Seven Security Benefits of SaaS Applications

By David Cross, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Oracle

Many businesses are rapidly switching to SaaS applications because they provide a shift to an outsourced model for application operations and maintenance. Naturally, this shift then raises the question of whether there are any advantages (or disadvantages) of continuing to maintain and support on-premises applications compared to SaaS, specifically from a security perspective.

Anyone managing security for on-premises applications will know that the breadth and depth of expertise required to manage security is significant and challenging to maintain. In addition, a wide range of security controls must be deployed and monitored to ensure protections. These include network security configuration, user authentication, entitlement management, malware detection, end-point protection, intrusion-detection and prevention, and security event logging and analysis.

Finally, many businesses will need to undergo various audits and certifications to achieve and comply with regulations such as ISO20001, HIPPAA, PCIDSS, and FedRAMP.  These motions and projects require audit specific evidence collection and validation on a regular basis which demand significant resources, skills, and diligence that are difficult to maintain in the competitive security-talent marketplace.

This is a lot for any team to manage and requires huge investment in highly skilled cyber security teams, which can be difficult to find and expensive to hire. Even with such an investment, the maintenance of on-premises applications and patching of vulnerabilities will likely leave your company more exposed than if you’d outsourced your apps to a SaaS provider in the first place.

Security Benefits of SaaS Application Model

Security-conscious and compliance-required businesses will benefit from using applications that have security in mind from the inception and design of new functionality, all the way through to monitoring for security issues in the live test, pre-production, and production environments. The security benefits of the SaaS model include:

24×7 monitoring: SaaS providers include 24×7 security incident management and response from their global security organizations to ensure applications are monitored for attacks, events, and potential compromise.

Automated security: SaaS providers were early adopters of the DevSecOps culture and automation across all elements of the software development, release, and operations cycles.  SaaS service providers have also implemented advanced automation for all elements of the DevSecOps model which enables a consistent scale and impact. This is very difficult to replicate in an individual on-premises application environment, since gathering feedback from many customers at scale, and getting the relevant information back to development is much more challenging than feedback processes inside a SaaS provider.

Native detection and remediation: SaaS cloud providers typically scan and monitor run-time environments for potential risks, vulnerabilities, and configuration deviations continuously. Through security control and infrastructure automation, SaaS cloud providers can often react and remediate issues rapidly and automatically due to the well-defined and consistent environment that is potentially more difficult to perform in an independent on-premises application deployment.

Modern infrastructure: SaaS cloud providers can leverage the latest hardware, platform technologies, and infrastructure that can be difficult to even obtain in an on-premises environment due to budget, depreciation, and supply chain capacity issues.  By employing the consumption of state-of-the-art security from the native cloud hardware platforms, SaaS applications will have the benefit of the combined hardened software and hardware stacks that are very expensive to procure and deploy for individual applications in an on-premises datacenter.

Specialized staff: SaaS cloud providers have specialized and dedicated DevSecOps personnel that are available globally and for all functions in the application lifecycle.  By having the highest skilled, most specialized and experienced cybersecurity staff, SaaS application providers have overcome the cybersecurity talent shortage and limited skill sets that many businesses have struggled to manage over the past few years. Due to the complex and dynamic evolving security landscape, attacks, and risks, it is necessary to have continuously trained and skilled experts in all elements of the security DevSecOps application environment, which can be a considerable budget investment.

Continuous audits: SaaS cloud providers must continuously undergo, complete, and publicize the compliance status for all the needed global, national, regional, and industry regulations so all customers have their certifications available.  This model and status provide significant cost savings and risk reduction compared to performing similar functions for each application in an on-premises environment by an individual customer.

Economy of Scale: SaaS providers naturally gain both a broader perspective as they have many customers and can see deeper as they’re the ones who created the software.  This greatly increases their chances of detecting and ejecting attackers.  The fact that they support such large numbers of customers justifies the considerable investment in skills in technology and give them an economy of scale more generally associated with cloud services provision.

Innovation without compromising security

Overall, the adoption and migration of applications to the SaaS cloud application model enables businesses to not only achieve an optimized level of performance, reliability, and availability of their mission critical applications, they are also able to benefit from the intrinsic security and compliance advantages as well.  When the security responsibilities are performed by the SaaS provider, businesses can concentrate on maximizing the value of their business workflows and application functions, rather than the traditional on-premises application security challenges.




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