Today, cloud computing is a necessity in the corporate world. The advantages of using cloud computing range from security to flexibility to cost reduction. However, it’s necessary to establish protocols, rules, parameters, and practices. This is the role of cloud governance, which lays out the conditions for the best use of cloud computing.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about cloud governance–key principles to a Cloud Governance Framework, and four essential practices to get started.
What Is Cloud Governance?
Cloud governance is a concept within IT governance that refers to definitions, monitoring, audits, guidelines, policies, and processes for the use of cloud computing services. Cloud computing is an essential solution that provides cost-effectiveness and scalability for companies by eliminating the need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware infrastructure while also allowing them to quickly scale IT resources up or down as needed.
This pay-as-you-go model can benefit companies with fluctuating demand or seasonal business cycles, allowing them to only pay for the needed resources rather than investing in expensive infrastructure that may go unused during slower periods. By utilizing cloud services, companies can achieve cost savings while maintaining the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing business needs.
In this context, cloud governance arises, aiming to guarantee and improve data security, manage risks, and allow the operation of systems in cloud computing. It’s a necessary element in companies that work with the cloud since there are several challenges facing the use of this technology, such as
- the inability to enforce best practices for cost, reliability, and security due to self-provisioning;
- poor integration between cloud systems; and
- additional security issues and weak access control on new systems.
On the other hand, when we think of IT governance, we’re talking about a broader concept that governs similar activities—from data security to risk management—but in relation to all information technology resources and solutions. It goes beyond cloud computing and includes all company employees in its processes. After all, they manipulate information in their routines. Thus, it’s up to IT managers to understand the need and benefits of implementing cloud governance as a business strategy and to adopt appropriate practices for the company.
Principles of Governance in Cloud Computing Strategies
Cloud governance is all about the policies, procedures, and controls organizations implement to manage their cloud resources effectively. It includes defining roles and responsibilities for managing cloud services, setting policies for access controls and security, establishing procedures for provisioning and deprovisioning resources, and implementing tools and technologies to manage and monitor cloud services.
In the physical data center era, configuration management databases (CMDBs) and IT asset management were critical components of managing IT resources effectively. CMDBs provided a centralized view of IT assets and their relationships, enabling IT teams to understand the impact of changes on other systems and services. IT asset management provided a process for tracking and managing physical assets, including hardware, software licenses, and maintenance contracts.
In the cloud era, visibility and control over cloud resources are just as critical. While there may not be a physical data center to manage, organizations still need to understand their cloud resources, who has access to them, and how they’re being used. This requires implementing governance policies and procedures that provide visibility into cloud services, enable effective cost management, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and security best practices.
Cloud governance has five principles that promote transparent and efficient cloud infrastructure management. They are as follows:
- Compliance with policies and standards: The organization must keep cloud computing strategies in line with regulations and compliance standards applied throughout the rest of the enterprise.
- Alignment with business objectives: All policies and systems that include cloud computing must form part of the overall business and IT strategy, directly or indirectly supporting business goals and revenue generation.
- Collaboration: The parties related to the use of the cloud computing infrastructure must comply with the rules for the appropriate use of the solutions.
- Change management: All changes to systems and the cloud environment itself must be carried out in a controlled, consistent, and standardized manner in accordance with established policies.
- Dynamic response: Cloud governance must rely on cloud monitoring and automation to respond dynamically to events in the environment where it is applied.
4 Key Practices of the Cloud Governance Framework
Having a cloud governance framework to set direction. Management practices are needed to execute against this framework. Cloud governance has some components that must be on managers’ radars when implementing it in processes. They must align cloud computing with four management fronts: (1) financial, (2) operations, (3) data, and (4) compliance and security. Let's look at each of these practices below!
Organizations often struggle to keep cloud costs in check. However, cloud computing can be helpful in reducing IT costs as long as adequate financial management is carried out.
Cloud governance is essential for managing the financial aspects of cloud computing. It involves defining policies for centralizing access and costs in real time, with changes available to all interested parties. It helps reduce the risk of financial policy violations and unexpected costs. However, the key to controlling cloud costs is resource optimization and implementing best practices such as resource tagging, rightsizing, and leveraging reserved instances. By proactively managing cloud costs, organizations can maximize the value of their cloud investments while minimizing unnecessary expenses and risks.
But financial management can be a blunt and one-dimensional tool. The best way to truly drill down into cloud cost savings is with best practices that proactively allocate your resources in the most efficient way possible.
