​5 tips: Choosing the best cloud vendor

When it comes to cloud security, know the difference between a great—or just okay—cloud vendor.

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For as many benefits that the cloud offers businesses come just as many challenges. One such challenge is establishing and maintaining proper data security.

I discussed the topic of cloud security with Andrew Bunyi, CIO of Cloud IT provider Nerdio, to get his insights into the matter.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

"In an era where a massive 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses, and the frequency (and costs) associated with those attacks are increasing all the time, the idea of 'security vs. affordability' doesn't have to be an either/or choice for companies when planning an IT strategy. In truth, it never did—but that certainly should never change," he said.

Outsourcing security

Bunyi asserted that the best way to ensure effective, continuous IT security is to engage a knowledgeable managed services provider as a partner in your efforts.

"There are many partner organizations available who can step up to the plate and take care of the security of even the most complicated environments on your behalf," he said.

For example, security-as-a-service, Bunyi continued, isn't just a way to address this issue effectively—it lets you exchange all of those fixed, unpredictable costs for a flat monthly payment and the expertise of people who handle these types of things for a living.

"They focus all of their time, energy, and attention on protecting your unique environment so that you can save time and money, and get back to doing the most important thing of all: Running a business," he said.

Bunyi pointed out that certain gaps in security are always going to exist within the infrastructure, especially if it's based in the cloud. Because of this, there are a few key best practices that you'll want to follow to keep you, your people, your data and your business safe from harm. This starts with selecting the best cloud partner. Below are five tips for doing just that.

SEE: Hybrid cloud: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

5 tips for selecting the best cloud vendor

1. Choose cloud vendors carefully

You should understand cloud vendors unique cybersecurity policies, where it overlaps and, most critically, where it doesn't. If your cloud vendor is not compliant with rules and regulations in your industry (like HIPAA), your business is not compliant.

If your cloud vendor is lax on security, your business is lax on security—end of story. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and this is one situation where a weak link of any kind cannot be afforded.

Ensure you get input from cybersecurity professionals as needed (whether in-house or consultants) in order to properly vet your cloud vendor.

2. Understand that security is not a product—it is a process

There is no "one solution" that allows you to simply forget about or de-emphasize cybersecurity. You should constantly scan and analyze your cloud resources, and address small problems today before it has a chance to become loopholes and vulnerabilities to be exploited tomorrow.

3. You need total visibility

Total visibility means optimizing your environments as much as possible. Your cloud partner should provide you with a complete set of metrics that will give you insight into the totality of your environment 24/7.

Without this level of visibility, you won't be able to identify over-provisioned resources (for cost savings) and zombie assets (which could potentially be used as a way to gain access into your infrastructure from someone on the outside).

SEE: Google Cloud Platform: An insider's guide (TechRepublic download)

4. Policy-driven automation is a must

Effectively managing the security of a cloud environment without the right partner is incredibly difficult. You need a partner who embraces modern automation and can help you create policies that alert you to over or under-utilized resources. They should set up notifications for situations where employees are failing to comply with cloud security policies.

5. Offload administrative tasks to automation

Your cloud partner should offload administrative tasks to automation, which ensures that your actual, human employees can devote the maximum amount of attention doing other important tasks. Ultimately, this will be of greater value to the business and will also keep employees feeling engaged and productive.

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Image: AKodisinghe, Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.