What is cloud computing security?



#GoToGetsIT: This article is part of an ongoing series from GoTo’s thought leaders on the frontlines: Our Solutions Consultants deeply understand our customers’ unique challenges and connect the right solutions to meet their goals using GoTo technology. Here, they share their industry knowledge on what it takes to help businesses everywhere thrive in a remote or hybrid world.

Cloud computing has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, redefining the way businesses operate and deliver services. With an ever-growing range of cloud-based solutions—from cloud storage to SaaS applications like Microsoft 365 and infrastructure provisioning via AWS (Amazon Web Services) — the cloud is now an integral part of modern IT infrastructure. 

As organizations increasingly shift their data and operations from traditional on-premises environments to the cloud, ensuring cloud computing security has never been more critical. This article delves into cloud computing security, covering key challenges, best practices, and the top reasons for securing the cloud in today's technology landscape.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a technology that provides on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources, including servers, storage, databases, networking, and software, over the internet. It offers scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency by allowing users to pay for only the resources they use.

Cloud Computing Service Models

The primary cloud computing services include:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS allows users to access software applications hosted in the cloud via a web browser, eliminating the need for local installations. Examples include Gmail for web-based email, Microsoft 365 for productivity suites, and Salesforce for CRM tools, promoting remote collaboration.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS provides developers with a comprehensive platform to build, deploy, and manage applications without infrastructure concerns. Platforms like Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure App Service streamline development, allowing a focus on coding and functionality.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS delivers virtualized computing resources over the internet, including virtual machines, storage, and networking. It offers scalability without physical hardware investments. Leading providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP enable cost-effective IT infrastructure management in a virtualized environment.

Cloud Deployment Environments

Cloud environments can be categorized into:

Public Cloud Environment

Public cloud resources and services are owned and operated by third-party providers and are made accessible to the public on a subscription basis. These environments are characterized by their high scalability, cost-effectiveness, and suitability for various applications. 

Private Cloud Environment

A private cloud is a dedicated cloud environment dedicated to solely one organization, providing enhanced control, security, and customization. Organizations often choose private clouds when handling sensitive data or seeking to adhere to strict regulatory compliance standards.

Hybrid Cloud Environment

A hybrid cloud setup incorporates elements from both public and private clouds. This configuration enables data and applications to move seamlessly between these cloud environments. Hybrid clouds offer flexibility, scalability, and cost optimization while ensuring organizations maintain control over critical data. This hybrid approach is favored by businesses with varying workloads and evolving infrastructure needs.

Cloud Computing Security Risks

Now that we have a solid understanding of cloud computing, it's time to address the unique security challenges organizations face in the cloud. These risks include:


In cloud computing, multi-tenancy is a common practice where providers host multiple customers on shared infrastructure. However, this setup can lead to potential vulnerabilities and data leakage without proper isolation. Adequate security measures and segmentation are crucial to mitigate these risks.


Virtualization technology is a cornerstone of cloud infrastructure, abstracting physical hardware to enable multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical server. While it enhances resource utilization, vulnerabilities in virtualization can result in unauthorized access or data breaches. Therefore, securing virtualization layers is essential.

Elasticity and Scalability

The cloud's elasticity and scalability are its defining features, allowing resources to be scaled up or down on demand. This flexibility, while beneficial, can pose challenges in maintaining security controls and visibility, particularly in rapidly changing environments. Dynamic security policies and continuous monitoring help address this issue.

Self-Service Provisioning

Cloud environments often provide self-service portals, empowering users to independently provision resources. However, this autonomy can increase the risk of misconfiguration and security oversights. Training users and implementing automated configuration checks can mitigate these risks.

Third-Party Services and APIs

Cloud ecosystems rely on third-party services and APIs to enhance functionality. Yet, these integrations can introduce vulnerabilities and security risks if not adequately secured. A robust API security strategy and ongoing monitoring are vital to protect against potential threats.

Remote Access and Data Transfer

Cloud services are accessed remotely over the internet, which introduces the risk of data interception or unauthorized access during transmission. Implementing encryption and strong access controls is essential to secure remote access and data transfers.

Geographic Dispersion

Cloud providers often store and replicate data and applications across various geographic locations to improve performance and redundancy. However, this geographic dispersion can raise concerns related to data sovereignty and legal jurisdiction. Compliance and data management strategies must address these issues.


