The Annual Performance Review for your Cloud Environment

Where is your organization in its cloud journey? Perhaps you facilitated its migration to a cloud architecture several years ago and so far, it seems as though everything is operating like a well-oiled machine. Or maybe you’ve only recently begun moving applications to the cloud and are still discovering the features and benefits offered by the major cloud service providers (CSPs). Or like many enterprises, you may now be moving past cloud migration and on to strategy.

Regardless, our experience with a diverse mix of cloud users from across all industries and at varying levels of cloud adoption has taught us something all users have in common:

There is always room for improvement.

That’s right. No matter how smoothly you think your environment is running or how much you’ve managed to improve processes and increase your organization’s efficiency, you have the opportunity to do it even better. Here’s how.

Establish a Well-Architected Framework from the start

For those in the planning phase of cloud migration, you will want to partner with a provider that uses a set of standard best practices to plan and implement your cloud environment. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure have both labeled these best practices The Well-Architected Framework, which consists of five pillars of architecture excellence:

  1. Cost Optimization
  2. Operational Excellence
  3. Performance Efficiency
  4. Reliability
  5. Security

When architecting technology solutions on AWS and Azure, incorporating these pillars into your architecture helps produce the most secure, high-performing, resilient and efficient infrastructure for your applications. This not only allows you to focus on the other aspects of design, such as functional requirements, but it also helps ensure that you’re building a system that will meet up to your expectations and requirements.

Maintain the most stable and efficient systems

Your cloud environment is ever-changing. Between new instances, changing security groups, and updated service offerings, it can sometimes feel impossible to stay abreast of the latest and greatest. That’s why whether you’re a cloud newbie or a veteran, your business will benefit from conducting a Well-Architected Review every 12 months. The Well-Architected Review is a systematic approach to evaluating AWS and Azure architectures in order to identify and fix potential issues with the environment and guarantee that it is optimized for financial and operational efficiencies.

It can be difficult for time-crunched and overburdened IT departments to successfully perform these reviews. Outsourcing some of the more time-consuming and complex tasks of cloud management has become an attractive option for many organizations. Lightstream Cloud Managed Services offers its customers the annual performance of Well-Architected Reviews as a proactive way to shed light on any security, operational and performance issues, as well as to make sure that the organization is maximizing every opportunity for savings and automation.

Lightstream’s four areas of key management for cloud platforms are security, finance, technology and operational expertise. These key areas just happen to align perfectly with the pillars of architecture excellence that AWS and Azure abide by, which to reiterate are security, cost optimization, operational excellence, performance efficiency and reliability. The fact that Lightstream’s core values are so in sync with those of the major CSPs has become a major benefit to our customers.

Gain a competitive advantage

Ensuring that your infrastructure is optimized and up to date can give your business a competitive advantage in the marketplace. In general, Lightstream Cloud Managed Services customers are better positioned to achieve five business outcomes after undergoing a Well-Architected Review:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase revenue
  • Ensure compliance
  • Go to market faster
  • Increase the quality of products or services

Harnessing the speed and agility offered by the cloud is the first step. But with those advantages come risks such as misconfiguration, security threats and financial and operational inefficiencies. If you’re not proactive about avoiding these risks, you open your organization up to multiple vulnerabilities that cybercriminals and competitors are waiting to capitalize on.  Therefore, the question is not “can I afford to maintain a Well-Architected Framework?” but, “can I afford not to?”

To learn about how Lightstream Cloud Managed Services can help your enterprise identify and remediate security vulnerabilities, improve compliance, technically right-size applications and reduce your cloud spend, contact us today or visit http://lightstream.tech.

Top 5 Azure Mistakes your Security Team is Making

With its scalable structure, pay-as-you-go pricing, and 99.95% SLAs, it’s no wonder Microsoft Azure is a long-time leader in the IaaS space. Its popularity is also due to the fact that it not only offers -Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) but also Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). With Azure, clients can use the services purely in the cloud or combine them with any existing applications, data center or infrastructure already in place. But with all of this flexibility and reliability comes responsibility. It is critical that IT professionals understand Azure’s shared responsibility model as well as which security tasks are handled by the cloud provider and which tasks are handled by you.