The practice of operations management is necessary to establish and organize your service deployment processes and best practices. It’s important to define the resources allocated within the cloud, as well as service-level agreements (SLAs), to measure
- the expected performance;
- continuous monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of SLAs
- process checks before deploying code
- access control requirements
Effective operations management is an important component in cost savings. Comprehensive budgeting, careful product selection, and robust best practices all work together to manage costs without a detrimental effect on product quality.
Although cloud computing facilitates collecting and analyzing large amounts of data (big data), cloud governance specifies information handling. For this, some measures can be taken:
- Creation of classifications and definition of data policy according to the sensitivity of the information
- Encryption of all data, providing greater security
- Creation of data access controls
- Data masking in development, test, or training environments
- Layered data manipulation, optimizing the use of low-cost systems
All these activities are part of managing your data’s life cycle; implementing policies and procedures for data management, including data ingestion, storage, processing, and archiving. Data life cycle management is a good opportunity to employ automation, so you can unlock the potential of your data assets and improve organizational agility.
Compliance and Security Management
Security policies and standards must be a priority for cloud governance actions. Managers need to define them according to general company regulations and a risk-based approach, focusing on the specific security risks associated with the organization’s cloud infrastructure, build processes, data assets, and accessibility.
Access can be authenticated through passwords, protecting information against malware attacks or misuse by malicious users. Among the compliance management requirements, you must consider risk analysis, identity management of individuals, data encryption, and actions to recover access and information.
Cloud Governance Best Practices
A carefully designed and executed cloud governance plan is critical for operational management, environmental monitoring, risk management, and security. Below are a few best practices that can guide you through this process.
Transform into a logic of service delivery management and use automation where it makes sense. This is contrary to a mode of operation based on unitary activities, which are coordinated and carried out manually. Integrating automated systems into the cloud governance framework can help organizations streamline governance processes, reduce the risk of errors or inconsistencies, and provide greater visibility into the security and compliance of the cloud environment.
Adopt Cloud-Specific Security Practices
Unlike conventional IT security, cloud security is generally governed by a shared responsibility model. Though the cloud operator is responsible for the management of the infrastructure, it’s the user’s responsibility to properly manage configurations and adopt cloud-specific security practices. Misconfigurations can lead to critical security issues. Configurations can be changed by people or by apps such as security systems and Jenkins. Visibility and control over configuration changes is key.
User Access Management
Including strong access management in the governance plan is fundamental. It will establish the necessary limits on who can access the cloud environment and thus limit their impacts on it. Good access management means understanding everyone’s operational needs to ensure that only those who require access to sensitive assets or applications can do so—mainly those necessary to carry out their missions.
This can be achieved using zero trust access management, which assumes that all users, apps, and devices are untrusted until they can be verified and authorized. It will allow organizations to better manage user access to cloud resources based on zero trust, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. It will also provide greater visibility into user access activity, improving auditability and traceability.
Monitor the Operation of the Cloud Environment
Before creating governance rules, you must have an inventory of the assets deployed in your cloud environment. The goal is to know how they work and the possible associated risks; however, creating an inventory of assets in a multi-cloud environment with multiple cloud providers and regions is quite complex. In addition, shadow IT, where employees use unauthorized cloud services, can make gaining visibility into all cloud resources challenging.
Optimizing these assets by monitoring the cloud’s costs, performance, and security is essential. To address this challenge, organizations can leverage a multi-cloud asset management platform such as Firefly that provides a centralized view of all cloud resources, regardless of which cloud provider they’re deployed on, and helps organizations gain visibility into their multi-cloud environment and identify any unauthorized and unmanaged resources.
How to Implement Cloud Governance
Cloud governance is not much different from traditional governance, but you must pay special attention to the challenges of adopting cloud computing. Before starting a migration to the cloud, review your current policies and update them for the new environment, these changes will include policies for:
- managing on-demand costs
- where code resides
- how you deploy your code to the cloud
- access control for cloud networks and infrastructure
For your migration to succeed, it’s critical that you create them before you start your move to the cloud.
The use of cloud computing brings numerous benefits, such as flexibility, a sense of urgency, productivity, and cost reduction. For you to see these benefits, it’s necessary to establish a series of rules of use and security protocols to extract the maximum possible advantages. Cloud governance promotes the best use of cloud computing, all with efficiency, performance, security, and reliability, which will translate into another competitive advantage for your business.
This post was written by Talha Khalid. Talha is a full-stack developer and data scientist who loves to make the cold and hard topics exciting and easy to understand.