On-Premise vs. Cloud Security: A One-on-One Comparison
by PivIT Global on Nov 23, 2023 7:05:00 AM
Cybersecurity remains a top concern for IT leaders across the world. In a Logicalis survey conducted in the UK and Ireland, over 71% of IT professionals expressed concerns over security. Unsurprisingly, security is also a top consideration for any shifts in infrastructure strategies or adopting new technologies.
(Data source: PwC - Concern over global threats)
As cybersecurity is paramount to the success of businesses, one may wonder how the security of an on-premise data center compares against the cloud. While many enterprises have bid farewell to on-premise in favor of the cloud, some still maintain their private data centers by necessity or choice. So which one of them is more secure?
This article compares the security of the cloud vs. on-premise data centers, discussing the differences and pros and cons of each. Whether running your own data center or using a cloud provider, this comparison will help you decide on future moves.
On-Premise vs. Cloud Security: Key Differences
While both on-premise and cloud security have largely similar features and share the same goals, certain differences may make one better suited for an organization's specific requirements.
Keep in mind that these key differences between the security of on-premise and cloud data centers also determine the unique pros and cons of each.
- Infrastructure Ownership and Control: The obvious difference between on-premise security and cloud security is that the former is under the full ownership and control of the enterprise. On the other hand, any security-related hardware and tools from the cloud are under the provider’s ownership. In other words, the cloud provider calls the shots regarding the choice of security equipment and features.
- Physical Security: With an on-premise data center, the enterprise provides physical security for the assets. This responsibility is entirely eliminated with the cloud route, as the cloud provider is responsible for the physical security of the servers and other infrastructure.
- Management and Maintenance: Another major difference with the security of an on-premise data center is that enterprises are responsible for managing and maintaining it. However, they can outsource security and maintenance of equipment to a third party. With the cloud, management is minimal, and maintenance is virtually non-existent, as the provider handles the lion’s share of these crucial responsibilities. Similarly, the enterprise is responsible for security patches and updates with an on-premise data center.
- Technical Expertise: To manage and monitor the security of all digital assets, on-premise data centers need security experts on-site, ideally around the clock. This means that enterprises must hire and train engineers who can manage network security and be present to handle incidents. When using cloud services, you don’t need a higher level of security expertise on your team.
On-Premise vs. Cloud Security: Pros and Cons
For most businesses comparing on-premise and cloud security, the decision may come down to the advantages and drawbacks of each.
On-Premise Security Pros and Cons
- More Control: With an on-premise data center, companies have granular control over security provisions, policies, and features. This is one of the reasons why government agencies and financial institutions often maintain data on-premise to ensure direct access and control.
- Easy Customization: Although security can be customized with cloud solutions, on-premise offers more liberty when it comes to customization. Enterprises can set policies and adopt third-party solutions more easily to achieve their unique security goals.
- Private Connections: Most traffic is contained within the network, which minimizes connections over the Internet. However, that’s gradually changing with the remote work model becoming popular.
- Compliance Implementation: When handling data on-premise, companies must ensure compliance with security and privacy regulations. This may add another layer of complexity as organizations must implement security features that bring their data use and storage in line with the applicable regulations.
- Need for Security Expertise: As security management is the responsibility of the enterprise, they must invest in and develop top-notch security expertise on-site to undertake critical tasks such as analyzing security performance. Given the growing tech talent shortage, this can be costly and challenging.
- Need for Physical Security: Enterprises with on-premise data centers must also invest in physical security, such as cameras, alarm systems, and guards. That’s yet another expenditure.
Cloud Security Pros and Cons
- Easy to Set Up: Configuring security for your virtual data center in the cloud is relatively easy. With managed tiers, cloud providers make the process even more seamless, as the provider handles everything.
- Less Upfront Cost: Another advantage of cloud security is its lower upfront cost. While basic security features are part of all cloud storage plans, you do have to pay for security separately in many cases. Nevertheless, it’s not as expensive.
- Automated Compliance: Many cloud providers include compliance as part of their security package, automating the process, particularly for well-established regulatory frameworks, such as GDPR or DSS.
- Easy Recovery: Cloud infrastructure, especially from hyperscalers, is heavily redundant. In other words, all data is securely and timely backed up, making recovery much easier and faster.
- Bigger Attack Surface: Unlike on-premise data centers, cloud infrastructure is much larger and, therefore, provides a bigger attack surface.
- Vulnerabilities: While cloud providers often guarantee solid data security, the increasing sophistication of attacks means they’re still vulnerable. According to a Thales report, 39% of businesses experienced a data breach in their cloud environment in 2022.
- Unpredictable Costs: For more robust security, you’ll inevitably have to sign up for add-ons or integrate a dedicated third-party solution, increasing the bill. And as your data needs grow, protecting it on the cloud can be costlier than on-premise.
Is On-Premise More Secure Than the Cloud?
The answer to whether on-premise or the cloud is more secure is not so straightforward. Many variables are at play, such as the enterprise’s circumstances, resources, and requirements.
The main benefit of having an on-premise data center regarding security is control and customization. You have complete control of security configurations and solutions, which allows you to implement the most stringent protocols, provided you have the budget.
On-premise is a better option for sensitive data, even though many organizations use the cloud for such data. According to Netwrix, 80% of organizations use the cloud to store sensitive data.
Cloud security has been consistently improving, but it’s not impenetrable or cheap, contrary to popular opinion. Also, in most cases, the enterprises are responsible for configuring and managing security for their assets. So even though you’re not housing the infrastructure, you’re responsible for implementing critical security measures, such as access controls and traffic monitoring.
Ultimately, the answer lies in your unique circumstances and requirements. Assess the security pain points of your current data center (on-premise or cloud) and determine whether the alternative can resolve the issues and improve security even further.
On-premise security isn’t necessarily better than cloud security or vice versa. However, some advantages are unique to each scenario, which may make one more secure than the other. Whether you have an on-premise data center or rely on the cloud, foolproof security can only be realized with strong policies and models, such as the zero-trust model.
Unlike the cloud, an on-premises data center must be protected with reliable equipment, such as next-generation firewalls. Learn how PivIT can help you procure the best firewalls to protect your data center from cyber threats.
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