Adopting SaaS: Tips and Best Practices for Cloud Transformation

Cloud solutions can boost an organization’s ability to quickly adopt services and reduce the total cost of ownership. That is why chief information officers (CIOs) are looking to software-as-a-service (SaaS) to satisfy the demand for effective and efficient services that won’t break the bank.

Despite the benefits, however, it’s important to consider the security implications of adopting SaaS. The key to a smooth cloud transformation is to use proper security controls when moving a solution to SaaS.

Best Practices for Adopting SaaS

Adopting SaaS does not automatically guarantee the security of the overall infrastructure. It’s important to look at the security controls of the services that need to be protected. You must understand, for example, the specific consequences of an attack against a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. At the same time, you must ensure that your security information and event management (SIEM) solution is able to collect data from this CRM.

It’s also important to manage federated identities, since many SaaS solutions require different types of authentication. Forcing users to enter numerous passwords is not enough to establish a proper culture of security.

IT managers often decide whether to adopt cloud delivery models based on strategic decisions that are out of sync with reality. But if the company decides not to allow its employees to leverage cloud services, it may be too late. Cloud services are already used in enterprise functions — many libraries use application program interfaces (APIs) in the cloud, for example — and employees have been using de facto cloud apps for years.

A Complex Ecosystem

The life cycles of cloud applications must include dynamic security analysis. These applications are part of a complex ecosystem. They can be secure one day and lousy with vulnerabilities the next, depending on the state of that ecosystem.

Focus on installing security controls into the service and ensuring that technologies adopted to implement these controls do not depend on the delivery model. Otherwise, you may be forced to adopt future techniques and business models based not on strategic decisions, but a desire to salvage previous investments. Providing the same security controls for on-premises and cloud services is a key element of a good security strategy.

The SaaS Provider’s Responsibility

Applications are windows through which malicious actors hurl cyberattacks. Therefore, security needs to be part of the development cycle of these apps. Application security should not end with the general availability of a product. SaaS providers need to test their products continuously and respond to vulnerabilities according to the processes and best practices laid out by the security response experts.

Vendors should also provide SaaS on top of very solid infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions. Lastly, it’s essential for SaaS providers to comply with regulations on privacy and data management.

Read the IDC white paper: CISOs’ Guide to Enabling a Cloud Security Strategy

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Domenico Raguseo

Technical Sales and Solutions Leader in Europe, IBM Security

Domenico Raguseo is currently Manager of Technical Sales in Europe for the Security Systems Division. He has over 15 years of management experience in different areas. Domenico also cooperates with several Universities by teaching Service Management, Cloud Computing. Since 2010 Domenico is member of Educational Scientific Council for the Master in IT Governance at the University of Rome La Sapienza (http://w3.uniroma1.it/mastersicurezza/index.php/master-itgov/direzione). Domenico got in IBM a certification as IBM Master Inventor for the multiple patents and publications in several disciplines (Business Processes, ROI, Messages and Collaborations, Networking). Finally, he is speaker on Information Security Management, Service Management, Cloud computing, Energy Optimization and Smarter Planet in several national and international events.