Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications being delivered via the internet or a web browser can help avoid painful installations and lengthy contracts. This makes these applications more flexible, but also raises some security concerns.
In this article, we’ll help you understand what SaaS is, what are its benefits and security aspects, and some best practices to help you protect your data on SaaS platforms.
What is SaaS?
SaaS is a software delivery model that allows users to access data and applications from any device with an internet connection and a web browser. In this model, the software vendor hosts, maintains, and supports the servers and the code that makes up an application.
The SaaS model differs from the on-premise software delivery model in two ways:
- As opposed to on-premise tools, a SaaS platform doesn’t need extensive hardware, software setup, and maintenance. Most of the IT responsibilities are handled by the software provider.
- SaaS offerings are usually priced on a recurring subscription model that allows for lower upfront cost compared to most on-premise software. The subscription could be monthly, quarterly, annual, etc. depending on the product and the specific plan.
What are the benefits of SaaS?
Before moving to SaaS security, let’s quickly see the top five benefits of using the SaaS model:
1. SaaS systems can save you money
You can access SaaS tools simply via an internet connection and a computer or smartphone. Also, you don’t need an in-house IT specialist to install, update, or troubleshoot your SaaS software. Finally, you aren’t responsible for any data costs to host servers as the SaaS provider will do it for you.
2. SaaS can integrate with your existing software
It’s tough to operate a business without using different types of software. Therefore, while selecting software it’s important to ensure your existing tools integrate with any new software you buy. SaaS providers understand this concern and usually offer integrations with other common tools so you can seamlessly share data between them.
3. SaaS allows you immediate access to software and data
As SaaS is deployed via the cloud, you can immediately access the software and your data from a computer or a mobile device. You don’t have to wait or worry about installing the system.
4. SaaS providers update and improve their solutions
Many SaaS vendors have user experience (UX) teams that ensure their software is easy to learn and use. These teams run tests to understand how to continually improve the system. Also, as SaaS solutions are cloud-based and usually upgraded regularly, you don’t have to buy a new version and can enjoy the updates as soon as they are deployed.
5. SaaS solutions offer scalability
With SaaS solutions, scalability is one of the biggest advantages. SaaS tools can grow along with your business and manage the increased demand. They are adaptable and customizable to your ever-changing needs.
How secure are SaaS applications?
Since SaaS solutions manage large volumes of sensitive customer data and can be accessed by a lot of users, they pose a great risk to data privacy. Hence, data privacy and data protection are the two biggest SaaS security threats.
The good news is, most SaaS providers ensure that their applications and services are secure and aligned with local data protection laws. In addition, businesses can also opt for third-party security assurance to identify any SaaS security issues. Third-party assurance gives benefits such as:
- Identification, classification, and remediation of any hidden or prospective SaaS security risks.
- Attestation for commercial or regulatory requirements where third-party validation is needed.
3 best practices for strong SaaS security
The onus of data protection is a shared responsibility between you and the SaaS provider. Of course, SaaS providers ensure that their clients’ data remains safe and secure, but if they aren’t responsible then you should choose another provider.
Sometimes SaaS providers might not follow security rules, leading to data breach incidents. Using a shared environment to cut costs is one such example, and such practices tend to harm both the SaaS providers and the clients.
Therefore, as a user, follow these three best practices to secure your data:
- Authentication measures: Though your SaaS provider may be using a lot of security measures, you must also follow some internal practices. There are many approaches available for proper user authentication but multi-factor authentication (such as a two-factor authentication requiring passwords and biometrics) is one option.
- No compromise on data integrity: As SaaS providers stack data of all their clients in a shared database, there must be proper segregation between each client’s data to ensure one client’s data is not accessible by another client. Get all details on this aspect before you finalize the deal and don’t commit until you find each detail satisfactory.
- Proper employee training: When you deploy a new SaaS application, you must train your employees on how to use it. Training programs are essential because employees must know about possible cyber threats and how to avoid them. Such initiatives help employees to remain vigilant and allow your business to speed up security protocols. Additionally, encourage your employees to use strong passwords and get them to change their passwords every 30-90 days.
Think you can manage SaaS security?
SaaS providers handle much of the security aspects such as securing the platform, applications, network, operating system, and physical IT infrastructure. But they are not responsible for securing customer data or any unidentified user access to it. Some SaaS providers offer bare minimum security while others may offer a wide range of security options. It’s up to you to select the right SaaS provider and implement effective best practices for SaaS security.