Here are -five common security mistakes that typically result from a rushed build/setup process and inadequate management, as well as tips on and how you can avoid them when designing, deploying, and managing your Azure cloud solution.

1. Misconfiguration of Roles & Administration

Misconfiguration is a common occurrence in situations where an Azure solution is implemented without proper planning.

One aspect of misconfiguration is the assignment of roles to users. It is recommended that you follow the principle of least privilege and select a role that provides the user only with the amount of permission they need to do their job. Failing to follow this best practice leads to excess access permission which can easily be avoided by taking the time to properly assign these roles at the outset.

The old adage that “too many cooks spoil the broth” applies to countless scenarios, and Azure is no exception. Assigning too many administrators, failing to establish lease permissions for those administrators, and not enabling Azure’s Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) are risky oversites. MFA provides an extra layer of security by requiring administrators to provide authentication via phone call, text, or mobile app before they can log into the portal. This helps prevent the administrator’s account from being compromised or misused.

2. Weak, Mismanaged Passwords

This misstep may seem obvious, but regardless of how many times people are warned against setting weak passwords, far too many people still use them. According to Microsoft, they see over 10 million username/password pair attacks every day across their platforms. Failing to assign strong passwords and requiring them to be frequently updated creates vulnerabilities that are easily avoidable.

In setting up Azure services, Microsoft recommends the following to IT administrators:

  • Maintain an 8-character minimum length requirement (and longer is not necessarily better).
  • Eliminate character-composition requirements.
  • Eliminate mandatory periodic password resets for user accounts.
  • Ban common passwords, to keep the most vulnerable passwords out of your system.
  • Educate your users not to re-use their password for non-work-related purposes.
  • Enforce registration for multi-factor authentication.
  • Enable risk based multi-factor authentication challenges.

3. Not Enabling or Managing Logging

Failing to turn on the logging feature is another common misstep in the building process. First, logging must be turned on to permit access visibility. But it doesn’t stop there. The Azure Activity Log must be regularly monitored to gain insight into who is accessing and managing your Azure subscription and to track all create, update, delete, and action activities performed. In addition, an investment in Sentinel – Azure’s cloud-native security information and event manager (SIEM) platform – can go a long way, as it uses built-in artificial intelligence to quickly analyze large volumes of data across an enterprise.

4. Misconfiguration of Security Controls

Haste and -lack of expertise in the configuration of your security tools can mean huge exposure risks for your organization. Failing to enable Azure’s security center and its highly valuable native security tools is a big no-go as it leaves your data open to breaches.

Network Security Groups (NSGs) are the foundation of all network security designs in Azure, and therefore should always be applied to safeguard subnets of a virtual machine-based web application deployment. In a typical design, there is a virtual network and subnets. The subnets should not be assigned to a public IP that could open unwanted ports. NSGs control access by permitting or denying network traffic via communication between different workloads on a vNET, network connectivity from on-site environment into Azure, or direct internet connection.

5. Lack of Oversight

IT administrators often view their Azure cloud solution as just a data center, but it’s essential to remember that this isn’t a case of “set it and forget it.” In fact, your job is far from over once the migration or build is complete; ongoing management and security are critical to the success of your Azure environment.

Proper management of your solution requires a multi-faceted approach. In addition to maintaining compliance with organizational and regulatory security requirements, you must continuously monitor the machines, networks, storage, data services, and applications to protect against potential security issues. Prioritize security alerts and incidents so you can zero in on the most critical threats first. Troubleshooting will be easier if you track changes and create alerts to proactively monitor critical components. Managing update schedules will ensure that your solution is equipped with the latest tools to support ongoing operations.

The bottom line is that your Azure solution is only as strong as the team supporting it. Therefore, IT professionals must do everything in their power to remediate security vulnerabilities before attackers have a chance to take advantage of them. If security and technical expertise and staffing have become obstacles to the effective implementation of your cloud strategy, turn to Lightstream’s Cloud Managed Services (CMS) for help overcoming these challenges.