Article

Microsoft Azure Public Cloud vs On-Premise and Private Cloud

Posted: 17th Aug 2020
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Corporate IT has long been fearful of the public cloud, largely due to concerns around data security and sovereignty. However, this is now an out-dated view and public cloud is now considered as not only a viable option, but most likely the best option to provide secure, accessible, available, compliant, and scalable future-proof IT services.

Is it high-time that advocates of on-premise IT or private datacentres reconsidered their views? We take a look at just some of the reasons why public cloud has become a no-brainer, giving particular consideration to Microsoft Azure – a solution deemed good enough for even the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Why Azure Public Cloud?

Superior attention to security

There is a long-standing myth that public cloud is less secure than storing your data on your own servers (on-premise) or in private cloud (i.e. in your IT providers data centre). While in the early days of public cloud there may have been some legs in this argument, nowadays you’ll find unequivocally that the opposite is true.

Public cloud providers are incredibly paranoid about the security of their services. This is understandable given the survival of their business depends upon it and, let’s face it, we’re not talking about an unsubstantial business opportunity here. The global public cloud services market is expected to be worth $257.9 billion in 2020. None of the big cloud providers are going to want to lose any of their share of that humongous pie. As a result, the investment the likes of Microsoft make in public cloud security simply cannot be paralleled, not even by the biggest private enterprises or IT service providers.

By the same token, public cloud providers can afford to employ the best of the best when it comes to cyber security professionals and software engineers. The result being the most robust and systemically secure systems you’re likely to find, incorporating AI and pattern matching technology. For example, attention to security runs through Microsoft’s entire stack. It’s embedded throughout their software and built into the foundations of their cloud services. In addition, Microsoft’s Azure data centres are as secure as you’ll find, with leading threat mitigation and state-of-the-art physical security protections.

On top of all this, Microsoft is also a leader in the fight against cyber-crime, tackling global malware and reducing digital risk through their Digital Crimes Unit. The security learnings from this unit are ploughed back into Microsoft’s solutions, services and data centres. As such, it comes as no surprise that hackers have shifted their attention to easier pickings such as private data centres and on-premise infrastructures.

Ever evolving, state-of-the-art technology

If you’re hosting your IT services on-premise then typically you’ll be managing a mix of technologies from different eras, ensuring that the vast infrastructure costs are amortised over as many years as possible before technology is replaced. Ageing infrastructures are generally less secure and often deliberately targeted by hackers looking to exploit the intrinsic security holes in older technologies. By the same token, ageing systems are harder to keep secure, placing huge time strains on IT teams to be constantly vigilant and proactive in order to keep defences up.

Public cloud providers such as Microsoft are constantly upgrading their data centre infrastructures to plug security holes and to give their customers the best possible experience. The frequency of these infrastructure updates is impossible to replicate from a financial point-of-view for not only on-premise focussed organisations, but also for private cloud managed IT providers.

Data residency in the UK

Data residency is probably one of the biggest concerns around public cloud. Regulatory compliance, such as GDPR, set out considerations and mandates for the physical location of company and client data. In the case of GDPR, data collected on citizens must be either stored in the EU, so it is subject to European privacy laws, or within a jurisdiction that has similar protection levels.

With Microsoft Azure, data residency is no longer an issue. There are now more than 60 Azure datacentre regions worldwide and two within the United Kingdom alone; UK South and UK West. UK customers can now store their company and client data in the UK to help meet data sovereignty requirements, allowing even highly regulated industries to benefit from running mission-critical workloads the public cloud. Hosting data and services in your own country of residence also has significant benefits in terms of latency optimisation.

With Azure regions being paired in this way (i.e. UK South / UK West) to create ‘regional pairs’, customers can take advantage of data replication between the two regions within the same geography (i.e. UK). They can do so in the confidence that Microsoft will never replicate or move their data outside of that geography.

Strict tenant isolation

Another common historical objection to hosting data in public cloud is that multi-tenancy can leave you more open to data breach. The argument being that since you’re sharing a common infrastructure with multiple organisations, that they may somehow be able to access your data. This is no longer a valid concern with the modern public cloud provider.

Microsoft Azure, for example, was engineered from the ground up to help identify and counter the inherent risks of a multi-tenant environment. Microsoft uses Active Directory plus functionality specifically developed for multi-tenant services in order to logically segregate data storage and processing among consumers of Azure. This helps to ensure that, should you store data in an Azure datacentre, the actions of another tenant won’t compromise the integrity of your data or the quality of service provision.

A homogeneous environment

Microsoft’s productivity tools are by far the most popular in terms of global usage (think Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams etc.). With Microsoft Azure being a Microsoft service, it is seamlessly and securely integrated with Microsoft software. This, coupled with the prevalence of in-house usage of Microsoft products, makes Azure the logical choice of public cloud for the vast majority of organisations worldwide.

In summary

Public cloud has evolved. The range of services supported by and native to public clouds such as Microsoft Azure are numerous. Poor security and data sovereignty are now dispelled as myths and the barriers to adopting the most scalable and future-proof form of IT provisioning have been torn down.

Companies are changing their stance from ‘Should we go public cloud?’ to ‘How should we do public cloud, and which services should we migrate first?’. If you find yourself asking the latter question then get in touch with Atlas Cloud for a free consultation on how to move your IT infrastructure to Azure cloud. Simply call us on 0191 283 0191 or drop us an email, we look forward to helping you join the public cloud evolution.

About The Author

Martin is a keen badminton player and Newcastle United supporter (for his sins). Outside of sport he loves spending time with his wife and two young children; usually watching copious amounts of Hey Duggee and building masterpieces out of Lego.

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