Moving away from on-premise architecture to a cloud infrastructure requires a huge shift away from the responsibilities of the data centre to a much more collaborative arrangement with an external public cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure or AWS for example.
This new working model has many benefits, but fundamentally, it provides a shared responsibility model which determines who is responsible for the security of which architecture components. The expertise and computing clout of some of the industry’s biggest providers is not an insignificant factor when considering the shift, especially as many SME organisations would be unable to replicate the skills, expertise and computing power provided by an industry giant such as Microsoft.
It offers gains in three main areas:
1. Security: Cloud environments experience constant traffic via the public internet to reach servers, applications and data. This undoubtedly puts a greater security pressure upon organisations to secure its passage via the many more external access points than on-premise traffic. In the cloud virtual devices are managed with a different approach to security and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is heavily reliant on virtual servers and the need for shared responsibility to secure the virtual perimeter.
The cloud is a huge set of constantly evolving technologies that require security teams to keep up to date around the clock. These tasks include monitoring workloads, configurations, security patches and of course, maintenance which requires management by IT to manage the access risk.
In a public cloud arrangement – such as Microsoft Azure – Microsoft takes responsibility for the patching and maintenance of the underlying hardware which is constantly maintained to a high level providing more accessible security measures for the organisation. For example, public cloud architecture has come into its own during the rise in hybrid and homeworking as the security has allowed many more employees to work on their own devices from anywhere. Bring Your Own Device might have previously fell to the IT department to manage the end point (device) security, but via the public cloud, this is much simpler to do as security is a shared responsibility – Microsoft manages all of the underlying architecture and its updating, whilst IT admins manage the security at the service layer.
Another security benefit of using the cloud is regulatory compliance, top tier cloud providers like Microsoft design their data centres around certain compliance standards such as ISO 27001, HIPAA, SOC1 and SOC2 and are all backed by stringent third party audits. Microsoft then provide certification to the end customer. The shared responsibility model means that this leaves only the application or data layer for the customer to manage.
2. Productivity: Public cloud also provides major gains to SMEs’ in an increase in productivity when combined with the best management practices. Essentially the ‘heavy lifting’ of the infrastructure is increasingly segmented to the cloud providers which frees up the significant time, resources and costs to focus on what they do best. Digitally native companies have used technology to scale more rapidly and reach new markets faster, and with the increase shift to the public cloud, this digitally native way of working has brought benefits to those who are adopting the cloud to make use of its transformative properties in the same way.
For employees, the cloud delivers productivity in everyday activities with the ability to log into personalised desktop environments from anywhere and on any device securely to collaborate with colleagues. Services such as Microsoft’s Windows Desktop have come into their own during the pandemic to keep teams, cultures and organisations operating, collaborating and communicating across physical divides with security at the heart of operations. Working in the cloud provides updates when they’re needed, the ability to work across devices, the ability to scale up and down rapidly and deliver a truly secure tool for SMEs to work on.
3. High Availability: Working with public cloud providers also delivers the highest availability of computing resources for SMEs. Data within Microsoft datacentres are typically replicated three times as standard providing peace of mind that 99.9% uptime will be guaranteed through SLAs.
The cloud provider will deliver the functionality that would otherwise be difficult to replicate were it an on-premise architecture. Microsoft supplies the option of replication across data centres and regions, ensuring that the SME has the best high availability that computing has to offer – backed by stringent SLAs.
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