Automation is crucial in cloud environments but can lead to unintended security configuration changes. Properly configuring and monitoring automated processes is crucial to avoid exposing vulnerabilities.


The complexity of cloud environments, with numerous services and configuration options, can make it challenging to ensure consistent security practices across all components. Establishing well-defined security policies and conducting regular audits can help manage this complexity effectively.

Limited Visibility and Control

Cloud customers often have limited visibility into the underlying infrastructure and less control over security configurations compared to on-premises environments. Collaborative security practices with cloud providers and utilizing security-as-a-service solutions can enhance protection.

Data Mobility

Data can move easily within and between cloud environments, increasing the risk of exposure and loss if not adequately protected during transit. Employing data encryption, access controls, and data loss prevention measures is critical to safeguard data mobility.

Rapid Development and Deployment

Cloud's agility enables rapid development and deployment, but it may also lead to rushed security assessments and vulnerabilities in newly deployed services. Integrating security into the development lifecycle and conducting thorough testing is essential.

Vendor Lock-In

Dependence on a specific cloud provider can make migrating to other providers or returning to on-premises infrastructure challenging, potentially reducing flexibility and negotiating power. Implementing multi-cloud strategies and standardized interfaces can mitigate vendor lock-in concerns.

Resource Sharing

Cloud services often share resources among customers, which can impact performance and security. Understanding resource allocation and isolation mechanisms is key to managing shared environments effectively.

Billing and Usage Data

Billing and usage data collected by cloud providers may contain sensitive information, requiring protection against unauthorized access. Strong access controls and encryption safeguards this critical information.

Emerging Threats

As cloud computing evolves, new security threats and attack vectors may emerge. Staying proactive and continuously adapting security measures is essential to mitigate these evolving risks effectively.

Cloud Computing Security Benefits

Despite these challenges, cloud computing also brings significant security benefits. These advantages include:

Scalability and Flexibility

Cloud security is highly adaptable, capable of scaling up or down to meet the evolving demands of an organization's workloads and resource requirements. This scalability ensures that security measures can seamlessly adjust to changing business needs, providing a dynamic and responsive defense.


Cloud security brings cost-efficiency to the forefront by eliminating the necessity for significant upfront investments in hardware and software infrastructure. Organizations can shift from capital-intensive to cost-effective operational expenditure (OpEx) models. Additionally, pay-as-you-go pricing models enable businesses to pay only for the resources they utilize, leading to substantial cost savings.

Rapid Deployment

Cloud security solutions offer rapid deployment capabilities, allowing organizations to implement robust security measures swiftly. Compared to the traditional procurement and setup of physical infrastructure, this agility translates into faster protection against evolving threats and vulnerabilities.

Global Reach and Availability

Cloud services are accessible globally, providing users with the convenience of access from anywhere with an internet connection. Moreover, data can be replicated across multiple geographic locations, enhancing redundancy and bolstering disaster recovery capabilities. This global reach ensures high availability and minimizes downtime risks.

Built-in Security Features

Many cloud providers embed essential security features within their platforms, including identity and access management (IAM), encryption, and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection. These built-in security capabilities reduce the dependency on additional third-party solutions, streamlining security and simplifying management.

Centralized Management

Cloud-based security solutions often offer centralized management consoles, providing administrators with a unified platform to oversee security policies and configurations. This centralized approach simplifies security administration, enhances visibility, and facilitates consistent enforcement of security measures across the organization's cloud environment.

Cloud Computing Security Best Practices

Mastering cloud security involves more than just identifying risks and benefits; it requires the implementation of effective best practices. Explore these key strategies to enhance your cloud security posture and use the cloud safely:

Empower Employees with Security Training

Regular security training and awareness programs empower IT teams and end-users to recognize and respond to threats, including phishing and social engineering. Training covers strong password practices, secure data handling, and incident reporting. Promoting a security-conscious culture and adherence to policies further strengthens the human element of security.

Take a Zero Trust Approach

In the realm of cloud security, adopting a zero-trust model is paramount. This approach challenges the traditional notion of trust within an organization's network. Under a zero-trust security model, trust is never assumed, even for users and devices within the network. Instead, continuous monitoring and authentication of users and devices are essential components, ensuring that access is rigorously validated.

