3 Pillars of Cloud Governance, Challenges & Best Practices

Cloud governance involves setting guidelines and policies for cloud usage in an organization, resources are used efficiently and securely.

Updated on October 1, 2023

What Is Cloud Governance? 

Cloud governance involves setting guidelines and policies for cloud usage in an organization, ensuring that cloud resources are used efficiently, securely, and cost-effectively.

Cloud governance is like having a set of traffic rules for your cloud infrastructure. Just as traffic rules ensure smooth and safe commuting, cloud governance ensures that your cloud environment runs smoothly and securely.

In addition, cloud governance is also about making sure that these rules are being followed and that they are delivering the desired results. It involves constant monitoring, reporting, and adjusting of the cloud environment to meet business requirements.

This is part of a series of articles about cloud security.

In this article:

Importance and Role of Cloud Governance in Modern IT Infrastructure 

As the cloud becomes an integral part of IT infrastructure, cloud governance plays an increasingly crucial role. It ensures that the cloud environment is secure, efficient, and cost-effective.

A primary role of cloud governance is to ensure security. With the increasing severity of cyber threats, securing cloud data and applications is of paramount importance. Cloud governance provides a framework for managing and mitigating these security risks.

Another critical role of cloud governance is ensuring resource optimization. As more and more businesses move to the cloud, it is essential to ensure that cloud resources are utilized optimally. Cloud governance provides the tools and processes to monitor and manage resource usage, ensuring that resources are effectively used and not wasted.

A third key role of cloud governance is cost management. Cloud services can quickly become expensive if not managed properly. Through cloud governance, businesses can keep track of their cloud spending and ensure that they are getting the best value for money.

Learn more in our detailed guide to cloud infrastructure security 

3 Pillars of Cloud Governance

Compliance

As one of the pillars of cloud governance, compliance plays a crucial role in ensuring that an organization’s use of cloud services adheres to relevant laws, regulations, and standards. Compliance in cloud governance involves monitoring and controlling the cloud environment to meet the requirements of data privacy laws, industry-specific regulations, and internal policies.

Compliance management requires regular audits, assessments, and remediation efforts. It’s about understanding the changing regulatory landscape, interpreting complex rules, and implementing effective controls. It’s also about creating a culture of compliance where everyone understands their responsibilities and acts in accordance with the rules.

Non-compliance can lead to heavy penalties, damage to reputation, and loss of customer trust. Therefore, effective cloud governance necessitates a robust compliance strategy. This strategy should include continuous compliance monitoring, automated compliance checks, and timely alerting and reporting.

Security

Security is another fundamental pillar of cloud governance. It pertains to the measures, protocols, and tools used to protect cloud-based data and applications from threats, breaches, and disruptions. In the context of cloud governance, security is not just about implementing firewalls and antivirus software. It’s about creating a comprehensive security strategy that addresses all aspects of cloud security.

A robust cloud security strategy should encompass identity and access management, data encryption, threat detection and response, and security incident management. It should also include employee training and awareness programs to mitigate human-related risks.

Security in cloud governance is a dynamic process that requires continuous monitoring, assessment, and improvement.

Learn more in our detailed guide to cloud security solutions

Resource Optimization

The third pillar of cloud governance is resource optimization. This involves managing cloud resources effectively to achieve operational efficiency, cost savings, and performance improvement. Resource optimization in cloud governance is about making the most of cloud investments, reducing waste, and enhancing service delivery.

Effective resource optimization requires a deep understanding of the cloud environment, workloads, and usage patterns. It involves capacity planning, demand forecasting, and performance tuning. It also includes cost management measures such as right-sizing, spot instances, and reserved instances.

Resource optimization is not a one-off task. It’s a continuous process that requires regular monitoring, analysis, and adjustment. With a well-defined resource optimization strategy, organizations can minimize costs, improve performance, and maximize the value of their cloud investments.

Common Challenges Faced in Cloud Governance 

Complexity of Cloud Services

The intrinsic complexity of cloud services is a significant challenge in cloud governance. With the cloud, you’re not just dealing with a single server or database; instead, you have to manage a multitude of services spread across various networks and regions. This complexity escalates when you adopt a multi-cloud strategy, which involves using services from multiple cloud providers. Managing these diverse services requires a deep understanding of each service and how they interact with each other.

