multi cloud Compliance effectively. Here are key considerations:

  1. Aggregate Evidence from Multiple Places and Applications: 

With data spread across different cloud providers, gathering evidence for Compliance becomes challenging. Auditors and stakeholders may require proof of Compliance from various sources and applications, necessitating robust mechanisms for implementing data fabric and consolidating evidence to demonstrate adherence.

  1. Predictability of Data Format Across Different Cloud Infrastructures: 

Each cloud infrastructure operates differently, utilizing distinct APIs and image formats. Ensuring predictability and consistency of data format across multiple clouds is essential for Compliance purposes. Proper data governance practices, including data classification and normalization, are crucial to maintaining a unified and compliant data structure.

  1. Data Residency and Boundary Control:

Compliance often entails data residency requirements, especially in regions with stringent data protection regulations. It becomes vital to understand where the data resides within each cloud provider's infrastructure and ensure it aligns with Compliance obligations. Implementing appropriate data encryption, access controls, and boundary controls becomes crucial to meet cloud regulatory Compliance standards.

  1. Alignment with Frameworks and Standards:

Various frameworks and standards, such as CSA STAR, CIS Benchmarks, and ISO 27001, provide guidelines for ensuring secure and compliant cloud operations. Organizations must assess which frameworks are relevant to their industry and establish clear communication channels with stakeholders to demonstrate Compliance alignment. This includes ongoing monitoring, reporting, and documentation of Compliance activities, as well as a unified control framework

  1. Operationalizing Remediation of Non-Compliance:

When non-Compliance is identified, it is crucial to have an effective remediation process in place. This includes clearly communicating non-Compliance issues to the responsible parties within the organization and facilitating their prompt resolution. Data utilization, effective collaboration and coordination between teams are essential to ensure Compliance gaps are addressed efficiently.

Multi-Cloud Security Simplified: Unleashing the Power of anecdotes Data Infrastructure and Automation

Organizations adopting a multi-cloud security strategy should establish robust governance frameworks, leverage automation and monitoring tools, and foster close collaboration between Compliance, security, and operations teams. Similar to building a stable house that adheres to building codes and regulations, incorporating a stable structure for Compliance data is essential for maintaining a secure multi-cloud environment.

The anecdotes Compliance automation solution streamlines multiple cloud infrastructures by automatically collecting artifacts from various sources: public cloud, on-premise, private cloud, and SaaS tools, through 100% first-party integrations. The data is normalized, structured, and stored in an evidence pool with a unique data-fabric approach to serve as the basis for every application usage. Every Compliance process has a correlating application powered by credible data so that you can manage all aspects of your program in one place, no matter how many clouds you use in your operations. By addressing multi-cloud security challenges proactively, organizations can build a house of success, where every cloud is harmoniously integrated, and Compliance stands as a solid pillar supporting their growth and security.

Kerwyn Velasco
Security and Compliance Nerd with 10 years GRC experience wearing all kinds of hats. He currently does marketing at anecdotes.