Nice to meet you.

Enter your email to receive our weekly G2 Tea newsletter with the hottest marketing news, trends, and expert opinions.

What Is Cloud Encryption? How It Works, Benefits and Examples

May 31, 2023

Cloud encryption

Data security and protection are the secrets to success for many businesses, and cloud data security providers are constantly evolving to offer the most advanced features. 

Protecting your private data for business purposes is non-negotiable, but you can’t take for granted securing your sensitive information from anyone trying to gain illegal access. This can cause significant problems for any person or organization that depends on cloud services.

With so many potential cybersecurity hazards, knowing that your cloud data is secure allows you to focus on other elements of your business. This is where cloud encryption comes into play. 

Like any other type of data encryption, cloud encryption renders plain text data into an indecipherable format that can only be accessed with encryption keys, prohibiting unauthorized users from engaging with it. This holds even if the data is misplaced, stolen, or shared with an unwarranted user.

Encryption is often recognized as one of the most effective components of a company's cybersecurity strategy. Cloud encryption safeguards data from misuse and solves additional critical security challenges. These include:

  • Adherence to regulatory standards for data protection and privacy.
  • Improved security against illegal data access by other public cloud tenants.
  • In some situations, relieving the organization of the obligation to report breaches or other security incidents.

How does cloud encryption work

Cloud storage companies provide their users with cloud storage encryption as a service. Customers who use cloud apps and infrastructure may also choose to add additional encryption protection. Whatever the case, an encryption platform converts the customer's data (which exists as plain text) into what is known as ciphertext. 

Ciphertext cannot be read unless turned back into plain text using an encryption key. Then an algorithm transforms the encoded text back into its original form.

A cloud encryption platform can disguise data delivered to or from a cloud-based application, storage, or authorized remote system. The encrypted data is subsequently stored on cloud servers, where unauthorized users or bots are prohibited from viewing the data or files.

Only authorized personnel with the encryption key may read the material in its original form. When a user logs in using their authentication and access methods, many of the big cloud storage providers handle all of the cloud storage encryption procedures (encryption, key exchange, and decryption) in the background.

Types of cloud encryption

An enterprise must pick the degree and kind of encryption to utilize with a cloud provider. The three primary forms of cloud data encryption are discussed below.

Data-at-rest encryption

This type refers to data encryption after storing it, guaranteeing that an attacker with physical infrastructure or hardware cannot read the data or files. Encryption can occur on the cloud provider's (server's) side, the client's side, at the disk or file level, or any mix of the three. 

Server-side encryption is cloud storage encryption that occurs after the cloud service receives the data, but before it’s stored. This is an option provided by the majority of cloud providers.

Before data is transferred to a cloud application or storage, it’s encrypted on the client side. The company or customer is in charge of encrypting and decrypting the data and controlling encryption keys. Although some cloud storage providers may offer this as a service. Client-side encryption allows businesses to safeguard their most sensitive data, lowering expenses. Many businesses use client-side encryption in addition to server-side encryption.

And finally, file-based encryption (FBE) is a type of storage encryption in which the system encrypts individual files or directories.

Data-in-transit encryption

The HTTPS protocol, which adds a security sockets layer (SSL) to the regular IP protocol, automatically encrypts a major percentage of data in transit. SSL encrypts all activity, guaranteeing only authorized users can access session information. As a result, if an unauthorized user intercepts data sent during the session, the information is worthless. A digital key is used to finish decoding at the user level.

Data-in-use encryption

This new form of encryption is intended to safeguard data while it’s being used. While not frequently implemented,  technologies like "confidential computing,” which provides real-time encryption at the computer chip level, and "homomorphic encryption,” which uses an encryption algorithm that only enables specific types of processing on the data, are being explored.

Encryption algorithms

Encryption algorithms are a set of rules that an encryption process follows. It includes key length, features, and functionalities that ensure effective encryption. Symmetric and asymmetric encryption are the two main encryption algorithms for cloud-based data 

  • The encryption and decryption keys are the same in symmetric encryption. This approach is most typically used to encrypt large amounts of data. While it’s often easier and faster to deploy than the asymmetric alternative, it’s also less secure because anybody with access to the encryption key can decode the data.
  • Asymmetric encryption encodes or decodes data using a pair of public and private authentication keys, respectively. The keys are mathematically related, but they’re not the same. This approach increases information security by requiring users to have a public, shareable key and a personal token to access the data.

Which cloud platforms are encrypted?

Every credible cloud service provider (CSP)  provides basic security, such as encryption. Still, cloud users should take further precautions to maintain data security.

Cloud security frequently adheres to the "shared responsibility model.’ This implies that the cloud provider must monitor and respond to security risks relating to the underlying infrastructure of the cloud. At the same time, end users, including individuals and businesses, are responsible for safeguarding the data and other assets stored in their cloud environments.

