As the number of solutions available in the cloud grows and an increasing number of organizations turn to SaaS-based solutions to improve operations while reducing their costs, an increasing amount of sensitive information is being communicated via the Internet.   IT professionals are rightly concerned with uptime, privacy risks and overall security.   As a result, security is becoming ever more critical, and service providers that cannot provide assurance to their customers about their security controls and procedures simply cannot compete.  Read on for a list of key security questions to ask when selecting a SaaS solution for your company.

Does the provider provide network, system, and information security?

In order to protect the system, your SaaS provider should have secured all equipment in hardened parts of its network that are not externally accessible, and use both carrier-grade Session Border Controllers (SBCs) and firewalls.  Additionally, its SBCs should be configured to only accept traffic from white-listed IPs.

When you are choosing a SaaS provider, you should make sure that your data won’t be jeopordized  and that your services will not be interrupted should there be a system or grid error.  Any reliable provider should be running data centers in multiple, geographically distributed locations at once, ensuring instant failover via an active/active configuration, should an issue arise at one data center. 

Lastly, any SaaS provider that has access to sensitive client information should adhere to data privacy best practices at all times.  When looking for a SaaS provider, look to an organization that provides secure and encrypted data transfer, along with role-based access controls and permissions, and detailed logging and reporting.

Has the provider received third party validation?

PEN Testing:  Look to a SaaS provider that conducts third party penetration testing to simulate attacks (known as ethical hacks) on an annual basis.  The service provider should allow non-biased auditors to conduct detailed PEN tests from both the inside and outside of its system.  Consider the fact that any SaaS provider’s platform is an extension of your security environment – make sure that you test it according to your standards

SAS 70 Type II Audits: A clean SAS 70 Type II audit opinion provides further assurance that a notification provider’s operations are secure and reliable.  By illustrating that internal controls within the organization are in place and working as they were meant to, a clean SAS 70 opinion can reassure you that the security of your cloud-based platform is not at risk.

Can the provider guarantee login security?

When you create an account, does your SaaS provider require you to change your password immediately from a default?  Can you add additional levels of security by specifiying your organization’s requirements for creating and using passwords?  In any secure platform, you should be able to set a minimum length for passwords for your users and adjust complexity levels to require upper case, lower case, and symbols.  In addition, your provider should allow you to set password expiration timeframes, prevent the re-use of a password for a specific number of iterations, and enable auto-lockout after a specific number of invalid login attempts.  By doing this, you’ll significantly lower the risk of your users’ passwords being discovered. 

The security of your data can easily become compromised by unwanted users gaining access to your controls.  With any reliable SaaS provider, you should be able to set a customized session time-out to ensure that no unwanted customers, employees, or passers-by can gain access to your console when you walk away from your computer. 

Does the provider authenticate transactions and communication online?

E-mail spoofing – we have all seen it in our inboxes.  You receive an email from an unknown sender, but the header has been altered to show a familiar address, sometimes even your own!  It’s a technique often used with illegal spamming and phishing activities, but it can become dangerous when it leads to the unwanted release of sensitive data or causes unnecessary confusion during an emergency situation.

Without email signing, it’s possible for malicious senders to fake an email in order to have it appear as valid.  Additionally, it is possible for valid emails to be modified in transit such that their contents can be altered.

In today’s public Internet age, security is everything.  You do not want the wrong information to get into the wrong hands, especially when dealing with emergency situations.  It’s never been more important for organizations to make sure that their communications are protected from malicious attacks, and to make sure that their e-mails are authenticated by a trusted provider. 

The Bottom Line

It’s important to remember that security is not a product.  It is about building layers of protections around a platform and testing those processes rigorously and regularly.  And the most reliable SaaS provider is the one that ensures proactively that your account is secured against attacks, system failures, and loss. 

Ultimately, security, above all other bells and whistles, should be your first consideration when choosing any software provider in the cloud.    When choosing a SaaS provider, make sure that you take the time to properly asses all of the organization’s security controls.  Because when it comes to your company’s most secure information, you just cannot afford not to.