November 28

The Critical Components of Azure Cloud Governance

One of the benefits of cloud computing is that you do not have to purchase, maintain, and support your own hardware or software systems. Cloud providers take care of all these details so you can focus on your company’s core competencies, but there are still plenty of important considerations to keep in mind when adopting cloud services. This article outlines important elements of effective cloud governance from the perspective of an Azure customer, including role-based access control, naming standards, implementation of Azure Policy, and Resource Tagging.

What Is Cloud Governance?

There are several factors to take into consideration when looking at what is involved in cloud governance. The first is how much governance you will actually need in your organization’s use of the cloud. Some organizations will require more oversight than others, so it is essential to have a plan for making sure you have what you need. If your organization operates in a heavily regulated industry (such as banking or healthcare), you might require a higher degree of governance in order to remain in compliance with industry-specific regulatory frameworks.

Another factor in determining your specific needs is your level of maturity in terms of IT or security issues within your organization. For example, if you have little background with technology, governance may not be as much an issue for you since there are fewer things for them to govern over.

Why Is Cloud Governance Important?

The cloud brings several challenges to organizations. Organizational governance protects user information and security by enforcing compliance across all departments. Users that do not fully understand Azure or fail to follow best practices can cause problems that may lead to breaches, data loss, or financial losses. These factors make it essential for organizations to deploy an organizational governance model within their Azure environment.

Good cloud governance protects user data and ultimately makes it easy to manage organizational resources, but it can take time to set up. The Azure management tools provide a single console that offers real-time views into all your Azure resources. They also allow you to see alerts or find detailed information about issues that may require attention.

Why Do We Need Cloud Governance?

A governance framework helps ensure that cloud deployments are performing as expected. If you have properly implemented governance, it will give you insights into your application performance, help with incident management, and provide ways to efficiently monitor resource usage. For example, tagging is an effective way to manage your cloud environment. It allows you to quickly identify how resources are being used within Azure by dynamically applying policies based on tags assigned to each resource. If a certain server has failed or if one group is not able to reach another group through a virtual private network (VPN), for example, you can determine if they’re on different subnets or whether they’re in different data centers.

What Are the Major Components of Cloud Governance?

While it is important to know why cloud governance is important, it’s equally crucial to know what components are essential. Four components of cloud governance are role-based access control, naming standards, implementation of Azure Policy, and resource tagging.

Cloud Governance: Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Cloud administrators can create different admin and non-admin roles for members within an organization using Azure Active Directory (AAD). These roles specify how much visibility or access a user has to cloud assets based on their job function in your company. For example, someone in human resources would have different permissions than someone working on customer support.

However, for organizations that are using non-AAD identity providers, Azure Policy can be used to define user roles and apply these roles to all cloud resources regardless of where they were created. The Azure Policy for Identity Documentation contains more information on how role-based access control is implemented with non-AAD identity providers.

Cloud Governance: Naming Standards

Microsoft recommends that organizations choose a naming standard before they deploy workloads into Azure because resource names have specific properties that can help or hinder security operations.  Naming resources consistently will improve your ability to track and control those resources, as well as meet compliance requirements such as those that exist in HIPAA and PCI-DSS.

Organizational identifiers, user principal names (UPNs), domain accounts, and security groups are common elements used in naming standards. These elements can help Azure administrators manage resources by ensuring that all resources are identifiable and discoverable through automation tools.

Cloud Governance: Azure Policy

The Azure Policy system enables customers to assign rules around accessing Azure services. When you set up an Azure Policy, you can grant specific roles access to resources within your subscription. While default permissions are assigned to each service that’s part of Azure Resource Manager (ARM), customers may also define their own custom RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) policies for each service.

Azure Policy can also ensure resources conform to specific configuration standards. For example, you can set a policy that restricts the sizes of VMs that are created to ensure higher-cost resources are not inadvertently created, leading to a higher monthly bill. Azure Policy can also be created to ensure specific security configurations are applied automatically, which will save time while ensuring your environment is properly secured.

Cloud Governance: Resource Tagging

Tags provide a key building block for managing and controlling your cloud resources. Resources that support tagging include virtual machines, networks, storage accounts, service principals, and application roles. The tag value is used by Azure Resource Manager to determine how to best associate a set of tags with a given resource. A tag consists of a name and one or more values separated by commas.

Resource tagging can also assist when determining how much each business unit in your overall organization spends in Azure.   You will be able to visualize resource usage and utilization across various levels within an organizational hierarchy through effective management and the use of tags on resources within an Azure subscription.

Tagging is important for organizations looking to contain costs associated with cloud services and apps, as well as meet governance and compliance requirements (such as data residency laws).

The importance of cloud governance cannot be understated. Having a plan for how you will govern your use of public cloud computing is crucial. It’s also important to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and that each organization needs to determine what works best for them. Different organizations may look at governance in different ways; however, it is vital to figure out which areas you need more oversight in and develop a strategy around those areas to gain security and efficiency benefits from using public cloud computing. 

Contact Axeleos today, and let us help you develop a cloud governance framework that makes sense for your business.


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