Businesses want to get the most bang for the buck. They’re looking for ways to maintain high productivity, but they need to do this while also protecting intellectual property. It’s a constant challenge for any organization, and it’s even harder for those with a distributed workforce. The mass shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic has tested the mettle of many organizations. They’ve had to scramble to find ways for employees to keep working outside of the traditional office setting and security sometimes took a backseat to continuity. Some of the situations we’ve seen, like Zoom-bombing, ransomware and worse, have underscored these concerns.
But the silver lining in this is that the pandemic has also supercharged the already rapid growth in cloud adoption, and that means more organizations are now reaping the benefits of secure cloud desktops. With cloud desktops, employees have a way to stay productive, and most importantly, secure.
Reducing risk with cloud desktops
Risk assessment is a key element of any discussion around security and the cloud. Security is measured in terms of how much risk there is of something happening – and nothing is without risk. So, when it comes to evaluating a move to cloud desktops, companies are really looking at how it will reduce risk.
Highly regulated companies must also consider compliance in addition to security. One begets the other, but they’re not interchangeable. Compliance takes center stage in many cases because organizations have to align with rules and regulations set forth by their internal IT guidance or federal regulations, and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.
Remote work and distributed workforces carry the potential to increase the risk of non- compliance. In this situation, the security boundary is no longer just 10 regional offices but now 5,000 home offices. How do you prove to your compliance auditor that 5,000 homes are secured versus 10 office buildings?
Centralizing desktops in the cloud offers significant security benefits. First, you reduce your security boundary and the surface of attack, because you collapse it into one or more locations in the cloud that IT security can control. Keeping operating systems and applications up to date with security patches becomes significantly easier, as you don’t need to navigate user behavior. Some cloud desktop solutions make it possible to turn devices into zero-trust endpoints, making BYOD feasible and ensuring that no data resides on employee computers. Cloud desktops can also support business continuity, with backup and recovery that can help mitigate the risk of malware and ransomware.
Built-in security with the cloud
Even as cloud adoption continues to grow, concerns about security linger. But the pandemic has tested cloud computing, and the consensus is that the cloud is agile and strong enough to remain secure even in difficult situations. In its report on the cloud security hype cycle, Gartner noted that “Organizations may no longer question [the cloud’s] utility, but security remains a commonly cited reason for avoiding it. In reality, the public cloud can be made secure enough for most uses.”
Transparency is an important factor in trust, which is why all of the top cloud providers – be it Azure, Amazon or Google – publish their security and compliance information. These reports will tell you those cloud locations are secure.
Gartner also observed in its recent discussion on cloud security that security concerns have caused some leaders to hit the pause button on using public cloud services. But analysts also note that, though cloud breaches make news, in most cases, the breach isn’t the fault of the cloud provider but of the user. Misconfigured policies, inconsistent architecture, or poor control of cloud services are typically at the source of these breaches.
Public cloud services are meant to be used by people, and people are fallible. It’s like anything else in life; when you bring people into a situation, you change the equation. You may buy a Volvo because it’s known as a car with a great safety rating. But if you put someone behind the wheel who doesn’t know how to drive, that’s your safety issue, not Volvo’s.
Performance, availability and reliability: the triple ideals
Performance drives adoption of secured IT processes and tools, but what about availability and reliability? Availability and reliability may not seem tied to security, but the reality is that these can play a significant role in a company’s security posture. Here’s why: employees who get frustrated because they can’t access the tools or systems they need to do their work often turn to workarounds or shadow IT. Using these unsanctioned tools introduces security risks.
Employees who can rely on regular, anytime access to the tools they need to use from wherever they need to work – which is what cloud desktops provide – aren’t likely to seek out these alternative solutions. Instead, they will use the secured desktops your company is providing them, ensuring full visibility.
Don’t trust and verify
Cloud desktops enable IT to have a serious security advantage over physical PCs. Physical PCs have to be connected to the corporate network in order for IT to monitor, patch, and update. But what it these devices are not connected? Critical patches may not reach an employee’s device, and a single unpatched device can result in a breach of security or compliance.
Cloud desktops are always assessible to IT and thus can provide IT and InfoSec the ability to see all activity globally. Provided that the cloud desktop solution has a big data collection engine, IT can use security information and event management (SIEM) tools to verify that users are using the sanctioned IT tools versus shadow IT. This makes governance and compliance simple.
A more secure cloud
Cloud adoption is a necessity for the digital transformation of modern businesses. Workforces are more distributed than ever, and employees need access to applications and data at any time and from any location in order to stay productive. Of course, this introduces not just security but compliance issues as well. While organizations must vet the security and compliance capabilities of their cloud providers, the shared security model means that organizations must do their part to keep their data safe. Proper security policies, along with the performance and availability of cloud desktops, will help organizations maintain security, business continuity and productivity.