What Is Cloud Data Protection?

5 min. read

Cloud data protection is the practice of securing a company’s data in a cloud environment, wherever that data is located, whether it’s at rest or in motion, and whether it’s managed internally by the company or externally by a third party.

This practice has become increasingly important as more companies have switched from building and managing their own data centers to storing their applications and data in the cloud instead. A 2018 survey by IDG, a leading technology media company, stated that 73% of companies had applications or infrastructure in the cloud, with another 17% expected to make the move in the coming year.1

Why Companies Need Cloud Data Protection 

Companies are collecting massive amounts of data, ranging from highly confidential business, financial and customer data to fairly unimportant information. They’re also moving more and more of their data to the cloud and storing it in more places than ever – public, private and hybrid clouds, cloud storage environments, software-as-a-service applications, and so on. 

As they do this, companies are discovering just how complicated protecting and securing all their data across multiple environments can be. For example:

  • They no longer know where all their applications and data are. 
  • With most of their applications and data housed on third-party infrastructure, companies no longer have visibility into who is accessing and using their applications and data, which devices are being used for access, or how their data is potentially being used or shared.
  • They have no insight into how cloud providers are storing and securing their data.  
  • Even though most cloud providers have state-of-the-art security, this security is limited. After all, companies and cloud providers share responsibilities for cloud security.
  • Different cloud providers have varying capabilities, which can result in inconsistent cloud data protection and security.

On top of this, companies face a host of security challenges, including the potential for: 

  • Security breaches
  • Loss or theft of sensitive data
  • Application vulnerabilities and malware propagation

Companies must also comply with data protection and privacy laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in the EU; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, in the U.S., and others. However, it can be incredibly difficult for companies to consistently establish and enforce security policies across multiple cloud environments, let alone prove compliance to auditors.

For these reasons, it’s no surprise that nine out of 10 cybersecurity professionals are concerned about cloud security. They say their biggest challenges are protecting against data loss and leakage (67%), threats to data privacy (61%) and breaches of confidentiality (53%).2

This also explains why the data protection market is projected to surpass US$158 billion by 2024.3

How Companies Can Better Protect Their Data in Cloud Environments

To successfully protect and secure their data in cloud environments, companies must first know: 

  • Which data they have and where it’s located.
  • Which data is exposed, how it’s exposed, and potential risks.     
  • Which applications are being accessed and by whom.
  • What’s happening inside their applications (e.g., how people are accessing and using them).
  • Which data they need to protect and at what level.

With this information in hand, companies must then put consistent, unified, and automated cloud data protection offering in place – one that will help them discover, classify, monitor, protect, and secure their applications and data across multiple environments. This offering must also be able to distinguish between everyday activities and potentially suspicious ones.

The Benefits of Cloud Data Protection

Among the benefits of cloud data protection, it enables companies to: 

  • Secure applications and data across multiple environments while maintaining complete visibility into all user, folder and file activity.
  • Proactively identify and mitigate risks, such as security threats, suspicious user behavior, malware and others.
  • Better govern access.
  • Define policies.
  • Prevent and detect data loss and disruption. 

For more information on cloud data protection and cloud security, visit paloaltonetworks.com/cloud-data-loss-prevention.


  1. “2018 Cloud Computing Survey,” IDG, August 14, 2018, www.idg.com/tools-for-marketers/2018-cloud-computing-survey.
  2. “2018 Cloud Security Report,” Cybersecurity Insiders, 2018, start.paloaltonetworks.com/cloud-security-report-2018.
  3. “Data Protection Market … Global Forecast by 2018 - 2024,” Market Research Engine, December 2018, https://www.marketresearchengine.com/data-protection-market.