Category Archives: SaaS

Identity And Access Management From The SaaS Application Perspective

Identity And Access Management From The SaaS Application Perspective

The SaaS Application Perspective

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has taken the enterprise by storm as the go-to delivery model for applications, and the cloud service is here to stay…for better or worse. Enterprises look to its benefits including dramatic cost savings, app availability from anywhere, and seamless updates and upgrades pushed to users from the SaaS provider.

There’s certainly no trepidation surrounding the benefits that the cloud rains down on enterprises, but what makes CISOs uneasy about SaaS delivery of apps is the lack of control and visibility into who has access to them while floating around in the cloud. Enterprises can obviously call the shots when data and apps are stored on-premise, but the fear of data breaches is amped up when applications and data, and who controls the access to them, is out of the hands of the enterprise and in the hands of the SaaS provider.

So what should a SaaS application developer or provider do so enterprises can govern their identity and access issues effectively? There are three key Identity and Access Management (IAM) areas that deserve close attention.


SaaS apps can take several routes for authenticating users. The first is independent authentication with a private user directory and independent user account management. This is a poor choice because it forces the SaaS application to manage passwords and forces users to remember separate credentials for the SaaS app.  In addition, from an enterprise perspective, supporting joiners, movers and leavers (who’s moving in and out of your organization) here becomes difficult.

A variant of the independent option is internal authentication with a private user directory synched to an external user repository, usually Active Directory. While this approach may seem to be fine for a single application, as the number of applications scales, IT administrators have trouble managing the synching, and the risk of a breach goes up significantly when credentials are transmitted outside the perimeter.

The ideal authentication setup for a SaaS app is token-based authentication and SSO based on directory federation. SAML (Secure Access Markup Language) tokens issued by corporate identity providers fit the bill perfectly. Why? A single corporate username and password enables access across multiple SaaS applications. The process is intelligent, too, because user attributes relevant to authorization can be delivered in the token, and “just-in-time” provisioning (automated account setup for a first-visit user) can be supported.  While this approach requires the management of trust relationships between individual enterprises and the SaaS application in question, and at least basic user account management, the headaches of syncing and having hundreds of passwords are off the table here.


So your users have been authenticated to your SaaS apps. That’s the easy part, but effective management of entitlements – what your users can do within those apps at a fine-grained, nitty-gritty level, is far more difficult.

Most SaaS applications come with their own entitlement model, with internal administration of entitlement policies and an application-specific user interface for defining who gets what entitlements within the application. From an application developer’s perspective, this approach seems convenient, but in reality, it provides poor support for enterprise identity and access lifecycle management and compliance.  Setting up joiners and movers or de-provisioning leavers requires manual intervention, and tracking “who has access to what” often means the creation of application-specific reports.

The best option here is for SaaS applications to support an entitlement model that includes pre-defined application roles, and an API that supports the collection of current user-role and user-entitlement bindings as well as the provisioning or de-provisioning of user-to-role and user-to-entitlement bindings.  With this approach, administering user-to-role policies is done by each enterprise outside of the SaaS application, while the runtime authorization enforcement based on provisioned user bindings or user attributes is done within the SaaS application. Leaving policy administration out of the application and up to the enterprise makes change management and compliance much easier.

The benefit of having application roles is that it’s far easier to track and change user access to SaaS apps when each application’s access can be described in terms of tens of application roles and a few out-of-role entitlements, versus  thousands of entitlements.

It’s likely that a standards-based protocol will emerge someday for the API referenced above, but SPML (Secure Provisioning Markup Language) fell short, and SCIM (Simple Cloud Identity Management), while useful for account and user profile provisioning, doesn’t help with entitlements.


Your users have been authenticated and can wield the power they’ve been given by individual application roles and entitlements within SaaS applications. But are you taking notes on every move they make within your organization? Probably not!  Automated logging of user activity for each SaaS app is crucial to both the audit trail needed when the auditor comes knocking and the real-time alerting required by enterprise SOCs (security operations centers). If a subset of the application roles and entitlements for a SaaS app is considered sensitive or privileged, it is up to the SaaS application developer and provider to ensure that the use of this privileged access can be closely and continuously scrutinized.

