Managing data security and continuity in Azure environments

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Microsoft Azure is a growing force in public cloud services, and indeed, it is a rising star within the company, with Microsoft recently announcing 62 per cent growth for Azure. Underpinning that growth rate are the major clients that Azure is winning – perhaps most famously, the US Department of Defence last year awarded Microsoft a $US10 billion contract, demonstrating the faith government operations have in the platform.

The contract win is a big vote of confidence for the security and data protection standards that Microsoft can offer. However, it is worth noting that the company operates on what it terms the Microsoft Shared Responsibility Model, which states that organisations are still responsible for the security and maintenance of their data and identities. What this means is that organisations still need to take a proactive role in managing data security and continuity in their Azure environments.

The key cloud data security and continuity challenges

Data loss and continuity is one of the greatest risks that organisations face. Statistics show that over half of all companies (57 per cent) experience breaches, and that the cost of data loss tipped over $US1 million on average for the first time in 2019. Additionally, 60 per cent of businesses that experience data loss close within six months.

When it comes to data security and continuity, there are five particular areas of concern that every organisation needs to be cognisant of:

  • Data Breaches – Where data is compromised or lost through a dedicated attack by a malicious entity.
  • Data Loss – Where data is lost through some form of fault, and the organisation lacks a backup to restore the data.
  • Disaster Recovery – Where an event, be that flooding, fires, power surges or similar destroy data located on-premises.
  • Platform Outages – In the event that an outage occurs with a cloud provider, and the organisation lacks a backup of the data that is hosted there.
  • Speed of Transformation – Where data and digitisation is occurring at such a rate that it is impossible for staff to manually manage and enforce backup & retention policies).

Managing these challenges requires a combination of technology solutions, and organisational policy that is centred on data security and continuity.

Addressing the challenges

Data continuity specialists, Veeam, recommend that organisations approach data continuity in Azure environments through five key principles:

  • Take backups off-site – The Veeam solution is tailored towards enabling the 3-2-1-0 backup rule – keep three copies of data, stored on two different types of storage media, with one backup kept off-site, and regular testing to ensure that there are no errors in the recovery plan.
  • Find a solution to the capacity challenge – The exponential growth in data makes it difficult to scale raw storage to suit. Veeam’s Cloud Tier helps resolve this in Azure environments by combining on-premises storage with native object storage capacity via Microsoft Azure Blob storage. This allows data to automatically transition to low-cost, cloud-based storage as it ages – much like as tape storage was once used, without tape’s substantial risk of restore failure.
  • Ensure that the cloud data is portable – Veeam’s Cloud Mobility solution allows organisations to easily move VMware, Hyper-V VMs and legacy physical servers to Microsoft Azure in just two steps – this portability is critical to ensure the continuity of data across platforms and moves between providers.
  • Automate backup from key sources of data – Microsoft Office 365 is the lifeblood of many organisations, combining email, spreadsheets, presentations and documents. The potential for human error to lead to lost data makes automated backups critical, and Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 has been designed to allow for the potential from accidental deletion and rapid restores.
  • Protect cloud-based workloads – Finally, it is important to leverage Veeam Agent as a solution that has been designed to assist with the deployment, management and protection of IaaS workloads in Azure. It offers full Veeam Backup & Replication integration, to allow you to take full control of your organisation’s part of Microsoft’s Shared Responsibility Model.

Many organisations assume that in placing data in the cloud, the responsibility for the security and management of that data shifts to the service provider, but as with Microsoft Azure, that isn’t the case. Microsoft will do its part to ensure that the environment is a secure environment to work within, but the responsibility for the data remains with the organisation. As one of the biggest areas of risk in the modern working environment, organisations need to make sure that they’ve got robust and proven data backup and continuity plans in place, and are leveraging leading technologies to assist.

Tad Brockway, corporate vice president for Azure, Storage, Media and Edge, Microsoft says; “Veeam Backup for Microsoft Azure provides enterprises additional options to easily recover in minutes from any cloud data loss scenario. Veeam BaaS providers will be able to build cross-customer management capabilities into their Azure-based backup offerings thanks to integration with Azure Lighthouse, helping customers to reduce costs and accelerate their journey to the cloud.”

For more information on Veeam solutions for the Microsoft Azure environment, click here.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.