Hybrid cloud security is the set of practices, procedures, and technologies used to secure a hybrid cloud environment.
Hybrid cloud security protects data, applications, and infrastructures across a mix of IT environments, including on-premises hardware, private clouds, and public clouds. It must accommodate the unique characteristics of both private and public cloud resources and provide a cohesive security framework to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and applications as customer traffic passes between the environments.
Hybrid cloud is a mixed computing environment that combines compute infrastructure from the public cloud, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or the Google Cloud Platform, with an organization’s private cloud or on-premises data center. The primary advantage of a hybrid cloud is agility: Organizations can scale compute resources up and down according to need, and choose where workloads are processed based on requirements for data security, compliance, workload sensitivity, or performance.
The public cloud allows enterprises to host applications and data in shared computing resources owned by a third-party service provider. The public cloud offers access to almost limitless computing resources in a pay-as-you-go model, offering organizations massive economies of scale without the need to invest in data center hardware. The private cloud is dedicated—not shared—cloud infrastructure controlled by the enterprise, and can be operated by a third party co-location provider, or hosted in a private data center and managed by the organization.
Private clouds can offer greater control and more robust security than public clouds, making them better suited for processing or storing sensitive data, or for processing mission-critical applications that require high levels of security, compliance, and customization.
Multi-cloud is another type of cloud, where an organization generally uses multiple cloud computing services from different cloud providers to meet specific business needs and customer demands. Multi-cloud security provides consistent and comprehensive protection for data and applications that are deployed across multiple cloud computing platforms from multiple cloud service providers.
There are key differences between hybrid cloud security and multi-cloud security. Hybrid cloud security focuses on consistently securing resources in public and private clouds. Multi-cloud security, on the other hand, generally refers to the use of services from multiple cloud providers, and requires a broader security strategy to consistently protect against misconfiguration, exploitation, and laterally spreading threats. Hybrid cloud security is therefore a subset of multi-cloud security.
A hybrid cloud security model enables organizations to protect sensitive data and applications by keeping them on-premises, while using the public cloud for less sensitive workloads. By separating sensitive data and applications from the public cloud, organizations can better manage security risks, reducing the fallout of data breaches or likelihood of cyberattacks.
This security approach delivers benefits for regulatory compliance, as organizations can keep sensitive or protected data on-premises, while using the public cloud for less sensitive data and workloads. The hybrid cloud security model also allows organizations to use the public cloud as a disaster recovery site in the event of an outage, or to “burst” to the public cloud to handle traffic spikes.
Implementing a hybrid cloud security strategy can provide many benefits for organizations, but it also comes with multiple challenges and risks. These include:
A secure and compliant hybrid cloud environment requires a holistic approach that includes consistent security policies and practices, end-to-end visibility, and strong governance and compliance measures to ensure that organizations can reap the benefits of the hybrid cloud without compromising their security posture.
The architecture for hybrid cloud security includes protection for apps, APIs, underlying infrastructure, and software supply chains. Because data is accessed or otherwise made available through data centers and cloud environments, it must be encrypted to ensure that only valid users and applications can access and use it, typically through some form of zero-trust security model. Zero trust dictates that all requests for access to resources, whether originating from inside or outside the network, must be verified, authenticated, and continually assessed for every request.
At the architecture’s perimeter, edge cloud servers and application containers undergo microsegmentation [insert link to new microsegmentation glossary page], a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, each with its own security policies and controls, to isolate and protect critical assets from potential security threats. These create “demilitarized zones” or DMZs that restrict access to sensitive data and servers and limit the blast radius of an attack. These DMZs serve as a buffer that allows organizations to expose certain services to the public Internet while keeping the rest of their network secure.
Firewalls add additional layers of protection, further separating cloud environments from on-premises resources.
Hybrid cloud security consists of three components: physical, technical, and administrative.
Physical controls are for securing the actual hardware, while technical controls protect the IT and processing systems. Administrative controls are implemented to account for human actions or natural factors that can impact security.
Physical controls are a vital aspect of hybrid cloud security, as they safeguard the physical infrastructure that supports the hybrid cloud environment. Hybrid clouds can span multiple locations, which makes physical security both a special challenge and a critical responsibility.
Physical controls include access restrictions to data centers, server rooms, and other areas that contain critical infrastructure. Surveillance systems like CCTV cameras, motion detectors, and monitoring systems to monitor access to critical infrastructure and detect any unauthorized activity are also considered physical controls.
In addition, physical controls can include backup power systems like an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and backup generators to ensure that the hybrid cloud environment remains operational during power outages.
Organizations should develop service level agreements (SLAs) with cloud providers to define how physical security standards will be met.
Technical controls are critical to hybrid cloud security, and include:
Security is every user’s responsibility, and administrative controls help people act in ways that enhance security.
Organizations should provide training and awareness programs for employees, contractors, and other users of the hybrid cloud environment. This training should cover topics such as cloud security best practices, data classification, access control, and incident response, and should be tailored to the specific roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder.
Hybrid cloud architecture offers significant advantages for data recovery and disaster planning and preparedness. Because hybrid clouds involve both private and public clouds, organizations can employ the public cloud as a failover for on-premises data and applications, enabling backups, redundancy, and disaster preparedness and recovery scenarios.
Hybrid cloud security is complex and requires careful planning, implementation, and ongoing management. Here are some best practices to consider as organizations begin developing their approach to hybrid cloud security.
Managing compliance and governance in a hybrid cloud environment can be challenging, and includes the following considerations.
Following are solutions, services, and tools to consider when evaluating and selecting features for hybrid clouds.
Here are some emerging trends in hybrid cloud security, pointing to how it may evolve in the coming years.
Hybrid cloud has already proven to be a game-changing technology for many businesses, providing them with the flexibility, scalability, and cost savings they need to stay competitive. But securing the hybrid cloud can be complex and requires the right hybrid cloud security strategy to ensure that sensitive data and workloads are protected at all times.
To help simplify your hybrid cloud strategy, F5 offers a comprehensive set of security and management tools that remain consistent across clouds and protects data and applications across multiple IT environments.