It is important to note that mobile and cloud computing is causing the Identity and Access Management industry to adopt new models and consider new standards.  OpenID Connect and OAuth, for example, are very promising standards, but SaaS applications targeted for broad-based enterprise use can’t rely exclusively on them today.

While SaaS applications, being outside the perimeter, aren’t inherently ideal for meeting enterprise identity and access lifecycle management and compliance initiatives, SaaS app developers and providers should look to these areas as the first action items when rolling out cloud-based applications across the enterprise.

By Deepak Taneja,

Contributor Deepak Taneja is Founder and CTO of Aveksa, provider of the industry’s most comprehensive Business-Driven Identity and Access Management platform.  By uniquely integrating Identity and Access Governance, Provisioning and Authentication, Aveksa enables enterprises to manage the complete lifecycle of user access for SaaS and On-premise applications and data.  Learn more at

Does Cloud Computing Mean The End Of Traditional Storage Networks?

Does Cloud Computing mean the End of Traditional Storage Networks?

Technically Yes! With cloud’s scalability options attracting SMBs and large businesses towards it and cloud becoming secure with each passing day; we are near to say goodbye to the traditional ways we used to store our data over the network. Though networking is quite difficult to understand especially when one has expertise in building business, let’s check out how things were traditionally and how the cloud is slowing replacing it.

What comprised a traditional storage network?

Storage network or storage networking as the word says is the high speed networking of shared storage devices. This storage network connects to data servers so the data is accessible from anywhere across the network. As your requirements grow, you can connect hundreds of server machines to hundreds or even thousands of storage devices locally (LAN) or over the WAN (Wide Area Network).

How cloud storage works:

As for the cloud storage, you upload your data via a secure internet connection on a 3rd party data center. This 3rd party which is the cloud provider maintains your data and allows you to retrieve it any time by connecting to the server. While these servers require maintenance or repair occasionally or might even fail in an extreme case, the cloud provider stores your files on multiple servers, which is called redundancy so you can access them anytime.

Why companies love to join the cloud?

The reason is simple. The cloud allows you to access your data from anywhere around the world using the internet. Also not just your own enterprise can access but you can easily share with who you want and even work in collaboration with anyone around the world connected through internet. And the best thing is companies especially that of small and medium size now don’t have to worry about developing an in-house IT structure. No worry about buying servers and storage and deploying them making sure that it can cater the business needs nor have to pay for specialized IT experts who look after your network. They can launch their cloud from anywhere within minutes and transfer all their data there while its security is taken care by the vendor.

Where will it go further:

At least we know that this isn’t the end to the tussle between the traditional computing and the cloud. With the internet connection getting better and better and the coming of SSDs in cloud storage it is thought that the cloud will completely make the traditional storage obsolete.

By Pere Hospital,

Pere Hospital (CISSP & OSCP) is the CTO and co-founder of Cloudways Ltd. He has over two decades of experience in IT Security, Risk Analysis and Virtualization Technologies. You can follow Pere on Twitter at @phospital, or learn more about Cloudways at

The Future Of The Personal Computer Is In The Cloud

The Future Of The Personal Computer Is In The Cloud

The predictions that the PC is about the go the way of the dinosaur (or the pager, or the fax machine) have largely come from the financial sector and rabid Apple fans. Both of these groups have seen declining computer sales, especially the recent 14% drop, as proof of their theories. Microsoft’s huge recent faux pas, Windows 8, is just further proof that personal computers will be crowding the landfills and we will all face the sunset, singing “Kumbaya”, reading the lyrics from the screens of our iPads and iPhones.

How many of these reports were written on a touch screen, and how many were composed on the more familiar personal computer configuration of screen and keyboard?

Most Comfortable Interface

Touch screen mobile technology may indeed prove to be the most common computing experience, but for the foreseeable future, it simply has not, and likely will not, taken the place of the keyboard and screen interface, especially in the work place.

