Compliance in Cloud Computing: Navigating AWS and Azure Security Standards

Compliance in Cloud Computing

A report by Cloud Security Alliance states that 98% of companies worldwide use cloud services in some form. With such wide adoption, the focus turns to Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) because cloud services don’t absolve companies of their compliance responsibilities. This is why many companies make cloud compliance an essential part of their GRC strategy.

Out of the many cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are two of the leading cloud service providers. Note that AWS has a market share of 32% in this space followed by Microsoft Azure at 23%.

The good news is that both companies offer robust security features and compliance tools to help organizations comply with regulatory requirements. However, organizations must still understand and navigate these security standards to ensure data protection and maintain compliance.

What is Compliance in Cloud Computing?

Before we head into how you can navigate AWS and Azure security standards and evaluate their fit into your GRC strategy, let’s first understand what is compliance in the context of cloud computing.

Compliance in cloud computing means ensuring that your service provider follows the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the prevailing standards. In other words, you are driving your service provider to comply with regulations on your behalf.

In this article, we will focus exclusively on the processes and features that these two platforms have to help comply with leading regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and more.

AWS Security Standards and Compliance

The compliance controls offered by AWS are comprehensive and can help you meet more than 143 security standards and certifications, with PCI-DSS, HIPAA, FedRAMP, GDPR, FIPS 140-2, and NIST 800-171 being the most prominent ones.  It works well for companies of all sizes, industries, and locations. Moreover, it also works with more than 1,000 partners for third-party validations.

Additionally, AWS offers many security and compliance tools, like the following:

  1. Identity and Access Management (IAM): Allows organizations to control access to AWS services and resources securely.
  2. Encryption: AWS Key Management Service (KMS) helps manage your encryption keys. Using these keys, you can encrypt data at rest and in transit.
  3. Logging and Monitoring: AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch provide logging and monitoring capabilities, helping organizations detect and respond to security incidents.
  4. Compliance Reports: AWS Artifact provides access to compliance reports and certifications, making it easier to demonstrate compliance to auditors.
  5. Records Resource Configurations: AWS Config monitors and records AWS resource configurations, helping ensure compliance with internal policies and regulatory requirements.
  6. Data Collection and Auditing: AWS Audit Manager simplifies the process of collecting evidence and preparing for audits by automating the collection of audit evidence.
  7. Cyber Protection: AWS Shield and WAF protect against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and web application attacks, ensuring the availability and security of applications.

Now that you have an idea of what AWS offers, let’s look at Azure’s compliance capabilities.

Azure Security Standards and Compliance

Like AWS, Azure also has many compliance tools and features that ensure your cloud environment is compliant with external regulations and internal controls. Here’s a look at the key areas:

  1. Identity and Access Management (IAM): Azure Active Directory (AD) provides IAM services, enabling secure access to Azure resources.
  2. Encryption: Azure Key Vault supports encryption for data at rest and in transit to safeguard them from unauthorized access.
  3. Logging and Monitoring: Azure Monitor and Azure Security Center unify monitoring and logging to provide comprehensive threat protection.
  4. Compliance Reports: Azure provides access to compliance reports and certifications through the Microsoft Trust Center. You can access the reports at any time to demonstrate compliance.
  5. Assess Compliance: Azure Policy helps organizations enforce organizational standards and assess compliance at scale by creating, assigning, and managing policies.
  6. Security Management: Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection across hybrid cloud workloads.
  7. Internal Compliance: Azure Blueprints enables the definition of a repeatable set of Azure resources that implement and adhere to an organization’s standards, patterns, and requirements.

As you can see, AWS and Azure offer comparable compliance tools and features that can safeguard your data while helping you comply with regulations.

But if you have to pick one from a compliance perspective, which is a better fit?

Comparing AWS and Azure Compliance Tools

Both AWS and Azure offer a wide range of tools and services to help you achieve and maintain compliance. At the same time, there are also variations in their offerings.

Here’s a quick glance at their differences:





Identity and Access Management Provides fine-grained access control and integrates with AWS services to secure access to resources. Offers identity and access management with integration across Azure services and Microsoft 365, providing a unified identity solution.
Encryption AWS KMS manages encryption keys and integrates with other AWS services for data protection. Azure Key Vault manages encryption keys, secrets, and certificates, integrating with Azure services for data protection.
Logging and Monitoring AWS CloudTrail and CloudWatch provide logging, monitoring, and alerting capabilities to detect and respond to security incidents. Azure Monitor and Security Center offer logging, monitoring, and threat detection capabilities to ensure the security and compliance of Azure resources.
Compliance Reporting AWS Artifact provides access to compliance reports and certifications, simplifying the audit process. Microsoft Trust Center offers access to compliance reports and certifications for Azure services, making it easier to demonstrate compliance.
Automated Compliance Tools AWS Config monitors and records resource configurations while the AWS Audit Manager automates the collection of audit evidence. Azure Policy enforces organizational standards and assesses compliance at scale.
Threat Protection AWS Shield offers protection against DDoS attacks while AWS WAF: Protection safeguards web applications against cyberattacks. Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection.
Access to Compliance Documentation AWS Artifact offers centralized access to AWS compliance documentation and agreements. Similarly, Microsoft Trust Center provides centralized access to Azure compliance documentation and agreements.
Integration with Other Services Extensive integration with a broad range of AWS services. Deep integration with Microsoft services including Office 365, Dynamics 365, and other Azure services.


From the above table, it’s clear that both platforms offer comparative features, so the choice depends on your preferences, existing integrations, and other factors.

Regardless of which platform you choose, let’s look at some best practices for achieving compliance.

Best Practice to Achieve Compliance in Cloud Computing

Below are a few suggestions that can help you get the most out of cloud computing and its compliance features.

Understand Regulatory Requirements

Identify the specific regulations and standards that apply to your organization. This may include GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, or industry-specific standards. Understanding these requirements is the first step in achieving compliance.

Implement Security Best Practices

Adopt security best practices to protect your data and meet compliance requirements. This includes using strong encryption, implementing identity and access management, and regularly monitoring and logging activities. Many times, you can use API to integrate the tools offered by AWS and Azure into your custom tech stack.

Use Compliance Tools and Services

AWS and Azure offer many compliance tools and services. Leverage these tools to automate compliance processes, monitor for policy violations, and simplify the audit process.

Conduct Regular Audits

There is no substitute for regular audits of your cloud environment to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Use automated tools to collect evidence and generate reports, making the audit process more efficient.

Stay Informed

Stay up-to-date with changes in regulations and compliance standards. Cloud service providers regularly update their services and compliance certifications, so it’s important to stay informed about these changes.

Thus, these are some ways to continuously ensure compliance in cloud computing.

Bottom Line

In all, compliance is complex in cloud computing, but nevertheless necessary in today’s business and regulatory environment. AWS and Azure, the two most popular cloud computing platforms, offer a wide range of tools and services to help with compliance. You can leverage these tools to ensure that your cloud services are compliant with the applicable regulations. Consider using third-party tech tools for monitoring the compliance of your cloud services and to avoid the heavy fines that come with non-compliance.

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is an experienced technology, finance, and compliance writer. She combines her keen understanding of regulatory frameworks and industry best practices with exemplary writing skills to communicate complex concepts of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) in clear and accessible language. Lavanya specializes in creating informative and engaging content that educates and empowers readers to make informed decisions. She also works with different companies in the Web 3.0, blockchain, fintech, and EV industries to assess their products’ compliance with evolving regulations and standards.

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