User Provisioning Best Practices For SaaS Apps

TABLE OF CONTENTS

User provisioning entails the creation of user accounts, management of user accounts, assignment of permissions, modification of accounts or privileges as necessary, disabling of accounts, and the deletion of accounts.

User provisioning grants a user access to various applications and systems, whether they are on-premise, cloud-based, or hybrid.

This article aims to discuss user provisioning best practices for the SaaS ecosystem.

Provisioning and deprovisioning, granting, and revoking access to the company's SaaS resources, are two of an IT admin's most important — and time-consuming — responsibilities.

As a part of the onboarding process, the IT department creates a unique account for each new joiner and gives them access to a number of SaaS tools. In addition, the IT team also updates and audits employee account information in the events of role change, promotion, transfer, and exit. During exit, user deprovisioning becomes even more important as there is a fear of the misuse of unrevoked privileges.

Certain rules must be followed while granting access to users. The concept of user provisioning cannot be restricted to only limiting user access but also to better-controlling user accounts, access restrictions, and keeping an eye on suspicious employee behavior.

For a multitude of reasons, including work efficiency, productivity, security, compliance, and auditing, user provisioning and deprovisioning are critical. As the company grows, the need for automating user provisioning becomes increasingly important, which we will cover in this article.

Keeping track of who has access to what and for what purpose, as well as who needs to be removed from the system, can be challenging when there are a significant number of users and a significant number of SaaS tools. The task of provisioning and de-provisioning is still manual, making it a laborious process. An effective user provisioning strategy can prevent the situation from becoming unmanageable. Thus, the best practices for user provisioning will be discussed in this article.

User Provisioning Best Practices

1. Setup a Centralized IAM

IAM is a set of processes, standards, and technologies that are used to manage the digital identity of a user in a safe and efficient way. It ensures that the right people have the right access to the right technological resources at the right time, without making the user wait for the access.

The use of IAM allows the IT team to create a unique digital identity for each person by giving them the same set of credentials for the enterprise-wide SaaS resources.

User provisioning is an identity and access management (IAM) process that comes under user and account management. 

There are three primary components of IAM.

  • Who has the authority to do what with what resources

  • It guarantees that the right users have access to the right resources at the right time

  • The level of access or rights a user has changed depending on their role

IAM solutions assist in monitoring and enforcing security standards and ensuring that employees' behavior is consistent with their job function. 

Provisioning takes place when information is added or modified in the central database of an organization (e.g., HR system) via recruiting, promotions, role changes, transfers, and exits. 

Apart from making sign-in easier and increasing productivity, IAM systems prohibit users from noting down passwords they have to use for different applications.

The most typical reason for data breaches is compromised user credentials. Multifactor authentication, biometrics, and role-based access are all common IAM features that assist security admins in enforcing password best practices, such as minimum character lengths and periodic password updates.

Centralized IAM  guarantees that users' access rights and privileges are updated automatically. It also ensures that the access is granted only when necessary, thus preventing hackers from exploiting security gaps to get unauthorized access to critical company data.

It also simplifies data and knowledge transfer. Assisting with the prevention of interruptions to ongoing projects and aids in the prevention of data loss.

2. Automate User Provisioning

Automated provisioning eliminates the difficulties and time it takes to manually manage profiles and accounts. It also reduces the risk of security breaches by reducing the impact of human errors by improving operational efficiency. 

Manually creating employee accounts implies that someone in the company knows your password, which is likely to be a very risky thing to do. There is a chance that employees will be given permissions to systems and data that they should not have or that they will still be able to get after they leave your company because of human error. 

Automating User Provisioning and Deprovisioning solve these problems by giving people permission in a safe and private way. Based on their job, the procedure makes sure that an employee is set up for both on-premises and off-premises SAAS applications. After that, these attributes and permissions are stored in a single database, making it easy to change them as an employee's job role changes.

Monitor Your SaaS

With the ever-increasing dependency of organizations on SaaS subscriptions, it becomes critical to manage the SaaS stack in the best possible way. User provisioning can be simplified if you have visibility on every SaaS tool your organization has. This visibility will give you insights into SaaS usage trends across organizations, and with this data, you can better devise role-based and department-wise user provisioning. Monitoring your SaaS is also an effective way to forecast your next SaaS spend and renewals.

SaaS usage: User provisioning best practices must include continuous monitoring of SaaS applications. This monitoring will help you discover all your SaaS applications, the ones you use, and you do not use. With this discovery, you can identify the app use trend across the entire team or department. 

If the app is of no use, then you can terminate its subscription, or you can gather information from users regarding the issues they may be experiencing using such apps, where they may require training. There is also a possibility that only certain features of the apps are being used across the company; in that case, you can, on your next renewal, downgrade your subscription.

Access Control: Unnecessary access is the backdoor of cybersecurity incidents, with privileged users being the number one target. Privileged users or accounts are riskier than standard users or accounts because of their higher capabilities and access.

