As organizations migrate to the cloud, they outsource the management of their computing infrastructure to cloud service providers. These specialized firms take care of the complex engineering involved and allow their client businesses to focus on their core operations.
But there’s often a tradeoff involved. When you ask cloud firms to look after segments of your IT, you risk losing your hold on the system. You may be unable to tell where critical functions are located, or where a security breach has occurred.
The IT person has a phrase for this. It’s called a loss of cloud visibility.
What is Cloud Visibility?
Cloud visibility is having a good view of the activity in your cloud, such that you can spot inefficient performance and security lapses in your cloud setup. It’s being able to access the data you want from your clouds.
You can maintain high visibility of your IT environment if the supporting infrastructure is located on-premise. In this scenario, you have complete control of your security. You can implement measures to keep costs down. And you could also assess performance in real-time, and enforce corrections as quickly as you like.
But with the cloud, there’s a potential limit to your powers. A service provider runs your cloud setup on your behalf. They control the data centers that store your data and are also in charge of the data that travels through their networks.
Cloud visibility is about retaining a good deal of your IT infrastructure while they are hosted by an expert third party—a blending of the benefits from both on-premise setups and service provider’s data centers.
Why is Cloud Visibility Important?
We have already hinted at some of the benefits of greater cloud visibility. Let’s look at them in a little detail:
1. Performance Tracking
You may think that you don’t need to actively monitor the performance of your clouds or networks if there’s a specialized service provider doing this for you.
But there are performance issues that may arise, which you will only be able to solve if you have good visibility of what goes on with your cloud.
Here’s an example. You may want to know what your cloud traffic is like. If there’s a fall in cloud traffic, it could indicate the deteriorating quality of service to your customers from your end. But unless you’re tracking this, you may not be aware that it’s happening.
Firewalls and threat detection systems will work for on-premise computing infrastructure. But it’s not sufficient for cloud environments. Because cloud infrastructure is sprawling and elastic, your security team may find it hard to watch over everything that goes on with it.
If you achieve greater visibility of your cloud, you will be better able to spot security lapses and fix them soon enough.
3. Managed Costs
Increased visibility lets you discover underutilized resources and waste in your cloud setup.
For instance, there may be unused capacity in your cloud. Or a significant amount of workloads on your clouds could be non-productive. You will be paying for these things, despite the fact that they aren’t contributing to growth in your organization.
When you have a good view of the underutilization or excess capacity in your systems, you can adjust them to improve efficiency and scale back capacity. This saves you time and money.
What Hinders Cloud Visibility?
These are some of the factors that restrict cloud visibility.
The cloud is attractive because of its scalability. But scaling up comes with some risks. If you increase capacity, you will have a broader spread of infrastructure to monitor. You could even be managing multi-clouds. That’s more difficult to manage than a fixed on-premise data center.
An expanded IT infrastructure throws up security challenges as well. When there are so many different segments to look after, it’s possible that certain security vulnerabilities will go undetected. It will be difficult to achieve a uniform application of security policy.
Even when your team detects a problem, they could struggle to locate the source because of the scale of the cloud setup.
Many businesses assume that it’s alright to relinquish control of their cloud to managed service firms. But this approach can be counterproductive.
Companies that use public cloud don’t own the data centers on which their data gets stored. They also don’t control the networks that their data runs through. This automatically limits what they can learn about their clouds.
There’s nothing wrong with cloud service providers managing and running cloud setup on a company’s behalf. That company will benefit from their expertise, and from the time and resources that it will save by outsourcing to them. But this doesn’t mean that it should stop paying attention to its clouds.
3. Inadequate Visibility Tools
There are tools that allow you to monitor your workloads on cloud platforms. But it’s not enough to just have a tool. It has to be something that you as a customer can use. Some cloud service providers will avail their clients of visibility solutions, but these are often not service-centric enough to work for clients.
The effort required to evaluate and choose visibility tools may also discourage businesses from using them.
How to Improve Your Cloud Visibility
These are the steps you can take to improve cloud visibility.
1. Adopt a Shared Responsibility Model
Service providers will usually take care of the security surrounding your cloud. But it’s up to you to regulate what happens within your cloud environment. This is what a shared-responsibility model in cloud service provision looks like.
Your in-house IT team has a role to play here. They should track your data, applications, and user activity within your organization. This lets you restrict the room for malicious actors to break into your networks.
2. Use Cloud Integration Solutions
The sheer variety of applications that run on your cloud could make it difficult for you to gain cloud visibility. You can deal with this issue by using a cloud integration platform. This solution enables real-time exchange of data between your on-site and cloud environments, as well as between various applications that your organization uses.
3. Train Your Team
Some of the issues you encounter with data and traffic monitoring may be happening because your employees aren’t skilled enough to manage the cloud environment.
This is something you want to fix, even before introducing cloud integration or monitoring tools. When your IT team is properly trained, they will be more efficient at monitoring your cloud resources.
Most discussions about cloud visibility focus on the technologies that can make it work. But trust between cloud service providers and their clients is also important. It’s key to implementing the shared responsibility that both you and your cloud service provider should have towards your infrastructure.
Layer3 takes this approach seriously. As a cloud service provider, we have served clients in both the public and private sectors. No two organizations are the same. That’s why we work with each one of them to plan and deploy solutions that meet their peculiar needs.
If you want a cloud provider partner that’s as much a partner as a vendor to your business, you can reach out to us. Send your questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will respond in the shortest possible time. To request a free demo of our services, contact us here.