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Cloud Security architecture: which model is best for security?

date: 4 August 2022
reading time: 10 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 – 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.

Cloud environment vs. On-Premise security systems

As with any digital consideration, security is always a crucial factor when it comes to the cloud. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cybercrime has increased by a whopping 600%, with the annual cost of a staggering $6 trillion annually, which equals 1% of global GDP.

Only in 2021 huge firms such as LinkedIn and Facebook all reported enormous numbers of data breaches (700 million and 533 million respectively).  

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 that relied on a local network and physical safeguards in order to protect the data.

As time moved on and technology developed, companies found themselves diversifying well beyond simple local networks to a much wider range of devices and physical locations. Naturally, this has brought 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 and design to the actual delivery of a project.

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

Having an appropriate level of security in software development is crucial because it protects companies’ systems from attacks and breaches. 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.

Why is robust Cloud Security architecture critical in business?

Robust cloud security architectures are critical in business for several reasons, as the adoption of cloud computing continues to grow and businesses increasingly rely on cloud services to store, process, and manage their data and applications.

Here are some key reasons why robust cloud security architecture is crucial:

  1. Data Protection and Privacy: Businesses store sensitive and confidential data in the cloud, including customer information, financial data, intellectual property, and more. A robust security architecture ensures that this data is properly protected from unauthorised access, breaches, and leaks, helping to maintain customer trust and comply with data protection regulations like GDPR.

  2. Risk Management: Cyber threats and attacks are evolving rapidly. A strong cloud security architecture helps in identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure, applications, and services, allowing businesses to implement measures to mitigate these risks effectively.

  3. Compliance Requirements: Many industries have specific compliance requirements that dictate how data must be handled and protected. Robust cloud security management helps businesses adhere to these regulations, avoiding legal issues and potential fines.

  4. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Cloud services provide opportunities for robust disaster recovery solutions. However, without proper security measures, even the best disaster recovery plan in Cloud can be compromised. Security architecture ensures that disaster recovery processes are secure and that data can be restored without compromising confidentiality or integrity.

  5. Access Control: Cloud security architecture helps manage user access to resources and data stored in the cloud. Implementing proper access controls ensures that only authorised individuals can access specific resources, reducing the risk of data breaches caused by insider threats or unauthorised external parties.

  6. Multi-Tenancy Security: Cloud environments often involve multi-tenancy, where multiple customers share the same infrastructure. A robust cloud computing security architecture ensures proper isolation between tenants, preventing unauthorised access to other customers’ data and resources.

  7. Encryption: Proper encryption of data in transit and at rest is crucial to protect sensitive information from being intercepted or compromised. Cloud computing security architecture ensures the use of strong encryption mechanisms to safeguard data.

  8. Incident Response: Despite preventive measures, security incidents can still occur. A well-defined security architecture includes plans and procedures for detecting, responding to and recovering from security breaches effectively.

  9. Trust and Reputation: Security breaches can damage a business’s reputation and erode customer trust. A strong cloud security control helps maintain a positive reputation by demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding customer data and sensitive information.

  10. Scaling Security: Cloud environments can rapidly scale up or down based on demand. Security architecture should be able to scale alongside the infrastructure to ensure consistent security across all instances.

An effective cloud security architecture is essential to protect sensitive data, manage risks, comply with regulations, maintain business continuity, and uphold customer trust. As cloud technology becomes more integral to business operations, the importance of a comprehensive and well-implemented security strategy cannot be overstated.

The key components of Cloud Security architecture

Cloud security architecture comprises various components designed to ensure the security of cloud environments, applications, data and services. These components work together to provide a comprehensive and layered security approach.

Some key components of cloud security architecture include:

  1. Identity and Access Management (IAM) which controls user and system access to cloud resources.

  2. Data encryption which ensures data remains confidential even if it’s intercepted. This involves encrypting data at rest (when stored) and in transit (when moving between devices or networks).

  3. Security Groups and Firewalls that control incoming and outgoing traffic to and from cloud instances. They help enforce network access policies and prevent unauthorised access.

  4. Vulnerability Management which is essential to mitigate security risks. Automated vulnerability assessment can help identify potential weaknesses in the cloud environment.

  5. Logging and Monitoring mechanisms that track activities and events within the cloud environment. Security information and event management (SIEM) systems help detect anomalies and potential security breaches.

  6. Incident Response and Recovery plans to ensure that security incidents are detected, assessed and responded to promptly. This plan should also cover data recovery procedures.

  7. Resilience and Redundancy which help maintain service availability in the face of failures or attacks. This can involve replicating data and applications across different regions or availability zones.

Cloud Security architecture models

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. 

If you want to find out more about them, you should read our article: Public Cloud vs Private Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud: What are the differences?

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.

IaaS Cloud security model

Infrastructure as a Service in cloud computing 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

PaaS Cloud security model

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.

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.

SaaS Cloud security model

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. 

Cloud Security architecture risks and threats

Cloud security architecture faces various risks and threats that organisations need to be aware of and address to ensure the safety of their cloud environments, applications, and data.

Some of the key risks and threats include:

  • Data Breaches

  • Insider Threats

  • Hardware Limitations

  • DoS Attacks

  • Security consistency

  • Human error

  • Insecure APIs

  • Inadequate Identity and Access Management (IAM)

  • Lack of Visibility and Control

  • Malware and Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

  • Cloud Service Providers Vulnerabilities

  • Shared Responsibility Model Misunderstanding

Addressing these risks requires a combination of technical measures, robust policies, continuous monitoring, and employee training. A comprehensive understanding of the threat landscape and proactive security measures are crucial for maintaining a secure cloud environment.

Which Cloud architecture model is best for your business security?

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 data.

But is it the most cost-effective or practical solution? Perhaps not in all cases. If so, maybe the SaaS model will be most favourable, as it allows companies to negotiate security responsibilities with the chosen cloud service provider and gain from their full set of oversight activities and security measures.

Ultimately, the best architecture model for your business’s security will always depend on a careful evaluation of your needs, risk profile, budget, and available resources.

It’s recommended to consult with cloud security experts and consider conducting a thorough risk assessment before making a decision.

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