Why you need third party visibility over your cloud services

Cloud storage for downloading an isometric. A digital service or application with data transmission.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/ZinetroN)

Modern cloud computing has seen substantial growth over the past couple of decades. From its humble beginnings on Amazon Web Services in the early 2000s, it has grown into the broad range of services and solutions we know today, with a global value projected to reach $525.6 billion by the end of 2023

This is, in part, due to the increased flexibility and scalability cloud computing offers to the user. It is also down to the greatly reduced burden of maintaining and operating hardware, software and data centers; the advantage of which is undeniable. But we were also promised something that would be quicker, cheaper and more secure – and whether it is living up to those promises is far less clear cut. 

Modern cloud computing certainly has the potential to be all of those things. The increase of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings has provided businesses with quick and easy access to all the computing resources they might need, without having to invest in expensive hardware or infrastructure.  And while some may still have concerns about cloud security, the larger cloud service providers typically have equally large security teams, which can provide a higher level of protection than most organizations would have the resources for in-house.

For many though, there is still one thing missing that would help to ensure cloud computing capitalizes on the promises it made. Namely, visibility.

Granted, cloud performance itself tends to be measured, ensuring the customer’s quality of experience is as it should be and that the move to the cloud was worth the investment. But we are surrendering our visibility over the data and, without it, are relinquishing our ability to spot threats or pinpoint performance issues – as well as reducing our potential to manage and optimise our cloud resources.

Why third-party visibility is essential 

For those migrating to cloud services, a key concern has often arisen around the loss of a physical copy of their traffic. While on-prem IT infrastructures could be supported by physical Network Taps to make exact replicas of the network traffic and share with security and performance monitoring tools, these weren’t readily available for virtual services. So, the cloud service providers kindly offered to monitor their own services for you.

Yet this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Virtual TAPs are not only readily available for all leading cloud platforms, they are also easy to operate and integrate with existing security and monitoring tools. Though many cloud service providers will still try to negate the need for these, choosing to promote their own ability to monitor their service, they are an invaluable resource to have in place.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, because third-party visibility tools grant you an impartial view of your network traffic, enabling your monitoring tools to show you any areas of performance that are lagging or any potential security issues. Those providing the service may suggest that they already have tools in place to do this for you, but it’s hard to believe they will be completely transparent and report any and all issues without bias.

That’s not to say they will deliberately deceive, but there may be thought processes along the lines of ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’. Whereas, if you have full visibility of the traffic, then you are also able to draw your own conclusions regarding the performance of the service.

Secondly, these tools have been designed over several years to do just one thing and that is to grant visibility over cloud data. It’s not an afterthought that allows you to check some processes; it has a sole purpose and has been refined to do that as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Having visibility tools in place both before and after migrating to the cloud will also make it far easier to compare performance. This will then allow you to set a benchmark for what you should be getting from the cloud services, and to troubleshoot where any issues may lie and what might cause a drop in performance or the quality of experience.

Concept art representing cybersecurity principles

(Image credit: Shutterstock / ZinetroN)

More visibility, better security 

Third-party visibility tools won’t just provide you with the ability to better monitor the performance of your network, they will also grant you more control over your security. Large service providers may well have their own robust security measures in place, but the responsibility for your own security ultimately lies within your organisation, so it is critically important for you to have visibility and control over it – otherwise you’re unlikely to notice vulnerabilities or even identify when a breach occurs.

Maintaining visibility of your cloud services allows you to spot weaknesses in your security environment and detect and respond to threats in real time. Combined with effective security solutions – such as Endpoint Protection to cover the devices being used to connect to your services, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to avoid VPN shortfalls and breaches from compromised suppliers, and Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) to aggregate and prioritize signals from multiple sources for threat response – you can continue to drive the best performance from your cloud services, while confident in your protection. 

It is also worth noting that while most third-party visibility tools will allow you to pipe collected data back to on-prem monitoring and security platforms, this can often be more expensive than keeping everything on the cloud. Therefore, if you are migrating your IT services to the cloud, you should consider doing the same with your monitoring and security tools.

Which cloud visibility solution should you be using? 

Once you’ve made the decision to take back visibility over your network, the next step is finding the right services and solutions that work for your organization. As mentioned, cloud service providers will likely be able to offer their own solutions but then you are relying on them to monitor and report on their own product.

Different visibility tools will work for different environments, and there are a number of elements to consider when deciding which will be best for your network: 

The specific needs of your organization: Including the number of connected devices, services and the volume of traffic that needs to be monitored.

Approaching your decision with these elements in mind can help you decide on what the most fitting solution for your network will be. There are also plenty of independent vendors that can help you to assess your needs and point you towards the right tools.

Delivering on the promise of the cloud 

It goes without saying that cloud computing holds a lot of potential, much of which has already been demonstrated and is currently being used. Regaining visibility will enable you to unlock even greater potential from your cloud services.

By using third-party visibility tools you can take back control over the performance of your cloud-based assets, make better decisions about resource and cost optimization, and enhance your security through real-time threat monitoring and response – resulting in quicker and more secure cloud computing.

Technical Director at Red Helix

Rob Pocock is a stalwart employee of Red Helix, working at the company for over 23 years. During this time, Rob has worked upward through company ranks, joining the Red Helix team as Product Manager in 1999, to now working as Technical Director. Prior to joining Red Helix, Rob was a network engineer at AEA Technology and is an expert in telecommunications, network security and data handling. Rob is also a specialist in the transformative business potential of 5G and will play a key role in Red Helix’s goal of demystifying the challenges associated with the implementation of the 5G network.