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How SaaS Security differs from Cloud Security.

We often get asked how our product (an SSPM) compares to Cloud Security products such as CSPMs. At its core, this question surrounds the topic of what are the differences between SaaS security and Cloud security. Since they’re protecting two different aspects of “The Cloud”, it might seem that they would be similar. But in actuality, they are quite different and do different things. Let’s get into it:

Working In The Cloud

Before we dive right into the differentiators between SaaS security and Cloud security, let’s cover what “SaaS” and “Clouds” are .

SaaS is software-as-a-service that is nearly always hosted and operated on a cloud platform. When users access a SaaS app, they are connecting to “the cloud” on which that SaaS app runs on.

“SaaS is software-as-a-service that is nearly always hosted and operated on a cloud platform. When users access a SaaS app, they are connecting to “the cloud” on which that SaaS app runs on.”

Those SaaS apps typically run on a Platform-as-a-Service of some kind. In turn, most of those platforms either use their own infrastructure, or simply use an Infrastructure-as-a-Service solution, depending on availability and scale. Most SaaS apps live on some kind of platform, which uses some kind of Infrastructure-as-a-service to host it all.

SaaS security pertains to securing everyday activity and data that lives within the SaaS apps.

Cloud security pertains to securing cloud-based platforms and infrastructures which also happen to host most SaaS apps.

Cloud Pyramid of SaaS PaaS and IaaS as well as examples such as Google Drive, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Hubspot, Monday and Asana for SaaS and then PaaS platforms such as Heroku, Azure, SAP Cloud, Redhat OpenShift, IBM Cloud Foundery and then onto IaaS infrastructure services such as Digital Ocean, Rackspace, Alibaba Cloud, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Linode. With the Wing Security Wingman flying over the Top of the pyramid in which SaaS is secured.
The cloud pyramid is a classic way of explaining the …as-a-Service structure. SaaS rests on a Platform-as-a Service (PaaS), and Platforms rest atop infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)

There are also certain services that overlap between the layers, such as Amazon Web Services. But those are often the exception, not the rule.

Who needs a CSPM?

Companies that offer a cloud-based product, which can also be a SaaS product, would commonly need some sort of Cloud Security solution to prevent any compromises to “secure the backend” of what is essentially hosting their product online.

While the CSPM is responsible for making sure the SaaS app itself, and the environment it lives on is secure, the CSPM will not secure the users of the SaaS app itself, and it certainly won’t secure other SaaS apps the user is using.

Who needs an SSPM?

SaaS security is needed at any company or organization that has many employees that are using many different SaaS apps on a regular basis for important business functions. The focus of SaaS security is in protecting the apps, users, and the sensitive data that are part of normal SaaS use. SaaS security will not secure the cloud on which the SaaS app is being hosted, as that is something an CSPM, and comparable systems are responsible for.

Who Needs Both a CSPM and an SSPM?

Some companies might need both a CSPM, and an SSPM. A classic example would be a company that offers a SaaS app, and that company is also a vibrant user of SaaS apps itself, with dozens, or even hundreds of SaaS apps used in their workflow. 

Such a company would need SSPM to make sure their SaaS security is protecting the SaaS layer that consists of all their SaaS use. At the same time, they’d also require a CSPM to protect the cloud infrastructure that host’s their product. 

Do CSPMs Protect the SaaS Layer?

Part of protecting the SaaS layer includes making sure that the SaaS apps being used meet the required compliances, and most compliances require the SaaS vendor to have a CSPM (or something comparable) in place in order to qualify for that compliance. So CSPMs do have an impact on the security of a SaaS layer, but in a very indirect way. 

“CSPMs do have an impact on the security of a SaaS layer, but in a very indirect way.”

Other than that, CSPMs don’t really help in protecting the SaaS layer. For that, you’ll need an SSPM to provide SaaS Security such as Wing Security.

Cybersecurity for SaaS and Clouds

Every company is different, so every company needs a different stack of cybersecurity solutions to cover all their possible attack surfaces. For companies that sell some kind of product that is hosted on a cloud, they most likely need cloud security such as a CSPM. And any company, no matter what they sell, that uses SaaS applications as part of running their business, needs SaaS security such as an SSPM. There are multiple additional security solutions that would be needed to cover whatever other attack surfaces a company needs to protect, depending on their specific needs.

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