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Cloud governance best practices for startups

With organizations migrating to the cloud for operational efficiency, cloud governance has become a crucial pillar for responsible and secure cloud operations. In the face of escalating cybersecurity threats targeting cloud infrastructure, upholding cloud governance principles is critical for safeguarding both your business and your customers. Effective cloud governance also helps to prevent outages, manage cloud costs, and maintain regulatory compliance.

In this article, we delve into what cloud governance is, and how effective cloud governance goes beyond compliance and proactively shapes your cloud journey, ensuring both business agility and responsible cloud management. Additionally, we’ll share the advantages and challenges of cloud governance, along with steps and best practices you can use to develop an efficient cloud governance strategy.

What is cloud governance?

Cloud governance is the strategic framework and set of policies that ensure effective management, security, compliance, and performance of cloud environments. It is often used interchangeably with corporate policies, standards, and procedures related to cloud computing operations. However, cloud governance policies are specific policies related to the management of cloud services.

Why is cloud governance important?

Cloud governance is crucial for enhancing organizational performance and security. When implemented effectively, it empowers users to seamlessly share, create, collaborate, and store data across diverse cloud environments while minimizing risks. In today’s complex enterprise cloud landscape, especially with growing multi-cloud and hybrid environments, robust cloud governance becomes paramount. Here are some benefits of implementing cloud effective governance:

1. Security and compliance

By implementing access controls and encryption standards, organizations safeguard sensitive data, meeting industry regulations like GDPR or HIPAA. Compliance fosters trust among stakeholders and mitigates legal risks, reinforcing the overall security posture.

2. Cost management

Efficient cloud governance optimizes costs by monitoring resource allocation. Organizations can prevent unnecessary expenses, by aligning cloud infrastructure with actual needs. This ensures scalability and cost-effectiveness, supporting financial objectives and preventing unexpected billing issues.

3. Operational efficiency

Cloud governance streamlines workflows and automates tasks, boosting operational efficiency. Standardized processes reduce manual interventions, allowing IT teams to focus on strategic initiatives. This enhances innovation, freeing resources from routine tasks and improving overall operational effectiveness.

4. Risk mitigation

Cloud governance identifies and mitigates risks associated with data breaches and system failures. Backup and disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity, while regular risk assessments and monitoring enable proactive vulnerability identification and timely remediation. This results in a more resilient cloud infrastructure.

5. Collaboration and productivity

Cloud governance facilitates collaboration by establishing clear policies for data sharing and access controls. It provides a secure environment for working across various cloud platforms, fostering innovation and efficiency. This structured approach contributes to an agile, collaborative organizational culture, promoting productivity and successful teamwork.

Challenges of cloud governance

Implementing cloud governance comes with challenges. Here are three hurdles organizations frequently encounter:

1. Balance innovation and security

Achieving the optimal balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding your organization can be challenging. Agile, cloud-centric teams often require a streamlined and decentralized approach to resource provisioning for accelerated innovation. Conversely, cumbersome workflows that require multiple approvals for infrastructure requests, can slow innovation.

2. Navigate changing regulatory mechanisms

Staying on top of regulatory requirements is complex, as there can be rapid and region-specific regulatory changes, coupled with stringent reporting obligations which may also differ across regions. Effectively adapting compliance mechanisms to these evolving environments requires swift and decisive actions, presenting a challenge for organizations aiming to stay abreast of regulatory developments.

3. Facilitate agile governance for business transitions

Organizational growth, whether through mergers, acquisitions, or internal restructuring, requires a dynamic and agile cloud governance framework. These business transitions often trigger shifts in digital strategy, necessitating governance practices that adapt to evolving circumstances. Integrating and assimilating the outcomes of organizational changes into cloud governance practices can be a demanding task.

Best practices for an effective cloud governance strategy

Effective cloud governance hinges upon a solid understanding of the cloud service provider’s shared responsibilities model, delineating the specific obligations of your organization in safeguarding resources for each utilized service.

Some of the best practices for effective cloud governance strategy include:

1. Scale toward your optimal state

When creating your cloud governance policies, think about your future needs and develop policies that will be able to support your application architecture and business as you grow. Scale towards your optimal state by adopting an iterative approach for control changes, minimizing disruptions, and building organizational expertise. Gain comprehensive visibility into cloud resources using cloud-native governance services, enabling informed decision-making.

2. Empower governance with policy as code

Effective cloud governance programs leverage code-based cloud management approaches to implement organizational policies as code. This ensures the customization of governance controls tailored to specific environments. Organizations with robust cloud governance rely on managed controls from a central cloud-native service, complementing them with custom controls as code.

This strategy facilitates the deployment of preventive, proactive, detective, and responsive controls, allowing for the scalability of governance across the changing regulatory landscape at minimal cost. Using policy as code provides the flexibility to create various versions of controls with specific variations while maintaining an overarching standard. This adaptability proves valuable in managing distributed teams across business units and geographies, reducing the risk of deviation from operational standards and security baselines.

