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Enterprise Cloud Computing
Migrating Apps to the Cloud
Security trade-offs and considerations
By: Ken Asher
Aug. 16, 2014 04:00 PM
Security professionals are constantly negotiating the tension of balancing ease-of-use with data security. Savvy security professionals know that their users will often choose a less secure technology that makes getting things done easier over a more secure technology that makes getting things done more cumbersome. The trick is in aligning the secure choice with the efficient choice - but this comes with much-needed analysis and consideration.
Increasingly, best-in-class applications are being offered in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model; just take a look at the plethora of cloud-based tools available for organizations that need a scalable way to access software across physical locations and a means of enabling their increasingly mobile users. Certainly, the SaaS model offers highly compelling advantages over traditional on-premise solutions such as:
While there are several reasons why enterprises around the globe are moving toward cloud-based software solutions, there are trade-offs in moving from on-premise to hosted SaaS. Control of the infrastructure means control of the security and compliance of the systems. Giving up this control means additional due diligence is required to meet security and compliance objectives.
From full-site SSL/TLS encryption to encryption of customer data at rest, SaaS providers are incorporating best practices in an effort to ensure that the data customers entrust them with remains safe in their hands. Support for single-sign-on (SSO) authentication standards such as Security Assertion Markup Language version 2.0 (SAML 2.0) allows customers to integrate uniform authentication standards (strong passwords or multi-factor authentication (MFA)) across multiple SaaS tools.
When evaluating SaaS technologies for potential adoption by your organization, here are five key questions that you should ask any potential vendor:
User Management and Single Sign-On
To solve for this, many SaaS providers now support one or more single sign-on (SSO) standards. Single sign-on allows for the central provisioning and de-provisioning of applications to the user, and a single source of truth for who has access to what.
Some additional benefits for SSO integrations include having a unified user authentication policy across multiple applications with fewer passwords for users to remember and keep secure. SSO also provides support for multi-factor authentication (MFA), which can be used to create a more secure but user-friendly means to log into mission-critical business software.
Whether we like it or not, keeping enterprise systems strictly on-premise isn't a viable or scalable option today. Adapting to the SaaS paradigm and understanding and quantifying both the benefits and risks have become a key skill for CIOs and security professionals. Those who can successfully negotiate this paradigm are the new heroes of IT procurement - delivering ease of use and efficiency while maintaining security and compliance best practices.
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