Software as a Service (SaaS) is a subscription-based delivery model in which programmes are hosted in an outsourced data centre and sold to the end-user monthly. With the physical security sector rapidly adopting this model to save costs and prevent obsolescence, it is critical for purchasers to understand the considerations to consider when selecting a SaaS provider.
Over the last several years, the explosion of new SaaS security and surveillance services has made it more difficult than ever for purchasers to navigate through a deluge of conflicting vendor promises. SaaS has been around long enough in the broader IT industry for several years that many best practices for assessing these hosted service offers have arisen.
We have combined all the information into six criteria and applied them to the context of physical security.
Audited controls for data security
Because data security is still the primary worry of CIOs with outsourced application services, it should be your primary concern and that of the SaaS end-physical user’s security.
To begin, and perhaps most significantly, this means ensuring that SaaS providers perform regular third-party application security assessments and are prepared to share the findings in writing with you. There are several security auditing standards, but one of the most widely used in the United States is SAS-70.
If a SaaS provider fails to have at least one of these criteria inspected, you take on significantly more risk than is justified. If a vendor cannot provide you with an up-to-date information audit statement, you should not trust them.
A Track Record of Reliability
Following information security, system availability, or “uptime,” is one of the primary concerns of SaaS purchasers. While SaaS companies have an acceptable track record versus in-house solutions, most customers get a little uncomfortable when they can’t reach out and touch their servers or wring the neck of their own IT person when anything goes wrong.
It is critical to establish your potential service providers’ “availability record.” They should be able to supply you with monthly or yearly availability numbers. After all, those who work in business live and die by these figures. If a supplier is unable or unwilling to inform you, this is not a good indicator.
Numerous secure and disaster-resistant data centres
While several data centres is one strategy employed by SaaS providers to guarantee high availability, there are further reasons to ensure your data is in safe hands in various secure “telco-grade” facilities that are geographically scattered.
First, it eliminates “mom and pop” offers in which a security dealer or integrator just stowed a few servers in their office telephone closet and marketed them as a hosted product. You would never do it in your own information technology business; therefore, do not take it from others. Telco-grade facilities include diesel backup power, numerous independent Internet connections, 24-hour personnel, and their own physical solid security perimeter.
Second, the necessity for numerous geographically separated data centres is critical because it protects you against a variety of regional calamities – both artificial and natural – and temporary Internet congestion that may impair application response time.
Look for integrated programs
One of the consequences of the present cloud rush is a recurrence of the old IT sin of stove-piping apps. Historically, this phrase has referred to the deployment of isolated programmes that do not interact with one another, resulting in poor data integration, inefficient work processes, and increased expenses to the end-user. SaaS will not alter this; a cloud-based stove-pipe is just as terrible as one in your local data centre.
Is your vendor requesting incoming firewall holes?
SaaS security solutions need connections across your corporate firewalls to transmit data between on-premise devices and off-premise hosted apps. There are both safe and harmful methods for doing this.
In a nutshell, your security equipment should initiate the connection to the hosting centre, not the other way around. Why is this the case? First, you should never open any incoming ports on your firewall needlessly – this is just poor policy. Second, firewalls permit outbound connections from your network to external services such as Web sites.
This principle explains how your corporate network can safely connect employees to millions of Internet sites without requiring them to identify each one in advance specifically. It also prevents millions of hackers from gaining access to your network or personal computer.
If your vendor advises you to open incoming ports on your firewall, you should reconsider utilising their service.
Authentication of devices
Ones system’s security is only as strong as the authentication and authorisation mechanisms that safeguard it. This security theory holds for physical equipment and human users on your network. Security equipment, such as cameras and control panels, is effectively “logging in” to exchange data, and as such, it must be verified.
The most commonly recognised method is for networked devices to install X.509 digital certificates from a trustworthy certificate authority. These certificates enable endpoints and apps to create mutually authenticated encryption sessions.
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