Monthly Archives

October 2020

The Anatomy of Great Cybersecurity

The Anatomy of Great Cybersecurity

By | Data Protection, Security

If security professionals were asked to define the anatomy of great cybersecurity, it would likely be significantly different than a few years ago. IT departments are allocating more resources to improve their cybersecurity outlook. This is due in part to the large number of security breaches that have exposed critical data. The developers of the  Norton anti-virus software report that of the 3,800 publicly disclosed security breaches reported in the first six months of 2019, a record number of 4.1 billion records were exposed (more than a 50% increase over 2018 for the same time period). There is probably a lot more that are not publicly disclosed. While there isn’t a single “right” way to implement a cybersecurity strategy, there are areas of importance in which you should direct your focus.

Here are three key tale-tale signs of effective cybersecurity:

1: Leadership Buy-In

2: A Comprehensive Cybersecurity Framework

3: Security Awareness

Leadership Buy-In

As a security professional, your ideas about the best cybersecurity strategy for the organization are important to leadership (typically includes the board of directors, executive team, and security officers and managers). The weight that an organization places on cybersecurity begins at the top. This is because the top executives usually have the final authority to approve the cybersecurity budget that is appropriate for an organization’s needs. However, it’s not enough that you have the knowledge and a good picture of your organization’s cybersecurity stance. You must also effectively communicate this information to leadership, often for the purpose of persuading them.

Here are ideas to help you communicate your cybersecurity plan to leadership and obtain their buy-in:

  • Focus on providing metrics instead of explaining technical jargon.
  • Outline your recommendations. Make sure you provide multiple effective options that vary in cost. Explain the pros and cons of each option.
  • Explain how increasing the cybersecurity budget fits in with the organization’s goals. Focus on revenue cost savings, ROI, and customer satisfaction.
  • Emphasize any weaknesses that your analysis or an expert’s assessment has uncovered and the potential threats that your organization could become victim to if the weaknesses are not addressed.
  • Highlight security breaches of organizations that are similar to yours and the devastating results. If your organization isn’t one of the top organizations that are threatened most often (financial, healthcare, manufacturing, or government), leadership may not worry about security as much. Do your research and point out an organization that is similar to yours that has experienced a devastating breach. For example, if your organization is a gaming company, you could point out the data breach of mobile gaming producer Zynga that resulted in 218 million records of customers (the largest data hack of 2019).

Once you’ve prepared your list of ideas, make sure you also prepare answers to questions that leadership may have. Think of the pros and cons of the ideas you present to them and any other questions that may come up. It’s also a good idea to communicate with other cybersecurity professionals who have successfully obtained leadership buy-in and how they obtained it.

New call-to-action

A Comprehensive Cybersecurity Framework

A cybersecurity plan must address the methods of protecting information assets. Since this involves a variety of components, a comprehensive cybersecurity framework is the best choice. When you are considering your framework, you should focus on how you want to handle potential threats. You want a framework that helps you understand your organization’s needs (assessment and analysis), provides components for implementing and managing risk controls and enables you to continually monitor your progress.

When you are considering the cybersecurity framework to implement in your organization, you should also check if there are any regulations specific to your organization or industry. An example is  the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that provides security requirements for healthcare organizations.

To implement a comprehensive cybersecurity framework, you will likely combine multiple systems and controls. Here are five notable cybersecurity structures that are available for organizations:

 

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework

This framework was developed specifically for organizations that manage critical systems in the United States but identifies five elements that any organization can use for managing and mitigating their cybersecurity risks. The five elements include Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. NIST provides the framework as downloadable files from their website. They also provide additional resources.

 

Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls

These 20 controls are prioritized best practices that CIS has developed to help organizations prevent cyber attacks. The controls are prioritized as basic, foundational, and organizational and are downloadable in their entirety in PDF or Microsoft Excel format. CIS provides information for implementing the 20 controls as well as other cybersecurity resources on their website.

 

Information technology — Security techniques — Information security management systems — Requirements (ISO/IEC 27001)

This compliance specification, which provides requirements for managing information management systems (IMS), was officially adopted into the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2005 and has been modified over the years to address the advancements in cyber threats. Organizations can choose to simply follow the requirements or request an audit to become ISO 27001 certified. Meeting these requirements can help organizations develop a cybersecurity framework. Companies that meet the rigorous requirements can choose to request an audit to become ISO 27001-certified organizations. This is an added benefit that provides proof to leadership, customers, and partners that a company has met a high standard for cybersecurity and is serious about protecting its information assets.

