Reviewing best practices for IT asset management in the cloud

October 21, 2019 | Kim Crawley

two people in a data center

It used to be that businesses needing their own large computer networks had to do everything themselves. They had to buy all of their servers, all of their networking appliances. They needed the physical space on premises for all of their datacenters, the HVAC people to keep everything cool, and the massive electricity bills to keep all of that going.

But in the past several years, the growth of cloud services has been exponential. It’s great for the enterprise because depending on a business’s specific needs, they can either have everything but their local area network on the cloud, or they can have some hybrid of their own on premises network and a cloud provider or two, fully integrated. Either way, they can put at least some of their networking needs in the hands of a cloud provider such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. That can save a company a lot of time, labor, space, and money. Plus, the agility and flexibility that cloud providers offer is great! Do you need to double the data capacity of your network as soon as possible? It’s much quicker and easier to change your cloud provider plan and do some adjustments on your end than it is to double the size of your on prem network. The cloud can be a lifesaver, but your IT people still need to know how to manage their computing assets there, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Cloud asset management is a special matter, and it’s absolutely vital to understand.

What is cloud asset management?

Your IT assets are the hardware, software, and networking entities that your company has as tools and resources for their objectives. An excellent example of an IT asset is a database. Databases are very important, particularly in the backend of your applications.

With the implementation of cloud networks, these IT assets become cloud assets too. So instead of having your MySQL databases entirely on your on premises servers and data storage, you can have them run from the server and data storage capacity that your cloud provider offers your business.

But making sure your cloud-hosted assets function well and maintain security is its own area of knowledge: cloud asset management. There are challenges involved in cloud asset management which differ from managing assets on your own infrastructure. For instance, developers and administrators often don’t use the security tools that their cloud providers offer them. Also, visibility into your assets can be more difficult in the cloud. You can’t secure what you can’t see!

Cloud asset management best practices

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to cloud asset management. It can seem overwhelming to start. Thankfully, there are some best practices to keep in mind which will provide you with a strong foundation for properly handling the cloud.

Monitor your cloud as thoroughly as possible

As I mentioned, visibility in cloud networks can be a special challenge. There’s also the everyday performance of your network to consider. You won’t be physically inside of your cloud provider’s datacenter, so you’ll need to be able to see as much as possible with monitoring tools. This isn’t all directly security related. You need to make sure that your provider honors your Service Level Agreement. Watch your bandwidth and make sure that it suits your organization’s needs at all times. Make sure all of your cloud assets have excellent availability, as much uptime as possible. You could have thousands of users depending on your cloud at any given second. Monitor thoroughly and constantly to make sure that your cloud is always capable and reliable.

Redundancy and automation are your friends

Redundancy goes a long way when it comes to keeping good uptime and everything working properly. There should be as few single points of failure as possible, preferably none. Redundancy can manifest in everything from having plenty of data backups, to having extra servers, to coding in redundancy. If your cloud provider can host your cloud in multiple sites, that’s great too.

Automation, when well implemented, helps to reduce the possibility of human error, saves labor costs, and also makes everything more efficient. Cloud management tasks are often tedious and repetitive. And when it comes to tedium and repetition, computers always out-perform human beings.

Have a risk management plan

Problems aren’t completely avoidable. It’s best to be prepared for them. In order to develop a risk management plan, you first have to figure out what your risks are. Inventory all of your cloud assets and consider all of the applicable possibilities. Have plans for natural disasters, cyber attacks, electrical outages, and any other issues which may occur. Have specific procedures for particular risks, and make sure your employees are trained in them.

Cloud asset management software you should know about

Choosing the right cloud management software can make a big difference. Here are some applications that I recommend.

CloudSploit is leading open source security configuration monitoring tool for cloud infrastructure. The application benefits from being tested by many cloud security experts for specific issues with AWS, Azure, GitHub, and Oracle Cloud.

BetterCloud is touted as the first SaaS (software as a service) Operations Management platform. Key features include automated user onboarding and offboarding, and data protection policies with privileged access management.

Multi-cloud and hybrid asset management

Very often organizations choose to have hybrid and multi-cloud environments. In some cases it’s the best option. Hybrid networks combine your on premises network with a cloud provider, and multi-cloud environments entail multiple cloud providers. Hybrid cloud management is both a process and a software platform which dictates the principles of how a hybrid cloud should be managed.

It can be pretty tricky at first. Your on premises network and your cloud network can be very different from each other in many ways. Thankfully both cloud asset management software developers and cloud platforms have tools to facilitate combining your networks so everything works reliably. Learn about them and implement them.

Conclusion

The cloud can make it much easier, more efficient, and more agile to manage your network. Your IT assets are just as important when they become cloud assets. Good cloud asset management provides excellent uptime, mitigates risk, and provides more reliable functionality.

Kim Crawley

About the Author: Kim Crawley, Guest Blogger

Kim Crawley spent years working in general tier two consumer tech support, most of which as a representative of Windstream, a secondary American ISP. Malware related tickets intrigued her, and her knowledge grew from fixing malware problems on thousands of client PCs. Her curiosity led her to research malware as a hobby, which grew into an interest in all things information security related. By 2011, she was already ghostwriting study material for the InfoSec Institute’s CISSP and CEH certification exam preparation programs. Ever since, she’s contributed articles on a variety of information security topics to CIO, CSO, Computerworld, SC Magazine, and 2600 Magazine. Her first solo developed PC game, Hackers Versus Banksters, had a successful Kickstarter and was featured at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May 2016. This October, she gave her first talk at an infosec convention, a penetration testing presentation at BSides Toronto. She considers her sociological and psychological perspective on infosec to be her trademark. Given the rapid growth of social engineering vulnerabilities, always considering the human element is vital.

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