3. Build with available resources

Cloud governance requirements can vary based on the business environment, including factors like ongoing mergers and acquisitions. Many organizations seek a universal, cross-cloud governance solution to address these dynamic needs. Successful companies with robust cloud governance practices typically identify a core service that offers comprehensive coverage for their governance requirements. They then augment these capabilities with a combination of cloud-native services and partner products tailored to their organizational needs.

4. Ensure secure cloud environments

Securing environments in the cloud demands a nuanced approach that goes beyond assuming uniform security features across all services offered by a cloud service provider. The onus lies on your business to proactively mitigate unauthorized events, including aspects such as data sharing between the customer and cloud provider, internet access to resources, and tenant access to shared resources.

Cloud customers must align services with specific requirements, assessing security features in newly released offerings. Effective cloud governance begins with comparing platform components to organizational standards and evaluating deployable services for necessary configurations. Automated compliance and cloud monitoring tools ensure ongoing monitoring and maintenance to fulfill security responsibilities and meet minimum requirements.

5. Maximize financial efficiency

Establishing robust cost management controls and tools from day one is crucial for effective cloud governance. Despite the generally lower costs of cloud computing and storage than on-premises infrastructure, the pay-as-you-go model requires vigilant resource monitoring. Common costs that can contribute to bill shock include:

  • Continuous development and testing environments. Failure to delete large-scale evaluation and testing infrastructure.

  • Backup and replication of obsolete data. Indefinite retention of obsolete data, including unnecessary snapshots.

  • Oversupplied resources. Provisioning excess resources without proper oversight.

  • Egress or bandwidth charges. Excessive egress charges can quickly add up and lead to high cloud bills.

To avoid unanticipated costs and maximize the benefits of the cloud, implement effective cost management controls initially and refine optimization strategies as part of your governance maturation journey.

6. Enable operational excellence

In effective cloud governance, operational excellence is achieved by employing Infrastructure as Code across all environments. This approach facilitates cloud-native thinking, ensuring the consistent, accurate, and compliant creation of infrastructure resources.

This involves understanding workload characteristics and volumes, and configuring service quotas and network topology to accommodate them. This includes accounting for additional usage and rates associated with automated monitoring. By embracing infrastructure as code and aligning it with workload specifics, organizations enhance operational efficiency, fostering a repeatable and compliant infrastructure creation process.

7. Enhance performance

Your cloud governance strategy should include continually monitoring new products and solutions from cloud providers and seeing where there is an opportunity to incorporate them into your application architecture. For example, a business may consider using Managed Kubernetes to containerize their services for easier scaling or could transition certain parts of their workload to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or serverless architecture. A shift to PaaS services delegates tasks to providers but may reduce control over underlying systems.

When evaluating managed services, prioritize configuration control and insight to align with your organization’s security and operational requirements. This strategic move improves performance efficiency while ensuring compatibility with essential governance principles.

8. Emphasize reliability

Cloud services vary in their data redundancy, fault detection, and automatic scaling capabilities. Managed cloud services typically offer within-region data redundancy and automatic capacity scaling, with some extending data replication across regions for global workload processing capacity. It is crucial to align the Service Level Agreement (SLA) terms with your workload’s resilience requirements. Implementing previously identified resiliency factors is imperative for workloads operating on individual compute and storage resources, ensuring reliability in line with the workload’s specifications.

Governance frameworks for optimizing cloud security in 2023

Companies can implement various established cloud governance frameworks to formulate tailored policies and procedures for effective governance in the cloud environment. Some of the widely known frameworks include:

  • NIST cloud computing framework. Developed by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, this comprehensive framework provides guidance on identifying, assessing, and managing cloud security risks.

  • COBIT. The Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) framework offers a holistic approach to IT governance, including cloud security best practices.

  • ISO 27001. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001 is a global benchmark for information security management. Offering a framework, it addresses sensitive information by providing guidelines for risk management, incident response, and access control, offering a systematic approach to handling sensitive data.

Other notable networks include SOC 2 for assessing security, Cloud Security Alliance’s STAR for comprehensive self-evaluation, and PCI DSS guiding credit card data protection. Hyperscaler cloud providers offer best practices for secure and efficient cloud systems on major platforms, like AWS Well-Architected, Azure Governance, and Google Cloud Platform Governance. Together, these frameworks form a robust foundation for enhancing security, ensuring compliance, and optimizing efficiency in the ever-evolving cloud landscape.

Scale your business securely with DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean exemplifies its commitment to effective cloud governance through certifications, robust security measures, and transparent practices. Aligned with the principles of cloud governance, DigitalOcean’s cloud infrastructure platform holds certifications such as AICPA, SOC 2 Type II and SOC 3 Type II.

Explore a comprehensive breakdown of DigitalOcean’s Shared Responsibility Model and find answers to general FAQs pertaining to trust and cloud governance. Our commitment extends to compliance with major privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, underscoring our dedication to user privacy and data protection within the realm of cloud governance.

Recognizing the specific needs and challenges faced by startups and small-to-midsize businesses, DigitalOcean offers a user-friendly experience with straightforward pricing and cloud computing tools tailored for developers, including Droplets, Kubernetes, and App Platform.

Sign up for DigitalOcean today.

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