 

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Cybersecurity Framework

In 2016, the FDIC announced this framework to provide guidance to banking organizations for mitigating cyber risks that are specific to the industry. According to a report by the Keeper Security firm, of the thousands of IT professionals they surveyed, two-thirds of the financial organizations experienced cyber-attacks. This framework identifies four areas of focus to reduce cybersecurity risks: Corporate Governance of Cybersecurity, Threat Intelligence, Security Awareness Training, and Patch-Management Programs.

The FDIC also lists other cybersecurity resources on their website. In January 2020, the FDIC issued the Joint Statement on Heightened Cybersecurity Risk document to “remind supervised financial institutions of sound cybersecurity risk management principles.” The document outlines six areas of focus: Risk Management, Identity, and Access Management, Network Configuration and System Hardening, Employee Training, Security Tools and Monitoring, and Data Protection.

 

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PCDA) Methodology

Wikipedia defines PCDA as “an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.” It was part of the ISO 27001 compliance standard for many years and has been incorporated in a variety of other cybersecurity frameworks. Organizations can use this system to improve their security implementation by using four steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

Security Awareness

Security awareness refers to the ability to identify a potential threat and take appropriate action to alleviate it. An effective cybersecurity strategy would be incomplete without a plan for establishing awareness in employees. According to a study by the information security firm Shred-It, employee negligence poses the greatest information security risk to organizations. If employees in the organization do not understand security risks and make bad choices, leadership buy-in, and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity framework will have a limited effect. Creating an environment characterized by employees having security awareness involves providing employees the information they need to understand the cybersecurity landscape and educating them on the behavior that is best in that landscape.

The following are the ways your organization can increase security awareness:

  • Develop a training program that identifies the types of cybersecurity threats and provides best practices for preventing security issues (recommended behavior when using email, social media, and company assets). The training should be mandatory for all employees and should be repeated and updated on a regular basis.
  • Make security policies (part of your cybersecurity framework) easily accessible by employees. Adding hardcopies to new hire packages is a good idea.
  • Send regular reminder notifications about cybersecurity best practices via email and text messages.
  • Hang up posters and security reminders in common areas of the organization.
  • Incentivize good employee behavior. For example, reward an employee that comes across a potential phishing email and performs the steps outlined in the training manual or security policy.

Next Steps

Developing and implementing an effective cybersecurity strategy can be a daunting task. Not only does it require resources, but it also requires an understanding of your organization’s needs in relation to the current cybersecurity environment. Developing an effective cybersecurity strategy shouldn’t be a singleton task. Engage your security team and other members of the organizations to perform specific tasks. If you decide to reach out to a security firm for assistance, choose one that is experienced in all facets of cybersecurity.

BACS specializes in providing a full spectrum of IT services to companies of all sizes. They can help you assess your security requirements and develop the most effective strategy to mitigate your organization’s security risks.

data protection - IT security services

TECH TALK: 3 Steps to Developing an Effective Cybersecurity Strategy

By | Data Protection, Security

Has the task of developing an effective cybersecurity strategy landed on your To-Do list? As the average worldwide cost of a data breach is estimated as $3.92 million (from The Cost of a Data Breach Report for by Ponemon Institute), it’s an important responsibility for all organizations that manage digital data. A cybersecurity strategy can be defined as a set of policies that outline your organization’s plan for mitigating the cyber risks to its assets. The key then to creating an effective strategy is aligning the plan to the specific needs of your organization. You can scour the Internet for a model to use for your organization’s strategy, but know that for it to be effective, you’re going to have to make it very personal to your organization. How do you do that?

Here are three basic steps:

1: Define Your Threats

2: Inventory Your Assets

3: Outline Your Protection Measures

New call-to-action

1: Define Your Threats

The first step of developing a successful cybersecurity strategy is to identify the threats to your organization. If you’re not sure what the threats are, consider the general threats to all businesses, threats common to your industry, and the threats that are currently gaining momentum.

  • General Cyber Threats to Your Business

The technology company Cisco acknowledges the following six types of cyberattacks:

Malware

Malware, formally known as malicious software, refers to a group of computer software that cybercriminals design to gain access to a system and cause havoc, usually in the form of damaging or disabling the system. The most common types of malware are adware, ransomware, viruses, worms, and spyware.

