Companies of all sizes and in all industry segments are adopting SaaS applications at an increasingly rapid rate. Moving to SaaS applications and cloud computing is viewed as a way to improve operations by lowering costs, driving efficiencies and encouraging innovation. The appeal of SaaS applications includes the low barrier to entry, ease of adoption, speed of deployment, flexibility, scalability and leaving the time-consuming and costly management of IT resources to the cloud provider.
Key concerns that all organizations share with SaaS applications are tied to cyber security and compliance requirements. Data breaches like Equifax recently experienced, HIPAA related breaches and many other instances that have been in the news attract lots of negative media coverage and often end poorly for the company involved. Data breaches typically generate lawsuits, notification and mitigation expenses, and multi-million-dollar fines from regulatory agencies; not to mention a damaged company image. This has driven home the need for infrastructure hardening and assurances from cloud providers that they are HIPAA compliant or FedRamp and EU-US Privacy Shield certified to name a few.
The selection and implementation process of SaaS applications varies by company but purchase decisions are often based on high-level user requirements, the reputation of the vendor, availability of support for the software and ultimately cost.
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Regardless of who’s driving the roll-out effort within an organization, the challenge from an implementation standpoint is to ensure that security and compliance requirements are addressed and integrated into the planning and implementation phases of the project. To do this, IT must be involved to assess the security of the platform and the application to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect company and customer data, that the application can coexist within the current IT ecosystem and that compliance obligations will be met.
On the flip side, the company itself must ensure that the necessary physical, technical and administrative controls are in place to safeguard data within its own network. This is a shared end-to-end security model that must be carefully reviewed, designed and implemented.
The key takeaway is that it is essential to involve IT early in the selection process to determine whether the cloud provider and the company have the required security and compliance safeguards in place to protect sensitive or protected information. This requires engaging key stakeholders across the organization including IT, PMO, compliance officer, privacy officer, legal, and the department that will ultimately be using the SaaS application. Failure to adequately address the integration of security and compliance considerations into the roll-out process will expose the company to unnecessary financial risk, liability and potentially a damaged company reputation. Simply rolling out a SaaS application without considering security and compliance is an extremely risky approach.