Traditional IT security vs. cloud security: Which approach is right for your business?

July 24, 2019
Learning how to distinguish between the two and weighing their pros and cons will enable you to make the best decision

In this modern era, data is the fuel that drives your company operations. Such data is used to keep track of performance, uncover valuable insights, and enhance security.

Data also plays an important role in how IT security is achieved across various organizations. While some companies may choose to collect and manage their data in-house, others are migrating to the cloud because of scalability and cost saving opportunities. Indeed, cloud technologies have made data management much easier, especially when it comes to data security. Because companies can access infrastructure on demand via the cloud, they’re able to maintain efficient and effective cloud security frameworks that can keep up with emergent threats.

It’s important to distinguish between traditional IT security and cloud security. Each has its own pros and cons and understanding both approaches will enable you to make the best decision for your business.

Traditional IT Security

A traditional IT framework involves purchasing, installing, and maintaining your IT devices on-site. For many years, the traditional IT framework has been used by businesses to collect, store, and process data for various functions.

Furthermore, traditional IT infrastructure allows you to implement a plan for data security. This means that you have the freedom to determine which security devices you’ll purchase, how to manage network controls, and how to best respond to incoming threats. You’ll also be responsible for detecting and responding to incoming threats, as well as maintaining a disaster recovery plan.

A traditional IT approach gives you more control over how each device is used daily. Being able to see where and how your data is controlled, and being involved in its daily management, may feel like a win for your company.

However, the biggest downside with traditional IT systems is that they’re expensive to install and maintain. As you continue to collect more data, you’ll need to purchase new machines that can handle larger data processing functions. This means that your ability to scale will be limited when compared to cloud computing platforms.

Traditional IT systems also require more in-house personnel to manage your hardware on a daily basis. While this may result in most control over various data processes, the cost is often higher (especially for smaller companies).

Cloud Security

As opposed to traditional IT systems, cloud computing refers to accessing infrastructure on demand. This Infrastructure-as-a-Service approach means that you’ll be able to move your data to off-site machines that are managed by a third party.

Cloud computing allows your company to access the hardware, software, and other infrastructure necessary to fuel its daily operations. Furthermore, the cloud makes managing data security much easier. Rather than controlling every aspect of your data security controls on-site, you can effectively outsource your data security needs to a reputable cloud provider.

For example, AWS, Google, and Microsoft Azure operate comprehensive data security programs via the cloud- on behalf of their customers.

How Cloud Security Works

There are 3 main approaches to cloud security.

  1. Public Cloud

The public cloud involves using a third party to manage your cloud computing needs. For example, you may decide to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for software access on demand, data storage, and data security protocols. Any business can sign up for an account via the public cloud, where they select specific services needed (in exchange for a monthly fee).

Public cloud services allow businesses to save on costs, scale up on demand, and improve service delivery to customers. By using such platforms, you may also be able to implement an effective data security plan. Indeed, public cloud providers such as AWS, Google, and Microsoft are able to provide advanced data security controls, including data encryption, database monitoring, and access control.

However, hackers heavily target the public cloud because such platforms house large amounts of sensitive information. In 2018 alone, 25% of businesses using the public cloud fell victim to data theft. This is why it’s important to work with your cloud provider when implementing appropriate data security frameworks. 

2. Private Cloud

Another cloud security option available is developing a private cloud. A private cloud gives you maximum control over all your data management and security protocols. You’ll be able to access data, infrastructure and software remotely, while controlling multiple parameters of your data environment.

The biggest downside of a private cloud is its cost. Many small and medium sized businesses may not be able to afford setting up their own private cloud.  

3. Hybrid

A hybrid cloud is a combination of both public and private cloud systems. You’ll be able to access software and other infrastructure from public cloud provides, while maintaining a private cloud for sensitive information such as payment details, addresses, and social security numbers.

A hybrid cloud is the best approach for taking full advantage of cloud security. This is because you can assign various data security controls to distinct categories of data, thus developing streamlined operational frameworks for your daily activities.   

Cloud Security is the Future for Most Businesses

As more companies embrace the digital transformation, cloud computing is becoming the norm for collecting, storing, and managing data. In fact, cloud security systems have been shown to be more effective than traditional IT security. Many cyber-attacks are opportunistic, and they take advantage of any vulnerable environment.

On-premises infrastructure is always more prone to small errors and slip-ups that can be exploited by vigilant cyber attackers. Furthermore, many cloud developers are more conversant with advanced security and data governance models. This means that you’ll be able to streamline appropriate tasks and mitigate risks in real time.

There are also several ways through which you can develop a risk management plan for your cloud security framework. These steps involve:

  • Determine the data security needs of your company
  • Develop a plan for access control. Not anyone should be able to access sensitive company information
  • Communicate your data security preferences to public cloud providers. Most will work with you to select the appropriate controls for your company’s needs
  • Develop a vendor management program
  • Develop a disaster response plan in case your data is compromised

About the Author:

Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity's success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. Learn more at