The Difference Between AWS Organizations And AWS Control Tower

November 28, 2022
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Santosh Peddada
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AWS Control Tower
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Growing cloud environments inevitably require more users overtime, opening up your infrastructure to security gaps and potential compliance issues. With the AWS Control Tower, management and governance over multiple accounts becomes an easy, fail-proof experience.

For organizations set up on AWS, using multiple accounts is one of the primary benefits of shifting over their infrastructure to the cloud. Flexibility, the scale of ease, and performance efficiency are only a few of the benefits you can get from using multiple accounts with AWS, but this complexity can come at a cost.

Namely, multi-account AWS setups can all run into issues regarding oversight. The more accounts your organization employs use, the greater the risk that you’ll lose the control that you need to keep your AWS operations secure. 

Fortunately, the AWS platform has solutions that can keep your data and accounts safe – while also giving you the flexibility to manage multiple accounts. Let’s talk about AWS Organizations and AWS Control Tower.

What is AWS Organizations?

AWS Organizations is a way to manage multiple accounts on the AWS cloud platform, essentially giving you the freedom to organize, implement policies, and consolidate billings across accounts. It’s a free-to-use feature included in all AWS accounts, with users only being charged for specific resources they use.

One of the ways that AWS Organizations accomplishes this level of control is by using its Organizational Units (or OU system), allowing you to group accounts into an easy-to-oversee hierarchy. You can organize these accounts in several ways (either by function, applied policies, or overall permissions) under a common set of controls.

Some examples of the accounts you’ll find in AWS Organizations include:

1) Foundational Accounts

Foundational accounts are usually given to members of your team that have responsibilities and functions that span your entire organization. These accounts often have broad oversight of other accounts and are higher in the hierarchy.

  • Infrastructure accounts cover functions like networking and IT services. Often oversees most of your shared resources.
  • Security accounts are handled by your security team, and make sure that your data, communications, and information in the cloud are safe.

Security accounts can be further divided into ReadOnly accounts (for auditing purposes), Log Archive (where your audit logs are stored), or Security Tooling (to host any security tools).

2) Production Accounts

Production accounts make up most of the accounts in your AWS Organizations, as they directly control how your services are maintained, deployed, and developed.

  • Sandbox accounts are often used for developers who want to learn and try out the different AWS cloud services in a controlled environment. As a result, these accounts are often disconnected from the rest of your team’s AWS internal networks.
  • Workload accounts handle most of your production (and non-production) workloads. These can cover anything from internal tools developed by your DevOps team to commercial applications. These accounts often interact with each other and use the same tools and services.

Since users can have multiple production accounts depending on their role in your organization, it’s generally recommended that you follow and implement universal policies with management, governance, and security – implementing them from your AWS Organizations Console. You can apply policies across different accounts, reducing the risk of any threat to your security.

Having accounts under AWS Organizations also helps your users integrate with the rest of the AWS cloud services. AWS Cloudtrail, AWS Cost Explorer, and Amazon Detective work seamlessly with accounts under AWS Organizations.

What is AWS Control Tower?

AWS Control Tower allows you to manage all your organizations and accounts from a single access point. Essentially, AWS Control Tower extends what you can already do with AWS Organizations, applying guardrails for security, configuring accounts, and monitoring activity, but with faster deployment times, and a more efficient approach to expanding your already well-architectured multi-account AWS environment. 

AWS Control Tower automates many of the capabilities of AWS Organizations, making it a must-have for organizations that want both flexible control and optimal governance and management over their multi-account environment.

AWS Control Tower: The 360 View on Management and Governance

The vastly expanded overview from AWS Control Tower means you can configure anything about organizations and accounts from a master/direct account.

All this flexibility also means that you comply with the best practices for using AWS services, ensuring that operations can be efficient at any stage of your business, regardless of growth or resources required. 

This is most ideal for organizations in the healthcare and finance sectors that have high-level compliance and security requirement; AWS Control Tower ensures that scalability doesn’t come at the cost of risking oversight over a growing multi-account environment. 

Here’s how AWS Control Tower empowers organizations to scale with agility and confidence on security: 

Creation of Multi-Account AWS Environments

One of the limitations of AWS Organizations is that each account needs to be created individually and deployed manually. For organizations that require multiple accounts, this process can often take away much-needed time and resources for work that matters.

Comparatively, AWS Control Tower simplifies this process by allowing users to start with the accounts they need with the proper guardrails in place, ensuring efficiency and account security are protected. 

New accounts are then easily deployed and managed through AWS Control Tower, and key things such as guardrails, network connectivity, and identity management are “built” into the new accounts, reducing the risk of security oversight. 

Implementation of Guardrails And Reports On Accounts

Guardrails are crucial for keeping everything on your accounts secure. AWS Control Tower can easily implement and monitor guardrails across accounts and organizations. With this capability, administrators and security teams can ensure that users, especially new accounts, are compliant with the rest of the architecture.

Compared to AWS Organizations, AWS Control Tower automatically logs and audits information through Log Archive and stores them in Audit AWS accounts. AWS Control Tower now acts as a centralized hub to manage and assess malicious activity. 

Moving From AWS Organizations to AWS Control Tower

Organizations don’t necessarily need to move to AWS Control Tower from AWS Organizations. Depending on the size of your organization and cloud environment, AWS Organizations may be a sufficient solution for your existing needs. 

We typically recommend migration when security customizations become necessary safeguards to keep expanding environments compliant and secure. 

Here are the primary considerations for migration:

  • AWS Control Tower decreases maintenance overhead because of consistently new features being added compared to Landing Zone 
  • AWS Control Tower enables an easier workflow, including easier maintenance and oversight 
  • Organizations can take advantage of the pre-configured guardrails built into AWS Control Tower 

How Ibexlabs Can Help

As an L1 MSSP Competency, and Security Competency Launch Partner, Ibexlabs is constantly integrating new specialized management security services for better security for their AWS operations.

Our AWS-certified architects are well-versed in multi-account management in AWS, and can lead the way to producing solutions, from increasingly complex multi-account cloud setups to smaller businesses looking to set up on the cloud for the first time. 

Talk to an Ibexlabs Cloud Advisor to start managing your AWS infrastructure more efficiently. Discover what we can do for your organization here

Santosh Peddada

Santosh Peddada is a Solution Architect with Ibexlabs. He has been in the IT industry for around 7 years, holding positions from Devops Engineer to Solution Architect. For the past two years, he has been an integral part of the design and development of AWS architecture for clients. He has served as the product owner for the Ibex Catalog, and provided solutions for a number of different industries.

Talk to an Ibexlabs Cloud Advisor