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Data Integrity: The Hidden Challenge in Hybrid IT Strategies

Data integrity challenges in hybrid IT environments can hinder performance and security, complicating efforts to optimize cost and efficiency, writes George Symons.

5 Min Read
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Operating in a hybrid IT environment can be fraught with challenges before it starts to pay off. While enterprises pivot to hybrid IT setups to optimize performance and cost, there is a learning curve regarding managing data integrity to address issues such as access, latency, performance, and security. 

A hybrid strategy requires enterprises to decide whether to keep applications and associated data in separate locations or migrate them to the cloud together. While moving applications to the cloud is easier, moving data comes with its own inertia because of its sheer volume and security concerns.

On the other hand, keeping data and applications separate creates the potential for data quality issues, latency, errors, and data inconsistency. Processing data stored in multiple locations also gets increasingly complex with a surge in applications and users and carries regulatory risks that enterprises must manage to ensure business continuity. 

Data Integrity Challenges in Hybrid IT Environments 

Hosting applications and data in separate locations triggers challenges with far-reaching implications due to the following: 

Loss of Access Control

Cloud-based data lakes may have access policies that conflict with the ones in the on-premises data centers. This leads to complexity in managing multiple access policies, which may lead to failure to enforce access-based rules, restricting or denying access to authorized users, or worse, allowing unauthorized access. In a 2023 survey, 59% of respondents cited policy misconfigurations as their primary cloud concern, hindering their ability to maximize the cloud's potential. To remedy this, enterprises deploy special admin teams to harmonize policies across multiple environments – incurring effort and cost overhead. 

Related:Unlocking the Secrets to Attracting Top Data Center Talent

Loss of Data Quality

When multiple users access cloud-hosted applications and work with data that may or may not be locally stored, inconsistencies, errors, and even data loss can creep in. Updates or changes made in one location may not simultaneously reflect in another location where the data needs to be accessed. This can create performance bottlenecks that hinder collaboration between geographically distributed, remote teams – proving the move to hybrid counterproductive.

Loss of Data Protection

Most hybrid cloud setups are multi-tenant shared environments with the risk of a supply chain attack – where a single vulnerability in a tenant’s architecture can escalate into a major incident for everyone. Moreover, enterprises must proactively plan and control where and how their data is hosted once they move to the cloud – to avoid triggering regulatory concerns around data residency, sovereignty, and observability. While cloud service providers assure customers of a fail-proof environment to host their data or applications, a 2023 report states that 98% of businesses have a relationship with a cloud vendor that experienced a data breach within the last two years. 

New Threats and Vulnerabilities

The cloud may introduce new threats and vulnerabilities that compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and applications, potentially resulting in financial or reputational losses. Cloud intrusions surged 75% from 2022 to 2023 as threat actors exploited unique cloud features to launch attacks. 

Seven Ways to Ensure Data Integrity Across a Hybrid IT Environment 

Data is one of the most valuable assets for enterprises and the most vulnerable to loss, cyberattacks, or human errors. To secure data in hybrid IT environments, where data is stored and processed across on-premises, cloud, and edge devices, enterprises must consider: 

  1. Data Quality Tools: Automating data synchronization across locations to maintain data consistency across locations and users can help address data quality gaps. 

  2. Data Protection: A robust and reliable backup and disaster recovery plan can restore data in case of loss or corruption. This plan should cover data across all hybrid IT environments and ensure that backups are encrypted, verified, and accessible. 

  3. Data Sovereignty, Residency, and Observability: Enterprises should be aware of the legal and regulatory implications of storing and processing data in different jurisdictions and comply with the relevant laws and standards. This includes respecting the data sovereignty and residency rights of customers and users and ensuring the observability and auditability of data throughout its lifecycle. 

  4. Zero-Trust Security Architecture: Enterprises should adopt a mindset that assumes no network, device, or user can be trusted by default and requires continuous verification and authorization for accessing data and resources. This approach minimizes the attack surface and reduces the risk of data breaches and leaks. 

  5. Automated Governance, Risk, and Compliance: Enterprises need to implement processes and mechanisms to audit the health of their data security and privacy measures. This will help them identify gaps in their current measures, anticipate and mitigate compliance lapses, and proactively identify inherent risks they were oblivious to.

  6. Proactive Defense Strategies: Enterprises should leverage automated threat-hunting tools to proactively detect and respond to malicious activities and anomalies in data and network traffic. Automated threat hunting can help enterprises discover and mitigate advanced persistent threats, ransomware, and other cyber-attacks that may evade traditional security solutions.

  7. Homomorphic Encryption: For enhanced security, homomorphic encryption allows data to be processed and analyzed without decryption. This groundbreaking technology empowers enterprises to execute complex operations on encrypted data in hybrid IT environments, including cloud computing and edge computing, while maintaining utmost security and privacy. 

While enterprises migrate applications and data to the cloud to offset resource, budget, and speed constraints, they cannot outsource the responsibility for data to remain consistent, compliant, protected, and secured. 

As they evaluate hybrid cloud options, enterprises should look for vendors with stringent service level agreements on security and performance and consider the refactoring and rearchitecting efforts they would need to ensure application performance, along with the investments they must make to ensure data integrity in both environments.

George Symons is vice president of strategy for the cloud, infrastructure, and security practice at Persistent Systems.

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