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What is data separation and why is it important in the cloud?

Many users avoid the public cloud due to its multi-tenant nature and data security concerns. What is data separation and how can it keep your data safe?

Cloud computing gives organizations the ability to run workloads and manage data anywhere without significant computing...

resources residing in the business. Cloud providers use multi-tenant infrastructures to maximize cost-effectiveness, so businesses must address data separation and geolocation issues within an increasingly complex international legal and political landscape.

Businesses need to consider two major factors for data separation in the public cloud: tenancy and geolocation. Cloud computing is based on underlying virtualization technology that shares computing resources.

Cloud environments are always multi-tenant. And while multi-tenancy isn't a concern for private cloud users, executives shudder at the thought of countless businesses or users sharing memory space, disk space and processor cycles on the same physical infrastructure.

But full data separation between cloud users is impossible. Cloud users must accept that their data and virtual machines (VMs) share space with other users. Despite virtualization's reputation for containing workloads and preventing interference, IT pros should use the highest level of data encryption possible to protect data from any chance of unauthorized access. Certain cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers GovCloud, a fully walled-over region of the AWS cloud that hosts sensitive workloads for federal agencies. Highly regulated industries or those with strict security requirements may want to explore this option.

The second aspect of data separation is geolocation, the physical location of an organization's data.

Geolocation addresses data separation in two ways. First, enterprises must choose to do business with a cloud provider that can manage workload and data storage locations for you with trusted geolocation or other management tools. Enterprises with geolocation concerns should ask cloud vendors how they guarantee platform security and geographically separate workloads. Ensure these location and security commitments through the associated service-level agreements.

To keep data and VMs operating under U.S. laws and regulations, U.S. companies can choose cloud providers with U.S. data centers. Highly regulated businesses require this assurance before using public cloud resources in order to remain compliant. The second option is to rely on strong cloud data encryption for security purposes.

Stephen J. Bigelow is the senior technology editor of the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. He can be reached at sbigelow@techtarget.com.

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This was last published in November 2014

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