As James Lewis, senior adviser for four UN Groups of Governmental Experts on Information Security,  says, security is both a necessity and a challenge in the digital age. This observation perfectly captures the core dilemma in SaaS access control—achieving stringent security without compromising user experience. 

According to recent data from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), 55% of organizations reported experiencing a SaaS security incident in the recent year. This statistic underscores the issue's complexity and signals an urgent call for effective solutions, highlighting an urgent need for robust access management​.

In this blog, we're diving into five key insights that will help you refine your SaaS access control. These actionable strategies will help boost your security framework while ensuring a seamless user experience.

What is SaaS access control?

SaaS access control involves using protocols, tools, and strategies to control and monitor user access to SaaS platforms. This approach focuses on managing permissions, tracking user activities, and protecting sensitive data within these cloud-based applications. This approach ensures that only authorized users can interact with the hosted software and its data by defining user roles and employing authentication mechanisms like passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and single sign-on (SSO).

This proactive strategy strengthens security and enhances data privacy and compliance in SaaS environments. The web security appliance employs the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), strictly adhering to SAML version 2.0, to authorize access to SaaS applications. This setup allows for:

  • Controlling which users can access SaaS applications and from where.
  • Quickly restricting access to all SaaS applications when the organization no longer employs users.
  • Reducing the risk of phishing attacks that solicit users to enter their SaaS user credentials.
  • Choosing whether users are transparently signed in (single sign-on functionality) or prompted to enter their authentication username and passphrase.

The ongoing usage monitoring and data encryption are crucial for detecting unauthorized access attempts and ensuring data security, both in transit and at rest. These measures provide an audit trail for compliance and enhance the overall integrity and privacy of the SaaS environment.

How decentralizing buying poses a challenge 

Decentralizing purchasing introduces unique challenges that require strategic oversight to ensure efficiency and compliance. Such as:

1. Inconsistent procurement practices

In decentralized systems, each department may develop its own approach to procurement, leading to a need for more standardization. This inconsistency can be particularly problematic in SaaS, where integrating services and software solutions from different vendors might lead to compatibility issues. Implementing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) can help unify SaaS procurement actions across departments, maintaining consistency while allowing some room for department-specific needs.

2. Difficulty in achieving economies of scale

Decentralized buying can make it challenging to leverage collective bargaining power, a critical factor in reducing subscription costs for SaaS products. By centralizing negotiations for major contracts while allowing departments to manage smaller, more routine purchases, companies can take advantage of volume discounts and better terms, which are often not accessible to individual departments acting alone.

3. Increased risk of non-compliance

SaaS solutions often involve significant data security and regulatory compliance considerations, such as GDPR. Decentralized procurement can increase the risk of breaches if different departments subscribe to services that do not comply uniformly with necessary standards. Establishing a unified compliance framework that all departments must adhere to can mitigate these risks, ensuring that every SaaS tool acquired meets the company-wide compliance criteria.

4. Variability in supplier management

Managing multiple vendors across different departments can lead to inefficiencies and a dilution of accountability. In the SaaS model, where ongoing vendor relationships are crucial for service stability and support, centralized oversight of vendor relationships can ensure consistent service levels and better response rates during outages or incidents. This approach also supports strategic partnerships with key providers, enhancing service quality and innovation.

5. Challenge in maintaining data integrity and transparency

With decentralized procurement, essential data about subscriptions, renewals, and utilization can become fragmented, making it difficult to assess the overall effectiveness of SaaS investments. Implementing a centralized procurement software solution, like Spendflo, can provide a holistic view of SaaS spending and usage patterns. Spendflo streamlined the intake-to-procure process, centralizing all SaaS purchases in one place for improved collaboration and accelerated procurement through Slack-first workflows, significantly enhancing productivity.

5 key insights from better SaaS access control best practices 

Within technology and software services, several best practices stand out for their ability to optimize costs, enhance security, and ensure compliance. Here are five key insights from such practices.

1. Centralize contracts

Centralizing contracts into a single repository streamlines management and provides a holistic view of organizational commitments. This approach is crucial for maintaining oversight over all contractual obligations and renewal deadlines, preventing lapses in service and unintended renewals. 

By centralizing contracts, companies gain leverage in negotiations, achieving better terms due to the consolidated visibility of total expenditures, which is often not visible in decentralized systems. This centralization aids in identifying redundant services across the organization, opening opportunities for consolidation and cost savings.

2. Implement RBAC

RBAC is essential for maintaining a secure and efficient procurement environment. By assigning users roles based on their job functions, organizations can ensure that employees access only the important data and systems necessary for their roles, thereby minimizing potential internal threats and data breaches. 

This method secures sensitive procurement data and streamlines workflow by eliminating unnecessary access requests and approvals, which can bog down processes in systems without RBAC.

3. Use SSO tools

SSO tools reduce the burden of password management and increase productivity by allowing users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials. This simplifies user login processes and decreases the likelihood of security breaches associated with weak password practices, such as password recycling or the use of simple passwords where every second counts. SSO can significantly reduce downtime and improve the security of the login process.

4. Use MFA

MFA has become a crucial security layer, and cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated. By requiring additional verification methods beyond just a password — such as a phone notification, fingerprint, or security token — MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if a password is compromised. 

Where transactions often involve sensitive data and significant financial implications, MFA provides an essential defense, ensuring that access is granted only to verified users.

5. Dynamic license management for offboarding 

Managing software licenses dynamically as employees depart is crucial for security and cost management. Automatically updating user access rights upon employee departure prevents unauthorized access and data leakage. This process also ensures that software licenses are efficiently reallocated or terminated, avoiding unnecessary costs associated with unused licenses. 

With Spendflo's dynamic license management (DLM), organizations can automate the harvesting, reclamation, and downgrading of licenses based on real-time usage data. This system allows companies to define inactivity based on the last used date for any product integrated within Spendflo, triggering license management workflows that prevent wasteful spending on unused or underutilized licenses. 

How Spendflo SaaS management helps exercise better control over your SaaS spend

IT leaders that wish to achieve more effective SaaS access control at their businesses should turn to Spendflo. This platform saves you money and enables your team to manage and review SaaS access throughout your organization. 

Our solution provides complete visibility into your tech stack with comprehensive software usage analytics and reporting. This allows you to monitor user engagement with authorized and unauthorized applications within your environment. You can mitigate risks by identifying and removing unused software and shadow IT. 

Centralize and optimize your SaaS—spends, usage, and user sentiment—and eliminate SaaS wastage at its source with the Spendflo SaaS management

To begin, book your free demo with us!

Guru Nicketan
Content Strategist
Karthikeyan Manivannan
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