Users who have access to both tablets and full sized computers find that the two technologies are complimentary rather than competing. Tablets and touchscreen technology are gaining more usefulness in the workplace on a daily basis. Text and email are becoming as accepted as voice for business communication, but many people, especially those sending professional emails, are loath to compose on a touch screen. University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Sepinwall finds “any extensive email writing, word processing or power point work on my iPad, and find even web surfing easier on my PC than on a tablet.”

Mobile technology is closely tied to Cloud computing, and as Cloud applications improve, the traditional roles of the keyboard and screen personal computer may transition to mobile. Google, who is working hard to stake a claim in the Cloud game, also realizes that Cloud applications, whether mobile or PC based, require ever faster broadband connections.

The need for faster broadband is the impetus for Google’s recent forays into city wide fiber-optic networks. In April, Google announced that it would expand fiber-optic service to Austin, Texas. Last year the search giant began providing high-speed Internet service to Kansas City. Although every Internet and Cloud application will benefit from the higher speeds, Google’s emphasis seems to be on Chromebooks.

The Cloud As OS

Google Chromebook computers are personal computers in the sense that they are a keyboard and screen interface, but the laptops, manufactured by Samsung, Acer and Google are loaded with the Chrome OS, which is not so much an Operating System as it is a glorified web browser. The Chromebook is designed to run more on Cloud applications than with software actually loaded onto the computer itself.

Will the Personal Computer go the way of the dinosaur? Very likely, but even standing on a pile of iPads, we cannot see that day on the horizon.

By Pete Knight

Why Your SMB Should Relocate To The Cloud

Why Your SMB Should Relocate To The Cloud

Why Your SMB Should Relocate to the Cloud

The number of decisions small business owners must make is seemingly endless. They are the authority on whom to hire, how to run the business and with whom to do business with, so choosing tech tools may not always be at the top of their priority list. With the use of the cloud on the rise, small business owners are more eager than ever to take advantage of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions – essentially software that is delivered and maintained over the internet rather than running on a server in the office. For those that are considering a move to the cloud but haven’t made the leap yet, here is a brief overview of the multiple reasons to relocate.

For many small businesses, resources are already stretched thin and owners cannot afford to spend money that is not directly related to business development and results. The cloud is an ideal solution because it’s less expensive than on-premise options. With lower subscription and maintenance costs, small businesses can focus their resources on developing their companies, not buying software and infrastructure. Many SaaS applications give users free trials or accounts, which lets businesses test out different solutions. Small businesses can try out various options until they determine which ones best fit their company and employee needs. Companies that invest in on-premise solutions may find that the tools do not align with their business activities and they can ultimately lose money from unused solutions.

Plus, it’s quick and easy to get started with the cloud. Small businesses don’t have the time to be held back by IT issues. In many cases, transferring to the cloud is as easy as logging on to a website and signing up with an email address. With cloud-based offerings, small business owners don’t need to spend resources hiring IT employees, who are critical for businesses that implement on-premise solutions. Using cloud solutions means employees don’t need to worry about backups, server upgrades or security. Instead, they can focus on their main responsibilities within the company.

The flexibility of the cloud is especially helpful today when it’s common for employees to work from home or locations other than the business’ central office. With employees located across various regions and continents, collaboration is crucial. For businesses that have new employees in different offices, the cloud helps make training easier. A cloud solution allows employees to access notes, documents and updates at any time, regardless of where they are.

New small businesses are increasingly adopting cloud tools to ensure operations run smoothly. Cloud tools can help companies in all aspects of operations from email marketing to customer relationship management (CRM) to finance to security. For young businesses, a web-based CRM solution can save time (some businesses have seen productivity gains of 20 percent), money (some companies have saved $5,000 per month using a CRM), and increase sales. Employees can access this information from any device, from any location and at any time. As more consumers become social media savvy, businesses can turn to social CRM solutions to monitor customer inquiries and comments across the web in a timely manner. Similarly, a cloud-based email marketing solution allows businesses to save time by sending out messages automatically. The cloud makes daily tasks easier for both business owners and employees. Employees can share information without backing it up and owners can save resources for business development instead of spending money on costly on-premise solutions and IT services.