Phishing

Cybercriminals use phishing attacks to obtain sensitive data such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, and passwords. This type of attack occurs via email or any other means of digital communication.

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)

Just as it sounds, a MitM attack occurs when a cybercriminal gets in the middle of an exchange of data between two parties, such as a computer and a server, for the purpose of performing malicious acts.

Denial-of-service

One of the most dangerous types of threats to businesses is a distributed denial-of-service attack. A cybercriminal commits this threat by gaining access to a system, often by exploiting a vulnerability, with the goal is to overload it to the point of blocking people (your employees and/or customers) from accessing the system.

SQL injection

A SQL injection attack refers to malicious SQL code that is created to access and cause havoc to a vulnerable SQL database.

Zero-day exploit

A zero-day exploit is a cyber threat that is designed to exploit a vulnerability that has not yet been discovered and patched by the designer.

DNS tunneling

The domain name system (DNS) protocol is a legitimate method of exchanging data across the Internet. Cybercriminals can manipulate the DNS protocol to create a path or “tunnel” for infiltrating a network and exposing sensitive data.

 

  • Threats to Your Industry

You should also consider cyber threats that are specific to your organization’s industry. The following are common industries and the threats that they often face.

Financial

Organizations that handle financial transactions are big targets for cyber criminals. Insight, a cyber intelligence company, reported findings of  that malware attacks in 2019 were targeted more often in a specific area—financial institutions (25.7 percent). Malware isn’t the only threat to these organizations. According to a report by technology consulting firm Mindsight, the top three cyber threats to the financial industry are web application attacks, DDoS attacks, and backdoors and supply-chain attacks.

Healthcare

Healthcare companies are a common target for cyber criminals because of the large amounts of personal data they manage. The Fact Sheet of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 lists the following as common threats to healthcare organizations: Ransonware, email phishing attacks, loss or theft of equipment or data, internal, accidental or intentional data loss, and attacks against connected medical devices that may affect patient safety are common threats to these industries.

Government

The IT systems of governmental organizations, federal agencies in particular, are responsible for managing critical infrastructures and are often targeted by cyber criminals. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Department of Homeland Security received more than 35,000 security incidents reports from federal executive branch civilian agencies in 2017. Of those incidents, the largest number (31%) were from an unidentified source. The remaining incidents were from improper usage (22%), email/phishing (21%), loss or theft of equipment (12%), web-based attack (11%), multiple attack vectors (2%), and attrition, external/removable media, and physical cause made up 1%.

Manufacturing

The infrastructures that are critical to keeping countries moving smoothly require manufacturing operations. Cyber criminals know this and have been increasing their threats on this industry. According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) nearly 40% of the surveyed manufacturing companies were affected by cyber incidents in the prior 12 months, and 38% of those impacted indicated cyber breaches resulted in damages of $1 million or less.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identifies the following threats to manufacturing: Identity theft, phishing, spear phishing, spam, and compromised webpages

 

  • Trending Threats

As the world changes, we see old cyber threats improve and new ones emerge. Sometimes, we see threats increase on the radar of cyber intelligence trackers because of specific events. In 2020, for example, the COVID-19 global pandemic was associated with the following three significant cyber attacks, as reported by MonsterCloud:

Corporate ransomware attacks

Large corporations are often the target of ransomware attacks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber criminals have been threatening doxware (extortionware), which is a type of ransomware that involves a cyber criminal threatening to sell or publish sensitive data.

Research and vaccines

As companies are in the midst of developing a vaccine for COVID-19, cybercriminals are increasing their attacks to obtain information to sell to other companies and governments wanting it.

Social engineering (Twitter)

In the summer of 2020, a teenage hacker managed to scam high-profile Twitter users out of more than $100,000. He was arrested, but not before obtaining $100,000 from his victims.

An additional threat that many companies neglect to acknowledge is within their organization. In the article “The Biggest Cybersecurity Threats Are Inside Your Company” , insider threats account for 60% of all threats to an organization.

2: Inventory Your Assets

Once you understand the threats to your organization, you should then understand your assets that could be threatened. The plan you develop will be effective only if you understand the assets you need to protect. The best way to learn this information is to perform an inventory. The National Initiative For Cybersecurity Career and Studies (NICCS) defines an asset as “A person, structure, facility, information, and records, information technology systems and resources, material, process, relationships, or reputation that has value.”