Privileges grant unrestricted access to data and information with full read/ write/ modify/ execute privileges. They also give the power to make changes across the network, like installing or modifying files and software, changing files and settings, and getting rid of users and data. 

When these privileges are misused, either unintentionally or intentionally, these privileged accounts have the potential to cause significant damage to a system or even an entire organization.

Also, if a threat actor gains access to users having excessive privileges, they will have significantly greater access, and, depending on the account, they may even have the capacity to cause harm.

Insiders or external attackers exploiting or misusing these privileges pose a significant threat. It is ideal for practicing the principle of least privilege (PoLP). PoLPrefers to the idea that only the privileges necessary for a user's work are granted. 

It allows restricted access to only those resources that are essential for the user- on the basis of their location, department, or time of the day.

Additionally, Just-in-Time (JIT) access allows access to SaaS applications for a limited duration of time on an as-needed basis. This helps to reduce the danger of attackers or malicious insiders exploiting all time available privileges. 

It is a good practice not to make employees wait for weeks for access to particular apps. Collaborate with departmental heads so that IT doesn't become a bottleneck in access control. These can be managed locally. IT teams just come when required.

Identify and terminate orphaned apps: Three-quarters of companies with more than 100 employees have "orphaned" SaaS subscriptions. This might be because a billing owner departed, switched teams, or just utilized an email account outside of the organization.

An apparent issue with orphaned subscriptions is that you're paying for software for which your organization has no owner who is responsible for its upkeep. Ideally, subscription purchases should be handled by the IT team.

 However, it is increasingly common for employees to use their employers' credit cards to pay for SaaS subscriptions. You should be able to see how much money is being spent on a certain tool, how it's changed over time, and the value you have derived from your subscriptions.

An orphaned subscription is a clear indicator that your SaaS architecture lacks transparency.

In order to avoid orphaned subscriptions, it's critical to gain visibility into your SaaS ecosystem. Your orphaned subscriptions, as well as usage and expenditures, can be surfaced by a decent SaaS management platform like Zluri. Your data security will be improved, and you'll be able to automate new employees' onboarding, offboarding, and app provisioning.

Deprovising is just as essential: The Deprovisioning action is triggered when an employee departs a company or changes responsibilities within the organization. By eliminating individual accounts from file servers and authentication servers such as Active Directory, organizations can free up SaaS licenses for future use.

By stopping former employees from accessing company resources after they depart, deprovisioning preserves the organization's security and confidentiality. This increases the security of the organization's applications while decreasing administrative costs and time.

3. Keep Track of Temporary Access

Typically, once a user is provisioned with an app, they retain access indefinitely. They may not require permanent access despite having it. Unfortunately, the manual provisioning procedure does not ensure that unused access is withdrawn. Individuals granted temporary access for certain tasks may also be granted access permanently.

Also, temporary users like contractors and vendors should only have access to those systems that are essential for them to perform the task they are assigned for. Guest account access is ideal for such users. Refrain from sharing sensitive data and only share what is required.

Also, temporary access should be preferred for one-time projects, and the access should be revoked once the project is completed. 

4. Use SaaS Management Platform (SMP) for User Provisioning

Using SMP's automation and delegation features, IT teams can provide better service and support more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

An SMP can help you with: 

  • Real-time accurate monitoring and analysis of SaaS inventory and feature usage

  • Help you automate SaaS provisioning and deprovisioning

  • Perform statistical analysis and generate reports

In addition to license and training, the ease with which a user can embrace an SMP's features is a huge benefit. Organizations can acquire a better understanding of the types of licenses they require for their departments, business divisions, and employee positions by tracking certain tasks and behaviors. Identifying which employees and departments need training and what specific features and responsibilities can be better forecasted using an SMP.

Zluri is an API-based SMP that gives you the most accurate insights on your SaaS inventory, management, and usage. It is better than network monitoring, aka packet inspection-based tools, the reason being that Zluri is directly connected to the source of truth.

5. Don't Leave the Shadow Apps.

Our research on SaaS Management shows that 57% of the IT leaders are concerned about shadow IT. 

Shadow IT users circumvent the approval and provisioning processes and use unapproved SaaS apps without the approval of the IT department.

Cloud services, especially SaaS, have become the most significant contributors to shadow IT.

The number of SaaS apps used in organizations has increased in recent years as employees sign up & use new apps without IT (or anyone from the organization) vetting the apps for data security and compliance risks. 

When an employee signs up for a shadow IT application, they store data in an unknown and unauthorized location. This lack of security can lead to compliance violations, data breaches, and fines.

The main purpose for implementing user provisioning is for security and compliance. But in the SaaS world, there are much more shadow apps than those bought by the IT and procurement teams; studies have shown that it is three times, and they can (seriously) jeopardize the security of your organization. So, continuously discovering and managing them is very important.


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