Why SaaS Management Will Help You Achieve the ISO 27001 Certification

How a proactive approach to understanding and controlling your software subscriptions can ease your road to ISO 27001 compliance

July 21, 2021


So your company is trying to get ISO 27001 certification

An ISO 27001 certification is a powerful symbol of a company’s integrity when it comes to data security, bolstering brand power and helping instill confidence in potential clients. 

It’s becoming crucial for scaling companies. Plus, the implementation of due diligence processes help make your company more efficient and accountable in the long run - a key step in transforming from a startup into a big player. 

But it’s a long and difficult process. 

It typically takes at least twelve months, and requires huge swathes of documentation and hundreds of hours from team members willing to tackle it. That could take its toll on company culture as you go from carefree startup team to potentially drowning in rules and regulation.

When it comes to compliance, what you don’t know will hurt you, and a company’s data security is only as strong as the weakest link in their information network. So what can you do to make the process of ISO certification smoother, stop resource drain and retain a strong company culture?

SaaS is critical for ISO 27001 Certification

SaaS management - i.e. the management of your software subscriptions - can make the prospect of ISO certification even more onerous. As part of building processes around how you handle data, you need to audit and document all your SaaS assets to ensure they are compliant, have a secure supply chain and aren't putting company or customer data at risk, since these SaaS platforms are where you typically store data nowadays. This can be a considerable challenge if there is lack of clarity around your software subscriptions. 

When SaaS can be bought from anywhere and by anyone, security concerns often fall by the wayside – you might not even know about all the SaaS your teams are using. That makes it very difficult to build robust processes, prove you've got your bases covered, and secure your ISO 27001 certification. 

One of the most important steps towards achieving ISO 27001 certification is the creation of an assets register, which encompasses anything in the company wherein information is being stored, processed and made accessible. This assets register should include your company’s hardware, software, paper copies, office infrastructure - as well as critical software.

In fact, any SaaS which stores or processes customer or company information should be included on this assets register. While this will definitely include software pillars such as CRM, customer support software (i.e. Zendesk) and cloud hosting software (i.e. AWS), there will probably be many others. 

Different SaaS across the wider company will be privy to different types of information, and their vendors will have varying levels of security. Determining which those are, what information they have access to, and providing due diligence documentation are all necessary steps on the way to compliance. 

Without solid SaaS management, there is no way of building a robust and scalable register. Instead, your team will find themselves chasing down individual invoices interviewing team members to find out about every new piece of software to then determine how secure it is, add it to the register and document the due diligence process. This puts you in a constant state of catch-up, causes tension between teams – and still doesn’t give you that much confidence.

‘Shadow IT’ puts your company at risk

And that’s just the software you know about. What about unknown or forgotten software subscriptions? As the SaaS market explodes, so too does the take-up of ‘Shadow IT’ – the software which individuals sign up for and use without the awareness of IT or finance. McAfee estimates that Shadow IT cloud usage could be as high as 10X that of known cloud usage for a company. 

Whether you know about it or not, your data is going onto these systems, and months of painstaking audit work towards compliance will be lost if you can’t provide visibility and audit all critical assets accordingly. Unused software subscriptions, caused when account owners move teams or leave the company, pose a similar threat. SaaS is so easy to try and buy that, often enough, people quickly forget about it, and handover of SaaS is rarely built into employee offboarding. If team leavers are still using a company SaaS subscription, and can still access sensitive company data, that poses yet another problem.

Ultimately, you need a robust system of management for your software subscriptions in order to:

                   a) Determine which vendors are safe

                   b) Map your full network of critical software assets

                   c) Run due diligence on all of it (including risk assessment like GDPR)

Ongoing compliance requires ongoing SaaS management

This is especially true considering that certification is not a one-time event. Companies have to provide thorough checks every six months, and to reapply every three years. This means that ISO 27001 Compliance is a long-term journey, one which informs overall company growth - and without a centralised system and good management processes in place, effective compliance could be elusive. 

That not only makes it harder to get certification, but to maintain it, too. If you don’t implement the proper processes, then ISO 27001 certification will be a massive pain at every renewal. That means loads of admin and stress for the teams trying to maintain compliance – and extra rules and restrictions for the rest of the company. Often, businesses choose to give up their certification rather than go through the pain of maintaining it – but that makes it hard for you to land choosy clients and scale effectively. 

SaaS management saves scaleup company culture

Many companies respond to this SaaS swell by restricting the take-up of new software. The result is that ISO compliance becomes synonymous with a total lack of experimentation with new technologies, and creativity is stifled. 

Good SaaS management is crucial in preventing this reactionary move. By centralising your SaaS and achieving visibility over all the apps your teams are using, building the processes needed for ISO 27001 Compliance becomes much easier. It relieves the burden on team leads to police employees, or for employees to police themselves and each other around cumbersome compliance rules. SaaS management solutions help you build and protect a company culture where team members feel empowered to use software with the right processes – those that are transparent, and make audits easily actionable. 

Cledara gives you full visibility over all your software subscriptions, including used and unused software. Plus, we streamline the evaluation and monitoring of all your SaaS suppliers to ensure they have suitable security measures in place – keeping corporate, client, and user data secure. Getting your SaaS in order gets you one step closer to ISO 27001 certification - and the scalability it unlocks.

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