Here are a few examples of common assets within an organization:

  • Data that flows through your organization. This includes personal data (sensitive data about employees, vendors, and third-party companies and the work data the organization obtains or produces.
  • Physical assets or endpoints that employees use connect to your organization’s network.
  • Network that employees connect to.
  • Infrastructure resources such as databases and servers that store your data.
  • Software that employees use in the company (note the identifying information as well as dates).

A simple spreadsheet is a good way to manage the assets, but it shouldn’t be a laundry list of your assets. You should include details that help you determine the critical value of the asset. This includes adding information about its intended use, how it is accessed, by whom is it accessed, and an assessment of its value. You should devise a system for noting those assets that are critical to the business.

3: Outline Your Protection Measures

Once you understand the threats to your organization and the most critical assets you need to protect from those threats, you are ready to specify how your organization plans to protect its assets from cyber threats.

The following are examples of types of cybersecurity protection methods referenced in an effective cybersecurity strategy:

  • Training to develop cybersecurity awareness among all employees.
  • Security policies for every type of asset (examples listed below):
    • Perimeter security such as network security includes firewall and anti-virus protection, and encryption
    • Endpoint security that protects the systems that connect to your network
    • Application security methods such as sandboxing and encryption
    • Password security that requires employees to use strong passwords
    • Email security measures such as multi-factor authentication and email security gateway protection
    • Remote access security measures such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and end-to-end encryption
  • Insurance that protects your organization from liability should you suffer a cyber attack

Next Steps

The information presented above will help you develop your cybersecurity strategy. Keep in mind that your cybersecurity strategy is not a document that you develop and forget about. It should be a dynamic document that you revisit often to ensure it is up to date.

Seeking the assistance of a cybersecurity expert is a good plan of action to ensure that your cybersecurity strategy addresses all the needs of your organization. BACS is an IT services company that partners with organizations to help them solidify effective security strategies that are based on in-depth analysis.

BACS IT Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

By | Cloud

This blog was updated August of 2021 to provide more useful information to our readers. We hope you enjoy! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us

The critical nature of today’s cloud workloads has made choosing the right cloud architecture more important than ever. To reduce the potential for system failures and hold downtime to a minimum, building your cloud environment on high availability cloud architecture is a smart approach, particularly for critical business applications and workloads. There are several reasons why this approach ensures high uptime. By following the current industry best practices for building a high availability cloud architecture, you reduce or eliminate threats to your productivity and profitability.

Many businesses face a decision: do you keep your systems at the 99.99% level or better? If so, you must design your system with redundancy and high availability in mind. Otherwise, you may face a lesser service level agreement where disaster recovery or standby systems are enough, but that comes with the potential risk of your website crashing.

 

How High Availability Cloud Architecture Works

BACS IT data-backup-and-recovery-business-continuity

High availability is a design approach that configures modules, components, and services within a system in a way that helps ensure optimal reliability and performance, even under high workload demands. To ensure your design meets the requirements of a high availability system, its components and supporting infrastructure require strategic design and testing.

While high availability can provide improved reliability, it typically comes at a higher cost. Therefore, you must consider whether the increased resilience and improved reliability are worth the larger investment that goes along with it. Choosing the right design approach often involves tradeoffs and careful balancing of competing priorities to achieve the required performance.

However, in the end, the improved reliability often prevents network downtime and the loss of productivity that comes with it. The costs associated with this downtime may quickly add up to more than the initial investment. Luckily, the higher costs associated with building a high availability architecture may pay for themselves more quickly than you might think.

Although there are no hard rules for implementing a high availability cloud architecture, there are several best practice measures that can help ensure you reap the maximum return on your infrastructure investment.

 

Why Do You Need High Availability Cloud Architecture?

High availability cloud architecture protects against three major issues: server failure, zone failure, and cloud failure. It also allows you to automate and test everything in your network. While the last feature is useful, this type of cloud network architecture is mainly used to prevent failures and reduce downtime.

 

Protects Against Server Failure

Server failure is more of a “when” situation than an “if” situation. Servers are eventually going to fail due to age, if nothing else. Preparing for server failures is a must, no matter what type of cloud architecture you use. High availability cloud architecture protects against server failure by making use of automated balancing of workloads across multiple servers, networks, or clusters.

