Some thoughts on SAAS

A few months ago I wrote some thoughts on cloud security and compliance.The other day I came across this interesting article in Network World about SaaS security and it got me thinking on the subject again. The Burton analyst quoted, Eric Maiwald, made some interesting and salient points about the challenges of SaaS security but he stopped short of explicitly addressing compliance issues. If you have a SaaS service and you are subject to any one of the myriad compliance regulations how will you demonstrate compliance if the SaaS app is processing critical data subject to the standard? And is the vendor passing a SAS-70 audit going to satisfy your auditors and free you of any compliance requirement?

Mr. Maiwald makes a valid point that you have to take care in thinking through the security requirements and put it in the contract with the SaaS vendor. The same can also be held true for any compliance requirement, but he raises an even more critical point where he states that SaaS vendors want to offer a one size fits all offering (rightly so, or else I would put forward we would see a lot of belly-up SaaS vendors). My question then becomes how can an SME that is generally subject to compliance mandates but lacks the purchasing power to negotiate a cost effective agreement with a SaaS vendor take advantage of the benefits such services provide? Are we looking at one of these chicken and egg situations where the SaaS vendors don’t see the demand because the very customers they would serve are unable to use their service without this enabling technology? At the very least I would think that SaaS vendors would benefit from putting in the same audit capability that the other enterprise application vendors are, and making that available (maybe for a small additional fee) to their customers. Perhaps it could be as simple as user and admin activity auditing, but it seems to me a no brainer – if a prospect is going to let critical data and services go outside their control they are going to want the same visibility as they had when it resided internally, or else it becomes a non-starter until the price is driven so far down that reward trumps risk. Considering we will likely see more regulation, not less, in the future that price may well be pretty close to zero.

Steve Lafferty

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