By Anthony Smith,


Anthony Smith is the CEO of Insightly, a San Francisco-based SaaS CRM application. He built the first version of Insightly in six months from his home in Perth, Australia, after identifying a market need for a CRM solution focused on small business. He has previous experience designing and building CRM software for enterprise use. Prior to Insightly, Anthony worked as a consultant for IBM and as a software engineer for global mining consultancy Snowden.

Two Mega Cloud Conferences: What Google I/O And GigaOM Pro Each Had To Offer

Two Mega Cloud Conferences: What Google I/O and GigaOM Pro each had to Offer

The cloud has finally settled after the weekend’s dual momentous occasions. Google I/O, the yearly gathering of tech heads on the West Coast of the US is finally over, with lauding and misgivings, alike. On the fringes was also a cloud computing platform that seeks similar, albeit more academic, answers than those of the former conference: GigaOM Pro’s conference. Here is an analysis of what the two disparate approaches to the fundamental world of the Internet, applications and the cloud, in general, had to offer the 2013 infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) enthusiast.

Google I/O: The Event

From the hailing of Larry Page, as a speech maker par excellence, to getting down to business with the newest update to the emailing wing of the company’s cannon of services, Google I/O was equally a success and a failure. Analysts now discuss, with fervor, how Gmail has a quicker interface after its godfather improved on its storage dispensation. Right now, the unofficial storage interplay between the more cloud-oriented Drive and the web-mail is an official fact, according to the briefing over this conference. Users of the mailing service will now utilize more real-time reply technology, courtesy of a fresh button that will automatically launch for a fast answer to a query, next to the inbox, meaning that users will utilize it to affirm or deny a request in straightforward and handy epithets like, yes or no.

The shortcoming of the conference, however, was its lack of giving sufficient attention to the business side of things. The company’s collaboration technology, for the business cloud, did not receive mention overnight, although there have been related improvements on the social dispensation. For instance, Google Hangout has welcomed a remote application from one’s desktop, meaning working from the PC, and not necessarily online, to talk one-on-one with worldly pals. This real-time technology will see its success tag mostly to the user-friendly interface that it will bring when it focuses its drive on the ‘home’ screen, or rather desktop.

Company’s Chief Executive Officer, Larry Page, was instrumental on making all the company’s provisions meet the unified cloud dispensation. For this to happen, the service must strive to be integral, and consequently, some now-popular enterprise tools, like G+ must join the cloud side of Google. That is, users of the social networking offering will now turn more business out of it, following its upgrading at this yearly conference, where it has moved a step up into becoming part of the Apps. Indeed, this social network has never counted among the engine’s official applications. If it joins the apps dispensation, then it will enhance the cloud needs of users, including storage, improved real-time correspondence with member business outfits, and enhanced placement of remote pals on the Big Spider that is the web.

GigaOM Pro’s Answer

While Google I/O was busily upgrading its cloud, popular services’ and apps’ departments, GigaOM Pro was digging deep into matters cloud as it relates to social networking at business. According to Stowe Boyd, there is an analogy between Margaret Mead and the current spate of social media that can or cannot help business process. In lieu of destroying entrepreneurial process when trying hard to make them more scalable, social media, should, instead, be a relegation, or part of a diverse cultural plan, that every enterprise should study, in its own niche, to suit its social work. In other words, it will be no longer, ‘this store provides’ or ‘this vendor has the best option,’ but a concrete report of the enterprise culture, around, and integrating it as a formula, into the social scene of the industry. Thus, apps, social media tools and other offerings that suit the company, or its larger industry, will be the only things that will matter, other than select vendors, when using Twitter or Facebook at work. To do this, companies will have to comb diverse cloud apps and social widgets to come up with an optimal one for their business models.