Auto-scaling will allow your system to monitor active traffic in real-time. It uses various metrics to determine the overall load on each server and shift that load as necessary to prevent one server from becoming overworked. Should a server fail, the system will shift all users to another server seamlessly.

In addition to traffic monitoring and shifting, high availability cloud architecture also mirrors databases to ensure that information is available from more than a single source. This architecture also uses static IP addresses and dynamic DNS to reduce downtimes.

 

Protects Against Zone Failure

Zone failure occurs when an entire server farm or zone fails. This occurs when there is a massive power failure, natural disaster, or network outage that takes down backups as well as primary power sources and network connections. The result is that an entire zone of servers becomes unreachable.

High availability cloud architecture addresses this zone failure by spreading its servers across multiple zones. The architecture replicates data and databases across zones. If one zone fails, there is at least one other zone the system can route users to without losing access to any applications or data. Typically, these zones are not physically near each other. One server cluster may be in Europe, while another is located in North America. This helps avoid issues where a single natural disaster could affect both zones at once.

 

Protects Against Cloud Failure

While it is rare for two zones to fail, there is always the risk that this will occur. Total cloud failure, while rare, can happen. To handle such an outage, high availability cloud architecture requires modules that can be moved and used across different providers and infrastructures. By creating and storing data backups across providers or regions, it is possible to quickly restore access to this information. This may only be regional access, but it is still a way to retrieve data when the cloud is unavailable.

Another way high availability cloud architecture prepares for cloud failure is by creating sufficient storage space and server capability to absorb the loss of a zone or the entire cloud. You may not need to use these reserve servers and backup drives often, but they are available in case of a large-scale disaster.

Top Cloud Computing Frequently Asked Questions

 

Automate and Test Everything in Your Network

In addition to providing backup for server, zone, and total cloud failures, high availability cloud architecture automates processes and allows for full testing of those processes. For example, you can simulate a server, zone, or cloud failure at any time to watch how your system reacts. This allows you to create processes to save and restore data, automatically adjust workloads, and much more.

By automating processes, you ensure that your disaster recovery plan is implemented immediately. These processes back up your data regularly, ensuring you always have the latest information available. The system immediately detects problems, moves users away from the identified servers, and sends out maintenance alerts as needed.

Testing your plan allows you to make certain it works exactly as intended. High-level cloud disasters can cripple a business, so testing is mandatory to avoid downtime. By running multiple tests, you can detect your architecture’s weak areas and take steps to improve them.

 

What Goes into Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture?

Creating a high availability cloud architecture begins with design. Many may assume that the more redundant systems and backups you have, the more stable the system is. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, too many components can create a very complex system that does not operate effectively or efficiently. The key is to optimize resources, minimize response times, and prevent one part of the system from becoming overloaded.

Here are some of the components of a high availability cloud architecture that you will need to build, maintain, and scale your system:

 

Multiple Application Servers

The first step to building a cloud architecture is to make use of multiple servers or server zones. These zones ensure that your user load is distributed so that no single server is overloaded. It also allows for backup servers and redundancy.

 

Scalable Databases

You will need to design your databases to scale from the onset. You will also want to create backups of these databases on a very regular basis. Every database should have a backup that exists on another server, and ideally, in another geographical location.

 

Recurring Automated Backups

Automatic backups reduce the chance of human error and prevent data loss. You will want to determine the exact timing of these backups based on how often new data is introduced to your database. In some instances, you may need to have your databases backed up in real-time.

 

Requirements of High Availability Cloud Architecture

There are four main requirements for high availability cloud architecture.

 

Load Balancing

More efficient workload distribution helps optimize resources and increases application availability. When the system detects server failure, it automatically redistributed workloads to servers or other resources that continue to operate. Load balancing not only helps improve availability, but it also helps provide incremental scalability and supports increased levels of fault tolerance.

Overall, automatically rebalancing of workloads seamlessly shifts users to other servers when one fails. This rebalancing also means there is less strain on a server, meaning there is less risk of unexpected failure.

 

Scalability

A cloud architecture that cannot scale up or down as needed is ineffective. Your architecture needs to be easily scalable. You can achieve this in several ways. Users can access a centralized database. The server housing this database needs to be able to handle a large number of requests, especially if you expect your business to grow soon. Having at least one backup for this database is also vital. Another option is to allow every application instance to maintain its own data. The system will need to regularly sync this data with other applications or servers to ensure that all users have the same information.

