How to Achieve Compliance in a Multicloud Environment

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How to Achieve Compliance in a Multicloud Environment

Regulatory compliance is an ever-evolving field for technology professionals. As cybercrime continues to grow, so do standards around acceptable data practices. This is a positive trend concerning cybersecurity and consumer privacy, but it can feel at odds with multicloud environments. Here are ways multicloud challenges regulations and strategies organizations can take to overcome compliance obstacles.

How Multicloud Complicates Compliance

Multicloud has quickly become the norm, with 90% of enterprises having already adopted multicloud in 2021. The shift is understandable, considering multicloud’s cost efficiency, resilience and flexibility benefits. However, companies using multiple vendors make increasing regulatory compliance difficult.

Visibility is one of the most pressing issues, with 64% of IT professionals stating how difficult observability is with multicloud strategies. Knowing where providers keep specific data points is tricky enough with a single platform. Gaining insight across two or more platforms is exponentially harder, making it all the more difficult to ensure all data storage and access permissions meet applicable standards.

Involving more parties may also raise the risk of cybercrime. While splitting data between locations minimizes the impact of a single breach, it may make these occurrences increasingly likely by requiring defenses for more than one location. Insider and third-party threats also become more pressing with additional people involved.

Steps for Multicloud Compliance

Despite these challenges, multicloud compliance is possible. It just requires attention to each setup’s unique challenges. Fortunately, organizations can navigate these obstacles by adhering to these five best practices.

1. Work With Compliance-Ready Vendors

Multicloud security and compliance begin with vendor selection. Many providers today adhere to laws like the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) by default or offer additional services that meet these standards. Hosting data with vendors already well-versed in these concerns makes compliance much easier.

While just three cloud providers control 75% of the market, thousands of options are available. Organizations should recognize this freedom of choice and look beyond the big three if necessary to find a compliance-ready vendor to meet their needs.

Vendors do not necessarily need to offer automatic compliance to be reliable. Businesses should look for providers offering more flexibility, transparency and a willingness to work closely with the company. These factors are particularly important for organizations falling under niche regulations.

2. Create Data Maps for All Clouds

Businesses must also ensure transparency across all vendors and platforms — an easier task than many presume it to be. In fact, cloud environments are more auditable with the right tools than on-prem alternatives, revealing data locations and paths for regulatory assurance.

More specifically, organizations must create detailed data maps for each of their clouds. Doing so requires collaboration with providers, who can offer insight into where and how they store each data point. Automated data discovery and mapping tools are equally critical, uncovering points missed in human error and working faster than manual methods.

Data maps should reflect changes in real-time wherever possible using existing data mapping tools in off-the-shelf products. However, organizations can build their own artificial intelligence (AI) if necessary.

3. Standardize and Consolidate Where Possible

Once businesses have up-to-date, detailed data maps, they must ensure they are accessible and easy to understand. Consolidating them into a single window is important, especially in a multicloud environment where organizations may have several maps to contend with.

Consolidation should apply wherever possible to make the multicloud easier to review and manage — this means using security tools for all platforms and providing a single point of access. The add-ons provide the transparency typically lacking in multicloud environments, enabling more thorough governance.

Similarly, standardizing data formats and processes makes it easier to apply broad changes to multiple platforms and track information between clouds. This traceability and workability are key to data accuracy and integrity — two of the seven core principles outlined by the GDPR.

4. Automate Compliance Monitoring

Even with thorough mapping and standardization, ensuring compliance across multiple cloud vendors can be time-consuming. Consequently, businesses must also automate as much as possible.

AI tools can track data movement and cloud access to identify suspicious or non-compliant activity. They can also alert key stakeholders if changes in a vendor’s actions or policies may jeopardize the company’s regulatory compliance, enabling quick, effective responses. Some providers offer this automation built into their services, but if not, businesses can use third-party AI tools.

Automation is the only way to ensure ongoing compliance in today’s environment. Data moves too quickly — with 56% of all businesses facing tech talent shortages, manual monitoring is impractical.

5. Audit Regularly

Finally, organizations must recognize that compliance is an ongoing process. Standards evolve, and data changes. Consequently, multicloud compliance efforts must involve regular audits to highlight new threats and ensure adherence to applicable standards over time.

These reviews should look for a few primary factors. The most obvious are any regulation-specific data practices that apply to the cloud vendors in question. Audits should also cover security concerns affecting compliance, even if standards do not specifically address them. Misconfiguration — the most prevalent cloud vulnerability today — is one such threat to monitor.

Organizations should perform these audits at least annually. Some regulations may even require this kind of ongoing testing. In cases where that applies, businesses must ensure their audit process adheres to regulation-specific guidelines.  

Multicloud Compliance Is Challenging But Achievable

Ensuring compliance in multicloud environments may require more time and planning than conventional cloud or on-prem alternatives. However, it is far from impossible. Once businesses understand how to approach it, they can capitalize on multicloud’s benefits without worrying about risking regulatory fines.

As the cybersecurity and data privacy landscape evolves, regulations will, too. Businesses must learn to adapt to the changing standards now to remain compliant in the future.