May 14, 2024

Cloud security vs on-premise: Are your data and IT systems safer in the air?

Cloud computing is now the standard by which every enterprise IT infrastructure is judged. According to the Africa Cloud Business Survey 2023 from PwC, 50% of companies have already adopted cloud technologies, with 61% planning to migrate all their operations to the cloud within the next two years.

Interestingly, 40% of companies are focusing on a combination of migration, modernisation, and cloud-native development to change their business, going above and beyond a simple lift-and-shift approach of migrating exact copies of applications and workloads to a cloud environment.

This approach, combined with the overall move to cloud environments, can lead to several questions regarding security. According to one local survey, 89% of South African business leaders view cloud security as a major concern, regarding both protecting cloud workloads and multi-cloud environments. For many, this prompts the question: Is the cloud more secure than on-premise operations?

The need for cloud security

Cloud computing represents an expansion of a company’s IT networks and systems beyond conventional infrastructure. For many local enterprises, cloud services are a cost-effective means to scale upwards, investing in computational power without having to purchase additional on-premise hardware.

There are a lot of other benefits to it, especially in terms of availability and negligible downtime. For example, many organisations do not have backup power supplies for their IT infrastructure should load shedding occur. Moving infrastructure off-site and to facilities that offer backup power solutions minimises the potential for service disruptions.

However, with the evolving nature of cloud operations and its intricacies, there is an escalation of cybersecurity risks. Criminals are leveraging the cloud to carry out more sophisticated attacks using cloud-based services, as well as exploiting vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure. Global reports show hackers are increasingly targeting cloud services and relying less on malware to compromise business data and applications.

It is not a matter of on-premise or cloud being inherently more secure. The discussion should rather centre on how each approach best meets your enterprise's computational needs.

On-premise vs cloud

When it comes to security, on-premise and cloud each offer unique advantages. With on-premise networks, enterprises can be assured of their systems’ physical location and circumstances. They know where they are stored and who can access them at any given time. Enterprises can also implement changes and conduct maintenance on-site, which is essential for organisations with specialised IT requirements.

Importantly, on-premise networks allow for a well-defined security perimeter. All network traffic can be routed via physical security appliances, enabling enterprises to monitor for and mitigate any potential risks. With all traffic taking place inside the perimeter, there is less risk of incidents such as compromised user credentials.

On the other hand, cloud service providers are subject to strict and standardised security standards, meaning all data and assets are treated equally. Because it is a managed service, the cloud also enables enterprises to free up resources and people to focus on other business priorities like application development.

Cloud services can also help enterprises lower operational expenses as they do not require significant investment in on-premise security resources and personnel. They also offer additional data and network backup capabilities, which enhance an organisation’s level of protection and complement data compliance strategies.

Invest in what works for you

For many enterprises, a combination of cloud and on-premise security is the optimal way to go. With the two, companies can host critical systems on-site and leverage cloud-based operations for other functions, particularly workloads that have greater computational demands.

In the same way enterprises can rely on cloud service providers to handle security, enterprises can turn to their IT partners and vendors to help meet their on-premise security needs. In partnership with vendors, enterprises can leverage on-premise security solutions that simplify IT security, including unified threat management (UTM) which provides a single point of protection and makes it easier for IT managers to look after their networks.

Whatever the situation, enterprises in South Africa can leverage the full potential of cloud and on-premise IT operations in a way that helps alleviate security concerns.