What is a cloud computing risk assessment?
While the business benefits of cloud computing have gained much attention over the past few years, the security around it continues to worry managed service providers and IT staff. On-premise solutions may provide a feeling of more control, at least for the physical security of the company’s virtual infrastructure. With the cloud, that infrastructure is outsourced to a cloud service provider who may be hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.
MSPs can conduct a cloud computing risk assessment matrix to instill confidence in their clients.
To help organizations understand the risks associated with certain cloud computing service providers, researchers from business, academia, government, and the non-profit sector have developed a range of risk assessments. These risk assessments help businesses make informed decisions on cloud computing service providers before they purchase a service.
Some businesses may be willing to accept more risk for lower service costs, while other companies will want to maximize security every step of the way, depending on the overall mission of the business and the type of data that they want to protect. Companies that work with sensitive data — whether its own intellectual property, information important to national security, or the personally identifiable information of its customers — will want high levels of security.
ISACA, an international non-profit organization focused on IT governance, released the Business Model for Information Security that lists 10 principles for risk that businesses should heed. The principles considered four main factors:
- Vision. What does the business aim to do and who will lead the security initiative?
- Visibility. Who inside the organization will be involved in the decision-making?
- Accountability. Who will be held accountable and who is holding them accountable?
- Sustainability. How does one monitor and measure the solution?
The guiding principles
By following these 10 principles from ISACA, MSPs can be confident that their cloud service provider is offering them the right service for their business. A loss of data can be incredibly costly to a business and, in some cases, even force closure. Following these safeguards will help ensure that businesses are in line with industry best practices.
Here are the 10 principles in more detail:
- Executives must have oversight. Leaders must be vigilant in keeping the cloud and information assets safe, especially as the cloud security environment evolves over time.
- Management must take responsibility for cloud risks. Namely, IT leadership must understand that the risks taken are their own and must evaluate the risks on an on-going basis.
- All requisite staff must know about the cloud. Ignorance of IT is no longer allowed, and all stakeholders must know how the cloud works.
- Management must be aware of users. Management should know who has access to cloud data and who can make changes and decisions.
- Management must authorize what the cloud is used for. Management needs to be involved in giving approval for the specific purposes cloud technology should be used for.
- Sophisticated IT processes must be used. While the cloud may be new, IT best practices live on and should be followed.
- Management must invest in security. It’s not enough to want security, but investments must be made to ensure data remains secure.
- Management must foster compliance. Certain rules must be followed in order to use the cloud.
- Management must continuously assess risk. Risk changes over time based on technology or business needs. Management must consistently reevaluate risk.
- Everyone must follow best practices. Cloud computing features its own set of industry best practices, and they should be followed.
Examples of cloud computing risk assessment matrices
A cloud computing risk assessment matrix is a guide that business IT leaders can use to score their cloud computing security needs. A number of different matrices are available from accredited groups to help MSPs and businesses accomplish this task.
Some of the most popular include:
- Cloud Security Alliance’s Cloud Controls Matrix. This is regularly updated according to changes in the cloud-computing environment. This matrix is one of the more thorough on the market, with more than 130 different controls.
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s Cloud Computing Risk Assessment Module. Businesses looking for a more simplified version may look to this tool (a sample is available online). This matrix is especially good for businesses that work with a lot of personal information about their clients.
- Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). The federal government created this tool. Since government has tighter security standards than most businesses, these controls are seen as a top standard for organizations with sensitive information.
These matrices all feature different individual controls, but they all hit on many of the same general themes. They include the physical security surrounding a cloud provider (including the building that the IT infrastructure is housed in along with the people who work there), the availability of virtual private networks, the plans for service and power outages and the provider’s history of managing information security.
Managed service providers and risk assessments
A risk assessment is a key part of any MSP business. By conducting risk assessments, service providers can understand the weaknesses their customers see in their offering. This allows them to make necessary security changes in alignment with what clients want. Service providers can also be prepared to discuss any heightened risks they have with potential clients and how the provider plans to address them.
This proactive approach shows potential customers that the provider is serious about its security.
The N-able difference
N-able™ helps MSPs gain a competitive advantage over competitors with a portfolio of tools, products, and services. These solutions can help MSPs boost operational efficiency with a unified dashboard that, paired with best-in-class security products, can enhance the overall value of their services.
One of the most difficult aspects of security is visibility. Many MSPs struggle with a fragmented system where multiple pieces of software or different applications are used to manage different parts of the environment. While even using best of breed technologies in these areas, a fragmented system eventually leads to errors and oversights.
To combat that, N-able offers MSP RMM. The product gives IT administrators every tool they will need to manage their environment. MSP RMM is the most comprehensive set of tools available on the market and can help MSP’s secure, maintain, and improve IT operations through a single pane of glass.
- Patch management
- Web protection
- Prescriptive data analytics
- Data breach risk intelligence
- Managed antivirus
- Remote access
- Automated monitoring and maintenance
- Backup and disaster recovery
- Asset and inventory tracking
- Mobile device management
N-able offers support across Windows, Mac, and Linux — a rarity in the security world.
N-able offers a comprehensive layered security solution. This three-pronged approach provides MSPs with a wide range of features that work in concert to ensure that MSPs are in compliance with the latest in security standards.
The first step involves connecting data breach risk to business results. MSP Risk Intelligence will scan a customer’s network for threats and put a dollar figure on the amount of liability that is carried in the system. By providing financial terms, decision makers are more aware of the cost associated with a breach.
Second, N-able offers proactive, detective, and reactive security systems. These include tools such as patch management for more than 120 application families, managed anti-virus and backup, and disaster recovery that can help keep systems secure from a wide range of threats.
These products together can help MSPs improve on their risk matrix scores. With an improved risk matrix, MSPs lower their risk and make clients more comfortable.