 

Geographic Diversity

As mentioned earlier, a high availability cloud architecture requires servers located in at least two geographical locations to avoid failure from losing one server zone. While having two locations is the minimum, ideally you will have servers located in three or more.

 

Recovery and Continuity Plans

The fourth key element of a high availability cloud architecture is a backup and recovery plan. While backup servers and databases combined with different geographical locations can greatly decrease the risk of failure, that risk is never going to be zero. Having a backup and recovery plan is necessary to reduce downtime.

Schedule a Call

Your business continuity and recovery plan should be well-documented and regularly tested to ensure it’s still viable. You should provide in-house training on recovery practices to help improve internal technical skills in designing, deploying, and maintaining high availability architectures. Additionally, well-defined security policies can help curb incidences of system outages due to security breaches.

You will also need to define the roles and responsibilities of support staff. If you must move to a secondary data center, how will you effectively manage your cloud environment? Will your staff be able to work remotely if the primary office or data center location is compromised? In addition to the hardware and infrastructure, the fundamental business continuity logistics and procedures are an important part of your high availability cloud design.

 

Types of Cloud Clusters

There are three different types of high availability cloud architecture. Each of these concepts has its pros and cons. However, by planning out your server cluster in advance, you reduce your risks of failure and keep your data, along with your server, much safer.

 

Active/Passive

In this type of cluster, the system recognizes when the active server fails and automatically transfers the user to another server at the same location. The system automatically sets the IP address of the failed server to standby and alerts the system operator of the issue.

In this model, the user works on the active server only. When that server fails, the system moves them to the passive or backup server. The system shifts the load to the backup server, making it the active server and chooses another as the passive or backup.

 

Active/Active

Active/active cluster is the second type of cloud cluster. In this model, there are at least two servers with the exact same configuration. Users access both servers, and the system attempts to keep the workload evenly distributed between the two. When a server fails, it automatically shifts all users to the other server. When the failed server is repaired or replaced, the system balances users between the two again.

In this model, there are no true backup servers like there are in the Active/Passive model. All servers are regularly in use. This means you have more servers to distribute the workload. However, on the downside, when one server fails, its paired server takes on its users. This doubles the number of users accessing that server’s resources and can cause some issues.

Note that it is possible to run both active/active and active/passive models on the same cloud architecture. Adding a single passive backup server allows the system to bring that server in to replace a failed active server. One server is always out of rotation, making it easier to schedule maintenance time. Should multiple servers fail, the passive server will step in for one, while the others will take on additional users until the servers are repaired or replaced.

 

Shared vs Not Shared

Shared vs not shared is the third model. This cluster concept is based on the idea that there should always be redundant or replacement resources available. One failure should never result in loss of service. For example, if there are multiple nodes that need to access a single database, that database becomes a point of failure. This shared cluster presents a risk of losing productivity should the server hosting the database fail.

A system that does not share resources, sometimes called a shared-nothing cluster, does not have a single point of failure. Instead, every server has its own database. These databases are synced and updated in real-time, so all data is consistent across the node. One server failure will not affect the other servers.

High availability cloud architecture must avoid single points of failure. One of the best ways of ensuring 99.99% uptime is to combine the active/active and active/passive concepts as mentioned above. Combine this with a shared-nothing approach to databases and other resources to eliminate single points of failure. The result will be a highly redundant system that will only fail in very extreme circumstances.

 

Best Practices for a Cloud Architecture

There are several different best practices you can make use of when implementing high availability cloud architecture. They each have amazing benefits that can help you do more with your business when used properly.

 

Upfront Load Balancers:

With network load balancers installed in front of servers or applications, traffic or users will be routed to multiple servers, improving network performance by splitting the workload across all available servers.  The load balancer will analyze certain parameters before distributing the load, check the applications that need to be served, as well as update the status of your corporate network. Some load balancers will also check the health of your servers, using specific algorithms to find the best server for a particular workload. By doing so, no single server is put under unnecessary strain.

 

Clustering:

Should a system failure occur, clustering can provide instant recovery by drawing on resources from additional servers. If the primary server fails, a secondary server takes over. High availability clusters include several nodes that exchange data using shared memory grids.

