How many SaaS tools is your business currently using? SaaS tools have become the foundation that many businesses grow their businesses from. They help them power their email communication, create business documents, and store important information. SaaS tools can also be used to manage your client relationship and track sales metrics. Whatever their role may be in your business, you need to be aware of the security vulnerabilities they open your business up to.
What is a SaaS tool?
SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service. This term is quite broad, and many very common businesses tools are categorized as SaaS tools. For example, Microsoft and Google suites are considered SaaS applications. These programs are not physical objects that you keep in your office, but rather a software that you utilize to conduct basic business activities. SaaS tools can come in many different forms and often provide businesses with very different solutions. While Microsoft and Google power many business-critical operations, you may be using other tools that help with accounting, marketing, sales tracking, and more.
Why does a SaaS tool make your business vulnerable?
These tools often are responsible for storing critical business data and because of that, owners need to protect them. Microsoft or Google likely stores a lot of your shared access files such as spreadsheets and business documents. Salesforce stores all the sales data such as contact information, prospect lists, client notes, and more. Having this data intertwined with a third-party vendor does open you up to malicious attackers targeting your vendor, data theft, and other data risks.
- Malicious Attackers: Unfortunately, having your data stored with vendors can be risky. Over the past few months, hackers have been making major headlines with the two major cyber-attacks: the first one was the Colonial Pipeline hack and the second was the hacking of the JBS meat packing plant. In recent years, the level of activity among these cybercriminals has increased. They are targeting bigger organizations in hopes of receiving bigger payouts, and this means popular SaaS providers (and by extension your business) could be targeted too.
- Down-time when SaaS applications crash – SaaS applications are critical to business operations. Outside of the data related risks owners face, there are also risks of down-time. If Microsoft SharePoint were to go down (which has happened,) could your employees continue working? What about Salesforce? Could they continue working without their CRM? The truth is, using these applications leaves your business reliant on their security and network maintenance.
- At-Risk-Data: Finally, along with data theft, there are other data risks. Many businesses are not backing-up
Data that is not actually backed-up by the third party – Have you ever read the fine print of the contracts you sign with vendors? In many cases, there is a specific line that states that the vendors are not liable for any data loss and that business owners should have another back-up of the data they store in a separate location. For example, Microsoft and Google both state this in their vendor contracts. That means that if Microsoft were hacked today and all the data they store is lost, any unretrievable data would be your problem, not theirs.
Would your business survive if your spreadsheets, documents, and all the other information you store in SharePoint or Google Drive just disappeared?
Improper controls over who has access to the data – Another risk businesses are vulnerable to when dealing with third party vendors, are related to access. Many of these vendors have security settings in place that allow strict access to their data. For example, Microsoft provides different ways to segment your team and allow access to files as needed. For example, your sales team does not need to be looking through your accounting team’s data, and through a series of controls you can prevent that type of access. This protects your team internally but can also be used to prevent anyone inside your organization from sharing data with people outside of the organization. If your IT team is not already monitoring permissions and restricting access, they should start.
So, how do you protect your data?
Protecting your data is critical to any business. Here are few ways you can start protecting your data today:
- Real-time alerting – Monitor your SaaS apps. There are different tools available to IT professionals that allow you to receive real-time alerts about the status of different SaaS applications. These tools monitor their networks and can let you know when they are experiencing network problems that could potentially leave your employees twiddling their thumbs.
- Business Continuity Planning – Another easy way to protect your data is to to plan for disaster. Although most issues businesses face when dealing with third party vendors are resolved by the vendors themselves, having a plan in place to maintain access to business-critical data is essential. This planning can help businesses avoid any pain from vendor outages.
- Understand what you are signing – Read the fine print of the contracts you agree to or sign when hiring a vendor. As an owner, you need to understand where your responsibilities for data protection ends and where the vendor’s responsibilities begin.
SaaS applications are embedded in business across America. They are great tools that allow businesses to do more than they ever have in the past, but they do not come without risks. When owners use software services, they also open themselves up to vulnerabilities they cannot fully control. Luckily, there are ways your IT team can mitigate that risk and keep your business functioning with or without those applications. If you are interested in learning more about SaaS protection, visit our resource page here.
About the Company:
Founded in 2007, FusionTek began with a mission to help small and medium-sized businesses like yours get a real return on their technology investments. Since then, we have remained dedicated to providing state-of-the-art IT support, service and products that allow our clients to get ahead of the competition and achieve greater success.
About the Author:
Brian Miller is the founder and CEO of FusionTek. He has over twenty years of IT experience and opened his own MSP 14 years ago. He works hard to maintain long-standing relationships and to provide efficient, productive and profitable IT solutions to those businesses that rely on us.