Organizations that employ a cloud-based model or are transitioning to the cloud must establish and implement a comprehensive data security plan specially tailored to safeguard and defend cloud-based assets. Encryption is a critical component of any efficient cybersecurity plan. Other elements include:

  • Multi-factor authentication is verifying a user's identification using two or more pieces of evidence.
  • Microsegmentation divides a cloud network into tiny zones to preserve independent access to all parts of the network and limit damage in the case of a breach.
  • Advanced monitoring, detection, and reaction features utilize data, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to produce a more detailed view of network activity. They can spot abnormalities more accurately and respond to threats more swiftly.

Benefits of cloud encryption

Encryption is one of the most significant security measures businesses use to protect their data, intellectual property (IP), and other sensitive information, as well as their customers' data. It also addresses privacy and security norms and legislation.

$217 billion

was made from cloud infrastructure service revenues.

Source: Exploding Topics

The following are some of the many benefits of cloud encryption.

  • Security: End-to-end encryption protects sensitive information, including client data, in transit, in use, or at rest, across any device or between users.
  • Compliance: Regulations and standards governing data privacy, such as the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)  and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996, require firms to encrypt sensitive customer data.
  • Integrity: While hostile actors change or manipulate encrypted data, authorized users can easily identify such behavior.
  • Risk reduction: Organizations may be excluded from revealing a data breach in certain circumstances if the data is encrypted, dramatically minimizing the danger of reputational loss and litigation or other legal action linked to a security event.

Cloud encryption challenges

Cloud encryption is a simple and effective security method. Unfortunately, many firms miss this component of their cybersecurity strategy, most likely because they don’t know about or don’t get the concept of the public cloud's shared responsibility paradigm. 

Additional challenges may include the following.

  • Time and expense: Encryption is an additional process and cost. Users who want to encrypt their data must acquire an encryption tool and guarantee that their current assets, such as PCs and servers, can handle the additional encryption processing power. Because encryption takes time, the business may face higher latency.
  • Data loss: Without the key, encrypted data is rendered worthless. The data may only be recoverable if the company keeps the access key.
  • Key management: No cloud security technique, including encryption, is perfect. Advanced attackers can crack an encryption key, especially if the software lets the user select the key. This is why accessing sensitive material should need two or more.

Best practices for cloud encryption

If your firm has previously utilized encryption, cloud encryption services will likely be fairly similar. Enterprises must exercise caution to ensure the cloud encryption delivered fulfills their security requirements. 

Below are some best practices to consider when investigating and deploying cloud encryption.

  • Determine your cloud deployment security requirements. Create a list of the data that you’re moving to the cloud and the security needs for that data. Determine which data should be encrypted and when it should be encrypted (at rest, in transit, and use).
  • Learn about the cloud provider's encryption options. Spend time studying the provider's data encryption technology, rules, and processes to verify they meet your needs for hosted data.
  • Think about client-side encryption. When working with sensitive data, choose on-premises encryption to maintain data security even if the provider is compromised.
  • Invest in safe encryption key management. Safeguard your encryption keys and those offered by cloud companies. Keep backups separate from encrypted data. Some experts also urge you to refresh them regularly, and to use multi-factor authentication for keys and backups.

Invest in good cloud file storage services because the cloud provider is also responsible for cloud storage security and encryption. 

Cloud data security solutions

Businesses use cloud data security technologies to secure information stored using cloud services or within cloud-based applications. Pick the right platform based on what works for your company.

The following are some of the best cloud data security software tools that facilitate data security by enforcing cloud access control and storage policies.

Top 5 cloud data security software:

*Above are the five leading cloud data security solutions from G2’s Spring 2023 Grid® Report.

Click to chat with AI-monty

The future is cloudy 

Numerous ransomware incidents and data breaches have emphasized the need for reliable encrypted storage and backup strategy. Therefore, businesses are leaning on cloud technology to protect themselves against financial and public relations losses. 

Cloud solutions with durability and stratospheric costs will drive more businesses and organizations to shift their data to the cloud.

There was a time when filing meant stacking boxes of paperwork everywhere in the workplace. The idea of storage and data protection is now entirely online, making storing, sharing, and securing data easier than ever. 

Discover more on how you can keep your cloud data safe!

cloud data security software Become cloud and clear

Discover the best cloud data security software to store and secure your data workflows.

cloud data security software Become cloud and clear

Discover the best cloud data security software to store and secure your data workflows.

What Is Cloud Encryption? How It Works, Benefits and Examples Cloud encryption converts data from plain text to an unreadable format before storage. Learn more about cloud storage encryption, types, & best practices.
Samudyata Bhat Samudyata Bhat is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2. With a Master's degree in digital marketing, she currently specializes her content around SaaS, hybrid cloud, network management, and IT infrastructure. She aspires to connect with present-day trends through data-driven analysis and experimentation and create effective and meaningful content. In her spare time, she can be found exploring unique cafes and trying different types of coffee.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe to keep your fingers on the tech pulse.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to receive marketing communications from G2.