Cloud Application Security Architecture for SaaS Security

The architecture of cloud application security platforms is important to your purchase decision

If you are looking to secure cloud storage for your company or organization, you’re likely to find a baffling number of options on the market. An important aspect of your purchase decision is how the security platform is built. Consideration of the cloud application’s security architecture is critical not just for the app developer, but for you as the customer! The application must be built for optimum service, performance, and functionality.

Some platforms have sleek designs and friendly user experience. Others can be overly complicated and difficult to find the information you need to identify and remediate risks. With security issues in cloud computing becoming a reality for system administrators of companies of all sizes, the most important aspects of cloud appliaction secuirty are that it is easy to use and works well.

Why Cloud Native Architecture is Important for SaaS

Cloud native” architecture broadly refers to applications that are created and deployed in the cloud, using cloud development techniques like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and multicloud. It means that the application exists in the cloud, rather than in on-premise data centers.

There are many benefits to using Software as a Service (SaaS) products that are built using cloud native architecture, instead of traditional software and/or web-based apps. Here are the top three reasons why cloud native architecture is important for SaaS.

1. Redundancy and Resilience

While being redundant is frowned upon in writing and speaking, it is definitely considered a perk in cybersecurity. Cloud-based  security architecture enjoys benefits in redundancy and resilience. Since the application is hosted in the cloud, it isn’t reliant on a single set of servers or one data center. If there is an outage in one region, hosting will simply shift to another region.

Cloud applications are by no means immune to outages. However, when a cloud application is used, instead of on-prem software, there is the benefit of redundancy built into the hosting architecture that allows it to shift from one region to another; this could cause delays in app performance, but it is much better than a complete outage.

When an outage does occur, it’s being taken care of by a team of architects and engineers that are paid for and managed by the infrastructure provider. In other words, large companies such as Google, Microsoft, or Amazon are able to employ a much larger and more skilled team to work on the issue than most companies. When an outage occurs on your on-prem software, your one to two member IT team must drop everything and put all their resources to getting the servers back up and running. Depending on the cause of the outage, this could take minutes or days.

When you’re thinking in terms of data and app security, which application architecture (and support team) would you prefer?

2. Elasticity & Scalability

Hosting an application in the cloud provides unlimited computing resources, this allows the app to dynamically adjust to workload requests in a way that traditional software can’t. This is referred to as cloud elasticity.

Cloud scalability works similarly, but it refers to an application’s ability to continually increase workload demand using its existing infrastructure, without decreasing performance or requiring extensive new development.

Both of these concepts are critical when you’re considering your options in cloud application security architecture. Choosing a cloud-native security app means it will be built to perform critical security functions, even as its workload demands surge and recede. You don’t want a cloud security platform that breaks right as call demands spike (possibly signaling an attack)!

3. Automated Updates

Cloud applications are always up to date, and never need users to restart their computer or device to complete an update. This is an important differentiator to on-premise software that requires downloads and downtime, and typically roll out updates at a much slower pace.

Many people tend to think about updates in terms of new app features and/or user experience. But updates are more often used to fix bugs and patch security vulnerabilities within the app or software. When software updates are ignored, which happens often because IT and/or employees don’t want to have to stop what they’re doing to restart, it could be opening critical risks in your cybersecurity infrastructure.

This isn’t a concern with cloud applications, which will update as soon as the developer rolls them out across all tenants. So, when you choose a cloud security platform that is built in the cloud, you’re enjoying the benefit of always having the most up-to-date application available—without any downloads or downtime on your part.

[LEARN MORE] What Is Cloud Application Security? >>

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Cloud Application Security Architecture Infrastructure

Most cloud native applications are built using an Infrastructure as a Service vendor. The most common IaaS vendors are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

When you’re working with a cloud SaaS application, you don’t have to worry about maintaining the infrastructure of the application—that’s the responsibility of the vendor. But, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of where the application is hosted and built, so you know what you can expect in terms of service level metrics.

Infrastructure considerations are particularly important when you’re comparing cloud application security platforms. Infrastructure is a critical piece of the platform’s architecture. You’ll want to make sure it’s being built and hosted on a reliable infrastructure. Amazon, Azure, and Google Cloud all have their different strengths and weaknesses, so infrastructure shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. But, it should definitely be part of the conversation, and it should leverage one of the top three tried and true providers to ensure optimal application uptime and performance.

Cloud App Security Common Components & Services

On a very basic level, component-based SaaS architecture means that the developer has developed different “microservices” and “components” that work together, but are essentially independent of each other.

The benefit of this type of containerized architecture, if you will, is that it allows for greater flexibility and scalability than an app that has been essentially built as a monolith. It makes it much easier for developers to remove and/or replace different containers with better optimized components and services, at a much faster rate. It also means that, if there is more workload demand for a certain service, the app can direct more resources to it, rather than slowing down the application as a whole.

When it comes to the architecture of cloud application security platforms, there are many ways that developers can manage component-based development. It may break down something like this:

Common Components

Common Services

  • Malware scanning
  • Risk scanning
  • Anti-phishing
  • Map visualization
  • OAuth apps

APIs To Connect Them All

Application Programming Interface (API) basically allows applications to communicate with each other. These days, application developers most often use RESTful API standards to create connections between their application and another. APIs are popular because they allow two applications to work together almost as though they were one.

Today’s cloud application security architecture is built using one of two very different types of security connections. They will either use APIs to build deep, one-to-one connections between the cloud application and the security platform so they work almost as though they were the same application. Or it’ll use a proxy, agent, extension, or some kind of gateway to stop and scan traffic outside of the cloud application it is attempting to secure.

There are pros and cons to both of these approaches. One of the biggest benefits to API-based cloud application security architecture is that it is able to monitor and secure activity within the cloud application, not just attempts outside of the app (as in the case of a proxy-based platform). It becomes one of your greatest SaaS security layers within your zero trust security strategy.

When it comes to securing the sensitive data stored, accessed, and shared in your company’s cloud applications, you need to make informed decisions. This is why the architecture of the cloud application security platforms you are considering is so important to your purchase decision. Take the time to understand what your needs are, and how the capabilities of cloud security apps align with those needs!

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