Rivaling Google I/O’s three-and-a-half speech-making tech crusade, GigaOM Pro was on the sidelines, with as much time, to let its team explain why implementing the cloud at work is not a straightforward but hobnobbed plan. Indeed, one has to study architecture of various resources, because no one road suits all cloud infrastructures for all entities. This means giving time, patience and resources, to analyze what various cloud services are providing, and inherently, cutting out the leading vendors in the given niche. The only remaining parts, before implementing, are the possible advantages, for the business, on the select cloud model.

Thus, two conferences came up on the fringes of the third week of May 2013, with diverse and constructive results. When a similar time next year one will be speaking about the Google I/O, may be it will not be on an upgrade of services or apps, but the mushrooming further of its integral cloud engine with all services therein. The Pro, on the other hand, perhaps will be seeking answers in uncharted seas of the big data boom of 2014.

By John Omwamba

Advances Of Cloud Computing In Business Development

Advances of Cloud Computing in Business Development

The presence of cloud computing as a tool in business is getting a reaction almost as though it’s something new. There’s a lot of attention being paid to advances mostly as a result of affordable, scalable SaaS solutions. These solutions allow for a mobility and ease of access for which older systems didn’t allow. Given that they’re a symptom of the newer cloud computing push, they’re of course serving to earn accolades for the cloud that it did not have previously.

Of course, cloud computing in business is not brand new. It largely went unrecognized for what it was for such a long time, largely due to the fact that it wasn’t referred to as ‘cloud computing’. As a result, people often fail to make the proper connection between the present and the past, and to realize, in retrospect, that it’s always been around.

Cloud is a buzzword that in many circles has lost all meaning, but there is a true definition for the concept. To be honest, it’s essentially a formal and catchy term for data being handled on a server and delivered through TCP/IP. To a great extent, it’s just “stuff that goes over the internet, usually with a browser.”

Server farms are what these were once called, and businesses have used them for years. Originally, they weren’t offsite, but once bandwidth and security allowed it, data centers began leasing servers to businesses to serve as rental super computing powers. Oil companies, engineering companies and large enterprises with a lot of variables to calculate in business strategy have used these since the early 90s in fact.

But, what’s changed? Why does it have a new name, and why is it so popular? Well, because of the omnipresence of the digital world in our lives, everyone has something constructive they could do with supercomputing power, networking and storage.

Modern convenience makes this concept an affordable reality, and in many cases, it’s almost free. But, we’re talking about cloud computing in business, and what’s been done to advance it specifically.

Well, as said before, SaaS does allow for mobility and negation of distance, so that a business with travelling employees is not out of commission due to distance or being en route most of the time. Beyond this, though, there’s a standardization to be had from the cloud that was once not possible.

Cloud computing and SaaS give businesses a set of interoperable tools to track many assets of their business, and allows businesses to grow independent of their location or distance between offices. This kind of solidarity allowed by BI, ERP, CRM and training services makes business a much more reliable and controlled environment than the chaos that preceded it.

On top of this, leasable supercomputer resources like this give even small businesses the raw computing power they need to calculate trends and run deep analysis to find problems and remedy them. Thanks to these advances in SaaS, this supercomputing power is represented in the same fashion their old traditional software was, but with the insurmountable power of a server farm behind it.

In the past 10 years, we’ve seen cloud computing in business evolve from a dedicated remote super computer terminal into a publically-accepted scenario of business software being part of the internet. Quite a transition, but probably one for the best.

By Omri Erel

Marketing director at WalkMe and lead author of SaaS Addict

SaaS On A EULA? Get Some New Pants!

SaaS on a EULA? Get Some New Pants!

A good contract is like a good pair of pants. When the pants fit right and look good, you wear them all the time and hardly notice them. But if they’re too tight, you won’t buy them and if they’re too loose they fall down and leave you exposed. And if they’re just wrong – like trying to pair hockey pants with a suit coat – nobody knows what to do with you.

As more and more software companies deliver SaaS instead of software CDs, why do I still see so many EULAs? They aren’t quite as bad as hockey pants with a suit, but I’d say they approach wearing hockey pants for skiing. Yes, they’re warm and in the winter sports category but they leave a lot of bare leg and have way too much unnecessary padding.

