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Which cloud architecture model is best for security?

date: 4 August 2022
reading time: 7 min

The role of the cloud in companies’ digital transformation has been integral, as it permeates every area of their operations. The digital switch is an inevitable process for all businesses, both small and large, all across the globe.

Cloud computing has become hugely popular as more and more companies are migrating their operations to the cloud as part of their wider digital transformation strategy.  

There are many benefits to adopting cloud computing into a company’s operations, such as reduced costs, ease of scalability, greater mobility, a much more robust disaster recovery route, and of course, increased security.  

On-premises versus cloud security 

As with any digital consideration, security is always a crucial factor. Cybercrime has increased by a whopping 600% due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the annual cost of a staggering $6 trillion annually, 1% of global GDP. Huge firms such as LinkedIn and Facebook all report enormous numbers of data breaches with 700 million and 533 million respectively, in 2021 alone.  

When addressing these security concerns, it is important to consider the value of traditional, on-premise infrastructure security versus cloud security architecture.

Traditionally, applications were built on top of the Windows OS and then hosted on companies’ internal servers. These on-premise solutions involved security models relying on a local network and physical safeguards in order to protect the data. While this has proven successful over the years, it’s not cheap at all and the effectiveness of such systems can vary enormously.

The use of localised, isolated networks provided safeguards to data breaches, with limited numbers of users having access to the data on a small number of closely monitored devices.

As time moves on and technology develops, companies found themselves diversifying well beyond simple local networks to a much wider range of devices and physical locations. Naturally, this has brought with it an increasingly greater demand for cloud computing as part of companies’ digital transformation strategy. 

What is cloud security architecture?  

Cloud security architecture refers to the framework of all software and hardware required to protect data, information, and applications that are used in the cloud.

Cloud computing safety is very important, and all too often, companies fail to develop effective strategies to properly protect their systems. These strategies need to be integral from conception, to design, to the realisation of a project.

Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that cloud architects focus on performance primarily, with security only being considered as an afterthought, to the detriment of the project.  

Having an appropriate level of security in software development is crucial because it will protect companies’ systems from attacks and breaches as they migrate to the cloud.

By entrusting your data to the cloud, businesses are in essence handing over the job of keeping their digital assets secure to the cloud systems and their enterprises. This can be a very worthwhile endeavour with cloud architectures offering strong security frameworks which act as effective barriers to attacks and breaches. They also help circumnavigate issues faced with on-premises security, such as redundancy issues in the security network.

However, entrusting data to another party, regardless of how strong the security claims to be, does come with a risk. Different cloud framework architectures offer their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to security, and these need to be carefully considered before moving forwards. 

Types of cloud security architectures 

Cloud computing frameworks typically fall into one of three categories: 

  1. Private clouds – localised, private cloud storage specific to a person or company. 
  2. Public clouds – these include freely available cloud systems such as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure.  
  3. Hybrid clouds – this is a mix of storage and computing services made up of on-premises infrastructure, private and public cloud solutions. 

Regardless of the framework that companies choose to use, they need to ensure that they are highly secured in order to protect valuable data and information. Organisations do this by using a variety of service models.

These are typically: 

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) 
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) 
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) 


This service model offers virtual computing resources. This can include networking, storage, and access to different machines through the internet.

The cloud service provider has full oversight and authority to secure servers, virtualisation, and storage. The client has the responsibility for applications, network traffic, and data, meaning the vast majority of responsibilities are with the client in the IaaS model. 

IaaS cloud models include the following security features: 

  • Policy correction automation
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools
  • It assesses and reviews resources for misconfiguration
  • It detects and removes malware
  • It can identify and warn about suspicious activity in the system


The PaaS model provides clients with a very secure platform from which to develop applications. The client has much less overall responsibility in this model, as they are only responsible for the permissions, applications, and configurations.

The service provider, on the other hand, is responsible for the networking, hardware, and storage, which are the majority of key aspects. PaaS builds on the positive attributes of the IaaS model, but with the added benefit to the client of being safer due to the increased responsibility placed on the provider.

It is also more cost-effective as the client doesn’t need to buy lots of expensive hardware and resources as they would in the IaaS model. 

PaaS cloud models include the following security features: 

  • Access to the Internet of Things (IoT) 

  • CASB – Cloud Access Security Brokers 

  • CWPP – Cloud Workload Protection Platforms 

  • CSPM – Cloud Security Posture Management 

  • API gateways, logs, and IP restrictions

Other useful security features of PaaS are that middleware is included (software joining the operating system with applications on a network), and so is software. They are both considered services that are integral to the application. The client focus and CSP are focused on securing the services for creating an application. 


The SaaS model goes one step further than both the IaaS and PaaS models in terms of security, as the cloud provider actually discusses and negotiates the security ownership and responsibilities with the client ahead of signing a contract.

The client’s needs are recorded, understood, and used to create a personalised security package that is clear to both parties in terms of responsibility.

A SaaS platform may be hosted on the client’s platform, but it doesn’t have to mean that the client is responsible for its security. The cloud security provider should have full access and control of the organisation’s infrastructure, hardware, network traffic, and operating systems. These shared and negotiated responsibilities allow the client to have full confidence in the cloud security provider while at the same time, keeping all relevant systems localised. 

PaaS cloud models include the following security features: 

  • Data loss prevention and administration. 

  • It will block attempted downloads of company data to personal devices. 

  • It allows visibility into private applications. 

  • It doesn’t allow unauthorised sharing of vulnerable data. 

  • It identifies security breachers, inside threats, and malware. 

  • It reviews itself for misconfiguration. 


Whichever cloud architecture model you go for depends on your own individual needs and budget.

While IaaS may come with the highest price tag and may not be the most practical solution, there is no better security solution that having a physical barrier between potential threats and your company’s most sensitive information. But is that the most cost-effective or practical solution? Perhaps not in all cases. If so, then maybe the SaaS model will be most favourable.

This allows companies to negotiate security responsibilities with the cloud service provider and gain from their full set of oversight activities and security measures. With less hardware, software, and personnel liable to your company, this may be the best and most cost-effective solution.   

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