Implement Strong Access Controls

To fortify cloud security, robust access controls are essential. The principle of least privilege should be enforced, granting users and services only the minimum level of access necessary for their tasks. Role-based access control (RBAC) further refines permissions by aligning them with specific job roles and responsibilities.

Encrypt Data at Rest and in Transit

Data protection is a cornerstone of cloud security. Encryption should be implemented to safeguard data both when it's stored (at rest) and during transmission (in transit) over networks. Furthermore, adhering to encryption key management best practices is vital to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information.

Regularly Update and Patch Software

Timely updates and patches are pivotal in maintaining cloud security. Keeping cloud infrastructure and software updated with the latest security patches is essential to mitigate vulnerabilities and protect against emerging threats.

Implement Network Security Measures

Network security measures are crucial defenses in the cloud environment. Employing firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) helps shield against network-based attacks. Additionally, virtual private networks (VPNs) and secure network connections enhance the overall security posture.

Monitor and Audit Cloud Resources

Continuous monitoring is fundamental to cloud security. Cloud environments should be under constant scrutiny for security threats and unauthorized access. The implementation of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems aids in log analysis and threat detection, while setting up alerts and notifications for suspicious activities bolsters proactive security measures.

Develop and Test an Incident Response Plan

Preparing for security incidents is a necessity. Organizations should create comprehensive incident response plans to address security breaches promptly. Regular security drills and tabletop exercises further ensure readiness in handling security incidents.

Implement Security Automation

Automation streamlines security tasks in cloud environments, including patch management, vulnerability scanning, and incident response. Furthermore, automating compliance checks and remediation processes enhances the efficiency of security operations.

Vendor Security Assessment

Assessing the security practices of cloud service providers is essential. Organizations should regularly review provider security documentation and evaluate their incident response procedures to ensure alignment with security requirements and standards.

Security Awareness Training

Human factors play a critical role in cloud security. Regular security training and awareness programs should be conducted for both IT teams and end-users. Educating users about potential threats, such as phishing and social engineering, is crucial in fortifying the human element of security.

Data Backup and Recovery

Business continuity is contingent on effective data backup and recovery. Robust plans for data backup and disaster recovery should be implemented and regularly tested to ensure data integrity and availability.

Follow Security Compliance Standards

Compliance with industry-specific regulations and cloud provider security standards is mandatory. Organizations should conduct routine compliance audits and assessments to ensure adherence to these standards.

Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM) Best Practices

Securely managing user identities, enforcing strong authentication measures, and utilizing federated identity solutions when appropriate are key components of IAM best practices. Regular reviews and audits of IAM configurations further strengthen security.

Secure DevOps Practices

Integrating security into the DevOps process through DevSecOps practices is essential. Conducting security assessments and code reviews throughout the development lifecycle helps identify and mitigate vulnerabilities early in development.

Cloud-Native Security

Embracing cloud-native security practices tailored to the cloud environment is crucial. This includes implementing strategies like micro-segmentation, container security, and serverless security to address specific cloud-related risks.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Implementing Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions is vital for monitoring and preventing the unauthorized transmission of sensitive data, mitigating the risk of data breaches and leakage.

Manage API Security

Properly securing APIs with robust authentication and authorization mechanisms is essential. Regularly reviewing and updating API security configurations helps maintain the integrity and security of data transmitted through APIs.

Continuous Security Monitoring and Improvement

Cloud security is an evolving field, and threats are constantly changing. Organizations must continuously assess and enhance their cloud security measures based on emerging threats and evolving best practices, staying informed and adaptable in the face of new challenges.

GoTo’s Security Model

At GoTo, we are dedicated to keeping your business and users protected. Our IT management software is designed with a security-first approach and robust zero trust architecture that keeps malicious actors at bay. With our RMM software, you can minimize the risk of cyber threats, automate routine IT tasks, and achieve enhanced visibility and control over your endpoints, all with the confidence that your security is in good hands.

Related Posts

  • How to drive digital workplace transformation with IT solutions

    By Saurabh Mittal
    Read Article
  • 3 ways moving to the cloud can save you money

    By Ling Wong
    Read Article
  • On-premises vs cloud security: Which is better?

    By Dobek Bociarski
    Read Article