The benefit here is that should any server or zone be shut down or disconnected from the network, the remaining cluster will continue operating as long as one node is fully functioning. Individual nodes can be upgraded as needed and reintegrated while the cluster continues to run.

The additional cost of implementing extra hardware to build a cluster can be offset by creating a virtualized cluster that uses the available hardware resources. For best results, you should deploy clustered servers that share storage and applications. Each should be able to take over for one another if one fails. These cluster servers are aware of each other’s status, often sending updates back and forth to ensure all systems and components are online.

 

Failover:

Failover is a method of operational backup where the functions of one component are taken up by a backup component in the event of a failure or unexpected downtime. If a disruption occurs, tasks are seamlessly offloaded automatically to a standby system so the process continues without interruption for users.

Cloud-based environments offer highly reliable failback capabilities. The system handles workload transfers and backup restoration faster than traditional disaster recovery methods. After solving problems at the primary server, the application and workloads can be transferred back to the original location or primary system.

Other recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. Depending on the volume of data you are backing up, you might consider migrating your data in a phased approach. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific servers and zones to ensure data is not impacted or corrupted. Do you want to learn more about cloud migrations? Then check out our blog showing the top five questions to ask before migrating your data.

You can also download those questions here!

 [Free  Resource Download]: 7 Tips  To  Create A Password  Policy  For  Your   Organization

 

Redundancy:

Redundancy ensures you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of the type of event or how the data was lost. You can achieve this through a combination of hardware and software. The goal is to ensure continuous operation in the event of a failure or catastrophic event.

If a main server or system fails for any reason, the secondary systems are already online and take over seamlessly. Examples of redundant components include multiple cooling or power modules within a server or a secondary network switch, ready to take over if the primary switch falters. A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be very expensive to create using an on-site server farm or other system.

The environment achieves this level of redundancy with additional hardware and by having the data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe and backup measures. By making use of specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and more cost-efficient backup capabilities than other options.

 

Backup and Recovery:

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a completely different approach to disaster recovery. This approach encapsulates infrastructure into a single software or virtual server bundle. When a disaster occurs, the system duplicates the virtual server to a separate data center and loads it onto a virtual host. This can substantially decrease recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for ensuring business continuity and long-term survival.

New call-to-action

 

Keeping a Cloud Architecture Safe

Security, of course, is a major concern when it comes to the cloud and the data stored in it. You have an obligation to protect any data your store in the cloud. This includes both protecting it from outside sources and from internal users who should not have access to it.

To safeguard your cloud architecture, you will need to deploy a number of different best practices.

Access Management

You should assign the appropriate role to all users on the system. You will need to define each role and give it access to only the applications and data needed to fulfill that role. When an employee leaves or no longer needs access, that access should be revoked immediately.

Two-Factor Authentication

Deploying two-factor authentication across the infrastructure will help prevent attacks from outside factors. This method helps reduce unauthorized logins as well as identify compromised accounts.

Deletion Policies

The system should delete data that is no longer needed promptly. It should also be permanently removed. You need to ensure that this is done across all backup databases as well as the active database to prevent any trace of this data from remaining and being re-introduced.

Threat Monitoring

Your cloud architecture may be routinely under attack by various threats, but if you have no monitoring software in place, you may never know it. These automated tools constantly scan the system for irregular access, viruses, and compromised accounts. You will be able to take a more proactive stance against these threats by monitoring for them.

Regularly Test for Weaknesses

Creating a defensive system for your cloud architecture is not a one-time process. You need to regularly test those defenses for weaknesses using penetration tests. These tests need to take into account the most recent attacks that have been launched against cloud architecture. By performing regular testing, you can discover gaps in your security and address them before they are used against you.

 

Are These Architecture Worth the Money?

Is it worth spending the upfront cost associated with building a high availability cloud architecture? It depends on your overall goals, but in many cases, absolutely.

If you need a system with 99.99% or better uptime, then the high redundancy and availability that this type of cloud architecture provides is a requirement. The seamless transition to backup servers, databases, and zones cannot be achieved otherwise. However, if you are simply looking for a disaster recovery or backup system, another option may meet those needs without the cost. No matter what type of cloud architecture you need, BACS IT is here to help.

BACS IT can help you determine if a high availability cloud architecture is right for your business or not. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

Schedule A Free Cloud Migration Consultation