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Who say Management and SaaS don't mix?

The integration conundrum

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Management in IT is a challenge for many organisations. Integrated management is a tough nut to crack and many companies struggle with fragmented management environments just to keep their systems operational.

Without integrated tools and processes, organisations face considerable security challenges, specifically difficulties in fault diagnostics and problem resolution. Yet security and trust are built on top of the ability to set policy, manage systems, monitor effectively and then to police the policies effectively.

With the internal management picture fragmented, there are a number of ongoing challenges to be faced. Top of the pile is the question of whether there are any ways for cloud or SaaS services to be cleanly integrated into the management portfolio? Whatever the reality, we know readers of The Register harbour a degree of scepticism concerning management and SaaS solutions.

When asked whether the SaaS model represents an advantage or disadvantage compared to traditional on-premise solutions, more respondents who have little or no experience of SaaS felt that management was worse. It is clear that amongst those readers with experience of using SaaS solutions, responses are more evenly split between those with positive or negative attitudes. In fact, the greatest number of experienced respondents states that they are neutral on the matter.

There are clearly management and administration matters that need to be addressed when considering any SaaS service.

We discussed provisioning and deprovisioning users in an earlier article. Other areas that need to be considered include how the security and access policies of SaaS vendors can be integrated with the existing tools used inside the business. Is integration available as standard or need it be hand built? Is it too difficult or expensive to even consider undertaking such integration work, thus throwing everything back to manual processes? Beyond this, can your monitoring tools let you keep an eye on service status and how users are working?

The answers to these questions will often vary significantly between providers, but it is important to cover them. Unless the management and monitoring solutions deployed within the business can be easily integrated with those used in the SaaS environment, there is a risk that service may be impacted or exposures occur, with IT being unaware of the problem until users start to complain or some kind of disaster happens. On a specific point, it is important to acknowledge the increase in risk to which the business might be exposed if security monitoring of the service isn’t properly integrated with existing processes and systems.

In practical terms, if integration capabilities are available, they must be simple to implement lest the costs and efforts involved in putting them in place become too high. They must also be simple to update as either internal systems change or as the SaaS service transforms over time. The cost of keeping on-site and hosted systems integrated, over the life of a SaaS service is frequently overlooked, especially if IT does not play an active role in service setup. ®

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