How To Develop a Cloud Security Plan For Your Houston Business In Seven Steps

Cloud SecurityUsing cloud computing in your Houston business can reduce your overall IT costs and offers strategic benefits such as more efficient use of IT resources, and the ability to focus on important business operations rather than software or IT issues.

Believe it or not, you can achieve better security using the cloud than you can with an internal IT environment.  Although established and proven security technologies are applied to cloud computing environments, it’s important to create and implement a cloud security plan if you’re using a private or public cloud, or both (hybrid cloud computing).

How to Develop a Cloud Security Plan For Your Houston Business

Developing and implementing a cloud security plan can be a difficult task. To make it easier, NaviSite has created a manageable process and checklist that can be used by enterprise security, IT, and compliance professionals as a framework for crafting their own cloud security plan.

The following seven steps have been tested and refined by NaviSite after helping hundreds of companies secure their enterprise resources.  These steps will help you develop security and compliance programs that take advantage of the financial benefits of cloud services, while meeting compliance and organizational security objectives.

Step One: Review Your Goals

Every cloud security plan starts with a complete understanding of your business goals by doing the following:

  • Processes: Define clear processes for all your business operations, including problem management, change control, acceptable-use policies, and incident management.
  • Technologies: Ensure management, monitoring, authentication, authorization, reporting, and auditing technologies are leveraged to protect and secure access.
  • Staff: In order to develop a security plan that aligns with your business’s goals, your staff must possess the skills and expertise necessary to complete essential business and IT objectives.

Along with understanding your business objectives, you must create long-term strategies that promote the growth of your business. For example, do you want to double the size of your business within the next few years? If so, your security infrastructure must be designed to support this scalability.

Executive input is an essential part of the plan, however ensure that you’ve received input from every department head as well; a successful cloud security plan includes input from all stakeholders, and will ensure your policies and procedures are aligned and adopted.

Step Two: Create a Risk Management Plan

You also need to develop and implement a long-term risk management program to reduce your company’s overall risk. Your risk management plan identifies risks and assigns resources to prevent security breaches from occurring, or block them if they do. Also assess the value of your assets, and your loss expectancy if a security breach does occur, and then decide whether you’re willing to accept the risk or make the investment to mitigate the chances of loss.

Ongoing analysis is needed to develop and deploy necessary controls and auditing capabilities for mitigation of threats. If you already have a well-developed risk management plan in place, chances are you’ve identified your important assets and established sufficient protection.

Step Three: Ensure Your Security Plan Aligns With Your Business Goals

Your security plan will essentially become an extension of the previous two steps. The plan should include compliance programs, processes, and technologies with specific desired results. The goals in your security plan should include specified dates for completion, verification of achievement (Service Organization Controls Report), and expected results, such as improvement of risk mitigation or successful audits.   This can be complicated for some, but once you’ve made the decision to partner with a cloud provider you can modify your security plan as needed. 

Step Four: Ensure Corporate-Wide Alignment and Support

Your security plan should be aligned with the goals of your organization and the goals of major departments. Many security departments will develop a variety of policies that may be difficult to implement across the entire organization. It’s extremely important to prioritize and ensure that these policies aren’t conflicting with other policies from different departments. Gaining this support and alignment will streamline adoption of the security plan throughout the entire organization.

Security must not only meet business goals and comply with regulatory requirements, but also be centrally managed and implemented across the entire organization with minimal negative impact to productivity and efficiency.

Step Five: Develop Security Policies and Procedures

Organizations that have yet to establish policies and procedures will gain a major advantage from cloud services. Over years of experience, your cloud provider has developed best practices that will serve to help your organization.  A set of guidelines and policies will ensure that all compliance measures are identified, and drive your entire organization towards the same goals. For example, a healthcare organization must provide HIPAA and HITECH compliant health care services to all patients. In order to do this, the organization should build security policies that define the proper way to handle protected health information and encourage the general adoption of best practices throughout the organization.

When a business is audited for compliance standards, the auditor will almost always look at existing policies and how they’re being implemented, to ensure that they’re being followed throughout your organization.  Of course, every company wants to make sure they pass an audit, and if you’ve completed all of the steps in this process, you can easily create security guidelines that can be enforced throughout your entire organization.

Step Six: Review and Audit as Often as Possible

You should review the security plan on a regular basis, and report on the achievement of organizational goals. In order to maintain best practices and secure enterprise resources, you must understand auditing requirements. In addition, you should contract out to a third party who can conduct an audit for security and policy compliance to ensure your organization meets regulatory standards. A third-party audit can provide an impartial, unbiased review of the controls and report on compliance. Certain industries require audits, and U.S. publicly traded companies must conduct internal audits every quarter once they’ve released financial statements.  With frequent auditing, you can ensure compliance, and if problems do arise, you can identify and fix the problem prior to the next audit cycle.

Step Seven: Keep Improving

Your industry, as well as your business will likely change drastically over time, and technology is constantly evolving. So it’s essential that you revisit your cloud security policies and procedures. Review your security policies every six months; by doing this you’ll have time to evaluate your policies, and update them if needed before your next audit.  At the very least, complete an annual review of your cloud security plan with your senior executives and your cloud services provider. Revise your goals and objectives as needed, and update your plan to allow for continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the most important part of your security plan. It’s impossible to completely eliminate risk, but it’s simple to mitigate it!

Have questions about the cloud and the impact implementing a sound cloud strategy can have on your Houston business?  Call your cloud consulting experts at CITOC today.  Our team of cloud consultants are here to help you.  We can be reached at (713) 490-.5000 or by emailing info@citoc.com.

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