First let’s talk about the fundamental differences between licensed software and SaaS. One is a right to take a copy of some technology to your home or office, install it on your computer and use it all by yourself (or with the other users in your company). Your data stays with you. The other is a service provided by a vendor which allows you to input and review data that is processed somewhere else. No software is delivered. No copies of technology are made for the users. But your data is processed and stored outside of your computer.

So, one is a license – a right to get a copy and use IP – and the other is a service – that processes and stores information. They really are different pants even if software is involved in both.

The legal community has done a good job of drilling the importance of protecting IP into software developers. Yes, intellectual property rights are what make that wonderful technology valuable. Tie them up tight in your license agreement, use license keys and other mechanisms to control users and audit them to make sure they aren’t proliferating without paying.

But do you know the best way to protect IP? Don’t share it. Don’t let anyone see it or get a copy. In other words, use it to deliver a service: SaaS. No license is required when IP isn’t shared (There go the huge pads on the hockey pants). And granting a license for IP that isn’t delivered could result in the unintended requirement to deliver it (Those pants fall right down around the ankles).

The legal community hasn’t done a good job of advising SaaS users of the risks of losing control of their data and the means to process it themselves. SaaS customers under a EULA don’t get any assurances about how the vendor will protect their data (Those hockey pants are too short for the slopes). They don’t know what kind of backup procedures the provider has or how to get their data back in a meaningful format. Because the contract won’t address data issues at all, it doesn’t even say that the client owns its data (Get me some ski pants!).

In summary, my last pants analogy: if you’re selling SaaS with a EULA, get some new pants.

By Cindy Wolf

Cindy Wolf is a Colorado lawyer with more than 25 years experience representing large and small domestic and multinational companies. Her expertise is in helping companies enter the cloud safely, either as providers or users. She also practices in the areas of corporate law and commercial contracting, with an emphasis on international issues. She can be reached at

5 Tips For A Worry-free Cloud Storage Backup

5 Tips for a Worry-free Cloud Storage backup

With so many cloud storage backup services available on the market today, people can sometimes become complacent with their data and assume that because they are already having a cloud backup, all their data is safe and secured. Well, this is usually the case, but problems can still arise due to negligence. Here are some tips and best practices that will ensure you will get the maximum benefit from your cloud storage backup.

  1. Determine Service Accessibility. What would be the point of having backup if you can’t actually access it? This should be the first thing to consider. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive have desktop applications that allow you to sync data with any computer, making it available even when there is no internet connection. All backup services offer web-based file management but not all of them offer the desktop application yet.

  2. Scalability. Most backup services offer free subscription for a very limited amount of space and if you want more, you would have to pay tiered pricing. The ability to increase storage capacity is not the only thing we mean by scalability. Its pricing should scale as well, meaning it should increase proportionally and not exponentially as storage needs grow.

  3. Security is king. We have debunked that cloud computing is less secure than traditional enterprise computing and established that it is just as secure if not more so. But that is not an excuse to turn your attention from overseeing the security of your backup. Make sure that the service provider highlights their security measures and if you happen to get into an SLA with them, make sure that security the will provide is on par with industry standards or to your own.

  4. Disaster recovery. One of the purposes of online backup is for disaster recovery, you know just in case. But your service provider is not immune to disasters so also make sure that you know exactly how and when you can get your backup in case both you and your provider are hit with disaster. If you have valuable data that needs to be restored in a moment’s notice when something fails, you should be able to work with your provider on how to do this automatically and quickly so you will not have to worry about extended downtime.

  5. Determine data permissions. If you have multiple kinds of users, make sure to have a clear understanding of who is able to access what and who cares for what. This makes things easier to manage when you know exactly who to go to when something needs to be done or needs fixing.

These are not absolute rules but will be essential in managing your data backups. Most of them are “industry common sense”, yes I made that up, meaning that those who are in this line of work do not need to be told these things because you should have already come up of this on your own. But in case you need a reminder, here they are.

By Walter Bailey


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