One of the big fears that companies have as they deploy encryption of sensitive data is that they might lose their encryption key and never be able to decrypt and recover their data. Having spent some of my career in IT management I certainly understand where this comes from. There is nothing like a corrupted backup to turn a good day into a bad one. The same is true if you lose your encryption key.
So how do we help make sure that our Alliance Key Manager solution running in Windows Azure protects you from this potential problem? Let’s look at all of the things we do in our key management solution, and the things you can do in Windows Azure:
Backup / Restore
The first line of defense is always to have a backup of your encryption keys and key access policies. Alliance Key Manager provides you with an option to securely back up your encryption keys, security policies, and server settings and to move this backup out of Windows Azure to your own secure storage. You can do a manual backup at any time, and you can automate the backups on a schedule that you define. You can even automate the transfer of the backups to an external FTP server using secure, encrypted transfer methods. Don’t have an FTP server to receive your backups? Don’t worry, we can provide you with one in our secure cloud facility.
Key and Policy Mirroring
The next line of defense is to implement real-time key and security policy mirroring from your primary Alliance Key Manager cloud instance to a failover key manager instance running in Windows Azure or to a key manager running outside of Windows Azure. Alliance Key Manager fully implements key mirroring over a secure, encrypted connection to one or more secondary key servers. The secondary key servers will contain exact copies of the encryption keys and their access policies, and will always be ready in the event your primary key server stops working. Alliance Key Manager supports Active-Active mirroring so that you will always have a full set of your encryption keys available to you even after a failover.
Windows Azure Availability Sets
Do you know about Windows Azure Availability Sets? This is a feature of Windows Azure to help you avoid unplanned outages due to failures of the cloud infrastructure or planned Windows Azure maintenance activities. We encourage our Windows Azure users to take advantage of Availability Sets when deploying a second Alliance Key Manager instance. It provides one more way to get the best reliability for your key management infrastructure in the Windows Azure cloud.
Mirroring Outside the Windows Azure Cloud
Lastly, if you are still worried about losing your encryption keys, you can always mirror the keys to a key manager located outside the Windows Azure cloud. You could mirror your keys to a physical key manager HSM located in your data center or the hosting provider of your choice. Or, you could mirror your encryption keys to a dedicated key manager in our cloud data center (see Alliance Key Manager Cloud HSM). Or, you can mirror your keys to a VMware or Hyper-V instance of Alliance Key Manager in your data center or the hosting provider of your choice.
Alliance Key Manager in Windows Azure goes the distance to help ensure that you never lose an encryption key. You might be losing sleep over your move to the cloud, but you shouldn’t lose sleep over your encryption strategy.