The era of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) has provided both an opportunity and a challenge for companies across industries. The XaaS model, a subscription-based solution that makes cloud-based applications available on demand unlike the traditional license-based platforms of the past, delivers several noteworthy advantages over its predecessors. Between cost reductions and easier access to vital tools, XaaS is here to stay. For many, this also means the death of IT as we know it.
On the other hand, XaaS is accompanied by a new set of difficulties to replace older ones. For one, the sheer number of available applications means companies can find themselves overspending and becoming over-reliant on applications. Additionally, the ease with which they can be installed and add new users can create serious problems when attempting to manage large corporate ecosystems.
In an era where unpatched software and applications are growing increasingly problematic, having a veritable “Wild West” of applications on hand can lead to numerous headaches. For companies without IT departments, or with barebones operations, this means having to manually tackle the issue, or simply ignore it. For those who believe IT has become superfluous, the XaaS era proves them wrong. IT hasn’t become irrelevant, it has merely had to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.
XaaS And The Risky Benefit Paradigm
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The migration of most businesses to the cloud has been a constant for several years as companies seek strategies to streamline operations while reducing overheads. Naturally, costly hardware and software licenses are an easy place to start, and the emergence of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offers a neatly packaged solution. Instead of allocating ample resources for costly licenses, companies can instead install SaaS applications on as many computers as needed and pay month-to-month accordingly.
Perhaps most appealing is the fact that unlike licensed software and on-premise tools that require constant monitoring and complex installs, SaaS is designed to be plug-and-play. For many companies, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises, this degree of flexibility means decision makers can cut costs in areas like hardware, licensing, and even the IT teams that manage software. With software that is so easy to use, the argument goes, there’s no real need to have someone supervise it.
Initially, that line of reasoning holds water. SaaS is indeed significantly easier to manage, install, and adapt when compared to licensed on-premise software. It’s also designed to be more user-friendly and filled with rich security features. Yet, the simplicity of SaaS, when paired with the absence of oversight, can lead to unexpected security issues.
The Changing Role Of IT
It is hard to deny that SaaS is here to stay. A FinancesOnline report noted that in 2018, nearly 51% of all companies interviewed reported that a majority of their applications are SaaS-based. That number is expected to balloon to 73% next year, and to 86% over the next three. For IT professionals, this is an encouraging sign that arrives with some baggage. The lack of monitoring required for SaaS to function means that some issues may slip through the cracks.
One of the biggest problems that emerges from SaaS usage is unpatched or out-of-date software. While many SaaS applications perform automatic updates, some do not. When software is left unpatched, it creates security gaps and open systems to attacks that have already been rendered useless by new patches. Most importantly, unpatched software has a real cost. Equifax’s data breach, itself the product of unpatched vulnerabilities, cost the company an estimated $5 billion in market capitalization.
IT is still vital in this case, but in a wholly different capacity. Applications like Cloud Management Suite, for instance, scan for unpatched software and provide full upgrades automatically. It can also manage app distribution and security. This removes the need for a dedicated IT department. Similarly, issues of over-use of SaaS tools can raise other issues, such as wasted efforts, resources, and generate redundancies. In these cases, there are multiple apps such as Torii, which supply simpler and more efficient high-level management tools for ecosystems that rely on multiple SaaS applications.
Finally, the online nature of SaaS means even applications that are fully patched and up-to-date may face a new kind of security problem. With employees coming and going from companies, and so many applications to manage, companies can easily forget to modify credentials for former employees or temporary contractors. This opens companies to seriously harmful exposure when a disgruntled employee or even an unwitting former worker leaves credentials publicly available. In these cases, tools like Menlo Security and CyberArk can provide a secure ecosystem while ensuring companies can properly manage access to their networks and software infrastructure.
IT Is Different, But No Less Important
In the end, IT was always destined to evolve. As companies’ technology needs shift, the old tasks required of IT—managing on-premise servers and hardware, installing licensed software and managing it—are quickly growing obsolete. However, new models are accompanied by their own problems. Instead of fading away, IT is instead emerging as a more fast-paced, fluid role for tech-focused companies.