Organizations around the world have gone through significant transformations in 2020. Most notably, the work-from-home initiative has been widely adopted, with some companies abandoning traditional office space altogether. As a result, many industries have increased their reliance on public SaaS applications to support day-to-day operations.

As with any cloud services, SaaS applications provide robust features and capabilities available from any location with any device. SaaS applications have the added advantage of obscuring the underlying network layers, hardware, and operating systems, enabling organizations to focus their efforts on the applications. Despite these benefits, managing and securing SaaS applications continues to be a major hurdle for organizations. There are several factors at work contributing to this challenge.

Increasing Complexity — Rapid introduction of new SaaS features and capabilities has also increased complexity. Keeping up with the latest enhancement is proving to be a significant challenge for administrators. The enhancements are not limited to core application features and now include security capabilities. This further complicates the task of administrators who must now become SaaS and security experts. The increase in complexity leads to misconfigurations resulting in service disruptions and, in some cases, data exposure. It’s no wonder Gartner predicts that through 2023, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. A recent survey conducted by AppOmni supports this prediction — more than 77% of IT professionals who participated agree with Gartner.

Lack of Automation — IT has adopted new innovations in many areas. However, configuration management, in particular, has not kept pace. Despite the growing number of configurations as a direct result of new features and capabilities, many organizations continue to lean on manual resources to ensure the configurations adhere to company guidelines. Often in a form of an audit, such efforts are extremely costly and require an extended period of time to complete. Service disruptions and data exposure can and often do occur between audits.

Legacy Security Architecture — The cybersecurity market has often been described as a cat-and-mouse game consisting of security vendors and hackers striving to outdo the other. As such, security solutions have been perceived as a reactionary solution with its effectiveness measured by how quickly the solution can identify an incident. Applying this model to the cloud, legacy security solutions simply attempt to monitor the ingress and egress points of the cloud applications. Operating under this model, many IT administrators are not proactively improving the state of the application and, instead, wait on standby should an incident occur. According to the AppOmni’s survey, IT administrators identified this reactive nature of security solutions as the biggest challenge they have with existing security solutions.

These and other challenges are not trivial and cannot be addressed by simply adding more resources. Fortunately, a new category of SaaS management and security solutions have arrived to overcome these challenges.

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) aims to support the top business-critical applications. This should not be a surprise, with the top eight public SaaS enterprise applications making up more than 30% of the entire market. In return, SSPM solutions promise to provide much deeper integration with the SaaS applications, enabling it to offer simplified and streamlined management controls. The deep integration also enables the solution to recommend best practice guidelines specific to the application on hand, ensuring continuous operation within the safe margin. For SSPM solutions, more application support is not necessarily better, but deeper integration is.

Audits need not be such a laborious and costly endeavor with SSPM solutions. In some cases, it may not be needed at all. SSPM solutions are designed to continuously monitor the SaaS environment and generate alerts when configurations deviate from accepted company guidelines. In some solutions, the continuous monitoring also enables comparison of the SaaS environment between two points in time — a benefit anyone who has prepared for or conducted an audit can appreciate.

Finally, the hurry up and wait security approach simply doesn’t scale in today’s fast-paced world. Instead, SSPM solutions automatically identify data exposures before they become losses. IT administrators are alerted in real time as configurations to data access, user access, and other configurations alter the access to sensitive data. The proactive approach not only maximizes the available IT resources but also reduces the overall cybersecurity attack surface.

Although every organization has different needs, it’s clear that traditional management and security solutions cannot keep up with the pace of new cloud services and offerings. Organizations increasing their SaaS adoption or struggling with existing deployments should first identify the critical applications. Second, identify key requirements, such as regulatory compliance, data access and security, and user access. Finally, identify the SSPM solution that can support these specific needs and, if it’s an option, conduct a risk assessment or a trial. The risk assessment often quantifies the magnitude of challenges and can assist with planning the appropriate response. Not all SSPM solutions are built the same, and, despite the promising innovations and technologies, the solution must support the unique requirements for the organization.