Compliance in Cloud Computing: What Businesses Need to Know

These are the essential factors influencing the development of resilient and adaptable infrastructures for compliance in the cloud

When an organization handles sensitive information, it needs to do so safely and securely. Numerous regulatory standards govern the handling of that information throughout its life cycle — from acceptance to transmission, and from storage to appropriate use. With the advent and widespread implementation of the cloud, compliance in cloud computing must be considered at all points during the provisioning of cloud infrastructure. Here are some of the essential factors influencing cloud computing infrastructure in modern business.

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Frameworks and Regulations

Risks of Non-Compliance

Impacts of Compliance on Development

A Remedy to the Burden of Compliance in Cloud Computing

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Frameworks and Regulations

A myriad of continually evolving frameworks exist in the increasingly regulated field of cloud computing, and definitions of compliance in cloud computing vary by industry and by region. They detail everything from the management of medical data (HIPAA) and credit card information (PCI DSS, or PCI) to more general concerns of data management (SOC 2, GDPR), to name only a few. From these frameworks, an organization can begin to derive its own set of policies and protocols aimed at aligning operational and business needs to ensure compliance.

Some frameworks, such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) require certification involving an independent third-party auditor. Such cloud compliance audits are intended to assess the design and operational effectiveness of any relevant security controls. The areas evaluated include anything from communications, both internal and external, network security, incident management, and even commitment by leadership to ethical and transparent conduct. Audits are performed through various means including inquiry, analytical procedures, and physical inspection.

Risks of Non-Compliance

By adhering to these frameworks, which collectively outline established best practices for information security implementations, an organization’s cloud computing service becomes more robust and trustworthy, and its legal and financial liability is minimized if a security breach ever occurs.

But in the case of fast-growing organizations that need to get to market quickly, or who are otherwise at pains to demonstrate to investors and other stakeholders the viability of their product or service, cloud data compliance is at best considered a roadblock, or at worst neglected, despite being a key factor in an organization’s long-term viability.

When an organization is found to be non-compliant according to relevant regulations, the consequences can be severe. When in violation of HIPAA, organizations can incur penalties from anywhere between $120 to $60,000 per violation, up to an annual maximum of $1.8 million, depending on the level of negligence determined in the cause. Similarly, PCI violations range between $5,000 and $100,000 per month, depending on the size, duration, and scope of an organization’s non-compliance — the severity of which is left at the discretion of credit card companies and their parent banks.

Impacts of Compliance on Development

Implementing cloud regulatory compliance after provisioning a cloud computing infrastructure becomes exponentially difficult as the scale and complexity of the infrastructure increases. However, the reluctance and impatience of startups and small-to-midsize organizations to pursue a rigorous and sufficiently compliant infrastructure is not hard to understand: These organizations don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or the resources to dedicate to these interminable and low-level problems when the organization itself has not had the chance of proving such an investment to be worthwhile.

Some organizations may direct their developers to implement infrastructure alongside their ordinary duties of writing higher-level, software-as-a-service code. But this division of attention is more likely to make the product or service worse without ever addressing issues of non-compliance, leaving the company exposed to security threats and associated damages.

And on the other hand, development and operations (or DevOps) is a highly sought-after skill set. Finding good DevOps engineers is difficult for many reasons, including the cross-disciplinary nature of the expertise required, from the orchestration of diverse technical skills to literacy and knowledge of the regulations informing best practices in the field. Even an organization capable of retaining them would still generally require a team of such engineers, due to the sheer complexity of the technologies involved and their interactions, which deepen as the operation scales.

And those organizations that choose to implement their own infrastructure-as-code risk falling victim to uncountable pitfalls. With cloud computing regulations constantly evolving and becoming more and more complex, guaranteeing that the intent of the code towards compliance is fully and accurately expressed can become incredibly difficult. Maintaining parity with the latest compliance definitions — of writing, testing, reviewing, and rolling out changes — even more so.

Infrastructure-as-code, when not given appropriate attention and resources, is liable to be error-prone and unwieldy, and fall short of the best practices required to achieve compliance. When it is given appropriate attention, first-time implementation can take as many as three to six months to prepare — critical time and energy many fledgling organizations can’t afford to spend.

A Remedy to the Burden of Compliance in Cloud Computing

What can be done, then, to ensure compliance from the get-go, while allowing an organization to remain focused on what sets their product or service apart, and not become mired in the minutiae of provisioning critical infrastructure?

Rather than implement infrastructure-as-code, perhaps one of the most cost-effective and forward-thinking options for a startup or small-to-midsize organization is to implement an automated, integrated solution. Automating cloud computing infrastructure isn’t necessarily about replacing the humans responsible for implementing DevOps architectures; instead, it helps them to keep on top of all the security controls mandated by all the reigning regulatory bodies. 

DuploCloud is a no-code/low-code DevOps solution that enables companies to accelerate their time to compliance by natively integrating security controls into their applications during the development process. DuploCloud is simple and secure, keeping up-to-date on the latest trends in cloud computing regulations and best practices. For more detailed information on how DuploCloud is helping startups and small-to-midsize organizations alleviate the burden of compliance in cloud computing, read the white paper on their comprehensive approach to PCI and HIPAA compliance.