Cloud computing enables organizations to vastly reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, and become leaner, making them more adaptable to change. As speed and agility become essential for digital economy success, organizations deploy more applications, assets, and workloads to public clouds.
It appears this trend is only going to continue. Research from McKinsey & Co. found that 55% of companies have increased the number of applications they have migrated to the cloud since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Different organizations employ different cloud approaches, but among the most widely used are the single-cloud and multi-cloud strategies, each one with its own advantages, disadvantages, and security challenges.
What are Single-Cloud and Multi-Cloud Storage Systems?
The difference between single cloud and multi-cloud rests primarily with the number of cloud service providers an organization works with. Organizations using a single-cloud strategy rely on one cloud storage provider to supply all their cloud storage needs and capabilities.
While there are some advantages to a single cloud provider strategy, by far the more widely used approach for modern enterprise is multi-cloud. According to research from Oracle, 76% of companies rely on more than one public cloud, a figure that jumps to at least three public clouds for organizations with revenue of more than $1 billion.
Multi-cloud refers to an organization’s use of more than one cloud vendor to support different applications, assets, and workloads. This approach gives organizations a much wider degree of flexibility, capabilities, and pricing options than the single-cloud approach. Among the industry’s leading cloud service providers are:
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud Platform
The Hybrid-Cloud Environment
Many organizations are reluctant to completely migrate their IT assets from their on-premises infrastructure to public or private cloud environments. Not only can that process be resource-intensive, but it also creates downtime and exposes organizations to risk. For those reasons, many organizations choose hybrid cloud, or an IT environment combining public and private cloud plus on-premises infrastructure.
Organizations using hybrid cloud in this category are able to leverage many of the advantages that come with deploying to the cloud without ripping and replacing their entire on-premises legacy systems.
Comparing the Effectiveness of Multi-Cloud vs. Single Cloud
There are a number of pros and cons related to multi-cloud and single cloud that decision makers should consider before initiating their cloud deployment.
The pros and cons of the multi-cloud strategy
- Greater flexibility: When organizations partner with multiple cloud providers, they can select those whose service offerings best match each specific area of their business. That ensures they gain access to the most appropriate range of capabilities for optimal performance and efficiency.
- More cost-efficient: Similarly, organizations can compare competitive price points between different service providers and opt for those that offer the best balance of pricing and service quality. This enables them to drastically reduce their cloud operational costs and IT spend.
- Inconsistency: Every cloud service provider has a unique approach to cloud computing, often deploying unique tools, systems, and policies. Relying on multiple cloud providers means learning and engaging with a wide variety of different strategies. This can be disconcerting for employees who have to access multiple clouds.
- Security challenges: Cloud security is usually managed within the platform, using tools built by the cloud service provider. While these tools are highly effective, they do vary between different cloud vendors. This approach can create inconsistency as it relates to cybersecurity for the organization. Ultimately, these inconsistencies may create cybersecurity gaps.
The advantages and disadvantages of the single-cloud strategy
- Greater management: Outsourcing applications, functions, data, and workloads to a single cloud provider vastly simplifies orchestrating the management processes for the enterprise. This can help to eliminate manual administrative tasks and give internal teams more resources to focus on higher priority items.
- Simplification: For businesses with a limited number of applications and functions deployed to the cloud, relying on a single-cloud provider can simplify their cloud architecture without creating drawbacks and limitations.
- Vendor lock-ins: Organizations that partner with a single cloud provider often are locked into strict contractual terms. Lock-ins make it difficult to sever or alter terms of the partnership and seek another cloud service if needs change.
- Cloud inflexibility: Every cloud provider has a slightly different set of cloud services and specialties. Partnering with a single-cloud provider limits the enterprise to the service offerings of the lone provider, which could impose limitations on their flexibility if they want to expand beyond those core capabilities.
Security Risks of Multi-Cloud and Single-Cloud Environments
Regardless of the cloud storage model organizations choose, multi-cloud and single-cloud strategies share similar security challenges. These include:
- Lack of visibility: It may be difficult for organizations to maintain complete visibility over security policies of their cloud environments.
- Development outpaces security: Speed is critical for organizations in the modern economy. Cloud deployment and application development often vastly outpace the establishment of appropriate security policies.
- Unsecure access: Users can access cloud applications from virtually any device or endpoint, including those outside the enterprise network, creating security vulnerabilities.
Multi-cloud environments have a number of additional security challenges organizations need to consider. These include:
- Inconsistent cybersecurity protocols: Different cloud vendors use different tools, platforms, and policies to maintain data security. This can cause confusion for the enterprise.
- Access credentials: Most employees will need access credentials to more than one public cloud, making it difficult to maintain consistent privileged access policies across the organization.
- Inconsistent upgrades: Cloud service providers constantly upgrade their software to improve delivery and capabilities. However, this can create new security gaps that are amplified when enterprises must manage upgrades from multiple cloud providers.
Multi-Cloud and Single-Cloud Security Best Practices
Cloud security incidents are incredibly common. Seventy-nine percent of organizations responding to a recent study cite cloud security as one of their top cloud challenges. For that reason, it’s critical organizations understand best practices for cloud security, so they know how best to protect their sensitive data from risk.
Multi-cloud and single-cloud security best practices include:
- Automate where possible. Automating manual security tasks enables organizations to enhance the operability of their security processes while minimizing (or eliminating) human error.
- Maintain contact with cloud service providers. Stay in contact with the cloud service providers to know about software updates and the tools to conduct proper oversight.
- Consider security from the beginning. When developing applications in the cloud, conduct a risk assessment at all development stage so potential security vulnerabilities are identified and addressed quickly.
- Maintain visibility by investing in the right tools. Invest in cloud security solutions that synchronize security tools, processes, and cloud-based data in a centralized location. This facilitates enterprise visibility over all security information across your entire cloud infrastructure.
- Understand responsibilities. Shared responsibility models obligate the cloud vendor and the enterprise to take some degree of ownership for cloud security. It’s important for organizations to understand both their own and the cloud provider’s obligations.
As organizations increasingly migrate and deploy applications and workloads to public clouds, cybersecurity must be top of the agenda.
Fortra’s Alert Logic’s cybersecurity experts provide enterprises with the tools, personnel, and solutions they need to conduct real-time detection, investigation, and remediation of all legitimate security threats facing their organization. We tailor our solutions to match the specific security requirements of your organization, so you stay resilient in the face of a constantly evolving threat landscape.
Get in touch with our team to schedule a demo and get started.