Furthermore, the rapid innovation in cloud technology also adds to the complexity. Cloud providers constantly introduce new services and features, making it hard to keep up and understand the implications of each update. This often leads to misconfigurations, leading to security vulnerabilities and inefficient resource utilization.

Lastly, the billing models of cloud services are complex and dynamic. They vary greatly based on resource usage, data transfer, and even the region of operation. This makes it challenging to predict and control costs, leading to budget overruns.

Lack of Expertise

Cloud governance requires a unique set of skills and expertise, which many organizations lack. It involves understanding the cloud architecture, security, compliance, cost management, and more. Without the right skills, organizations may fail to leverage the full potential of the cloud or worse, expose their data to security risks.

Additionally, there’s a significant talent gap in the cloud industry. The demand for cloud professionals far outstrips the supply, making it difficult for businesses to find and retain skilled cloud experts. This lack of expertise slows down cloud adoption and hampers effective cloud governance.

Standardization and Consistency

Standardization is vital for effective cloud governance. Without it, each department or team in an organization may use different cloud services, configurations, and management practices. This leads to a fragmented and inefficient cloud environment.

However, achieving standardization is not easy. It requires defining and enforcing uniform policies and procedures across the organization. This is challenging, particularly in large organizations with diverse needs and workflows. Moreover, the dynamic nature of the cloud makes it hard to maintain consistency over time.

Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to the use of IT systems or services without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. In the context of the cloud, it could mean using unapproved cloud services or configurations. Shadow IT is a significant issue because it undermines cloud governance efforts and exposes organizations to security and compliance risks.

The rise of shadow IT is fueled by the ease of use and accessibility of cloud services. With just a credit card, any employee can sign up for a cloud service and start using it without going through the IT department. This makes it hard for IT to keep track of all cloud services in use and ensure they comply with the organization’s policies.

Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in is a situation where an organization becomes overly dependent on a single provider and finds it difficult to switch to another provider—a situation that is common in cloud computing. This is a significant challenge in cloud governance as it limits the organization’s flexibility and negotiating power.

Vendor lock-in occurs due to the proprietary nature of many cloud services. Each cloud provider offers unique services with different APIs, configurations, and data formats. Migrating from one provider to another often involves significant time, effort, and cost. Therefore, organizations need to carefully consider their choice of cloud providers and strive for a balance between maximizing the use of the providers’ services and maintaining flexibility.

Cloud Governance Best Practices 

Develop a Cloud Governance Framework

A cloud governance framework serves as the foundation for effective cloud governance. It defines the policies, procedures, roles, and responsibilities related to cloud usage and management. It provides a roadmap for cloud adoption and helps ensure that the cloud aligns with the organization’s business objectives.

Developing a cloud governance framework is a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders. It should consider the organization’s business goals, risk tolerance, compliance requirements, and more. It should also be flexible and adaptable to accommodate changes in business needs and cloud technology.

Implement Strong Access Controls

Access control is a critical aspect of cloud governance. It involves managing who can access your cloud resources and what they can do with them. Strong access controls help prevent unauthorized access and misuse of cloud resources, thereby enhancing security and compliance.

Implementing strong access controls involves defining user roles and permissions based on the principle of least privilege. This means granting users only the permissions they need to perform their tasks and nothing more. It also involves using strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, to verify the identity of users.

Regular Auditing and Monitoring

Regular auditing and monitoring are essential for effective cloud governance. They provide visibility into your cloud environment and help detect and respond to issues promptly.

Auditing involves reviewing your cloud configurations and usage to ensure they comply with your policies. It helps identify misconfigurations, over-provisioned resources, and more. It also helps ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

Monitoring involves tracking the performance and health of your cloud resources in real-time. It helps detect issues such as performance degradation and security threats. It also helps measure the effectiveness of your cloud governance efforts and make necessary adjustments.

Plan for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Disaster recovery and business continuity planning are crucial aspects of cloud governance. They help ensure that your business can quickly recover from a disaster and continue operations with minimal disruption.

Planning for disaster recovery involves identifying potential disaster scenarios, such as data loss, service outage, and more, and devising strategies to recover from them. It involves creating and testing disaster recovery plans and ensuring they meet your Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs).

Business continuity planning goes beyond disaster recovery. It involves planning for the continuity of your business operations in the face of a disaster. It includes aspects such as workforce continuity, supply chain continuity, and more.