Today’s marketplace is cluttered with solutions to an extensive array of security risks, from data loss to malware. However, when building your own security arsenal — especially if you are running lean — it’s essential to take a step back and think holistically about what you actually need, rather than to buy products willy nilly and end up with a pile of single-use tools that don’t integrate well.
Below are four recommendations to help you get what you actually need when it comes to cloud security tools, no matter your budget or team size.
Step One: Determine Your Needs
Before you begin to explore security tools, take time to carefully consider your priorities. For example, a financial firm faces different risks than a retail business or a healthcare provider — and each has different security and compliance needs. We recommend making a list of risks that are most relevant to your industry and to your organization. Factor in security tools you already have and take a look at your available budget. Finally, don’t forget that even the best security platforms can’t operate successfully unless they’re guided by clear objectives, skilled teams, and optimized processes. These must come first.
Step Two: Focus on Integration
Once you’ve analyzed your security needs, it’s time to start evaluating solutions. A common mistake is to overinvest in point solutions. While these may be well-built standalone products, when combined, they can actually add up to less than the sum of their parts.
Why? Not only is a collection of à la carte point solutions likely to cost more than a unified security platform, these solutions will also create more overhead in the long term because of the manpower required to manage disparate data from multiple sources. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated a solution is if it doesn’t communicate or integrate effectively with the other tools you’re deploying.
A patchwork of point solutions often leaves gaps — or overlaps — in coverage, creating systemic bloat and producing added work for your security team. The effort and expense required to maintain and upgrade these systems can be a chronic drain on your resources and operational efficiency. As we’ve written before, one of the few compelling reasons to cobble a security strategy from point solutions is that you simply don’t know how a single platform approach could replace what you’re currently doing. Regardless of your organization’s size or budget, a unified security platform will serve you better than a bunch of point solutions.
Step Three: Don’t Automatically Embrace Open Source
You know the old phrase, “You get what you pay for”? There’s a variation of that in tech circles that applies here: “Open source is only free if your time is worth nothing.” Just as being seduced by a highly rated new point solution can add to both CapEx and OpEx, falling for free tools can also be costly. Open source tools often require extensive adaptation at the outset. Additionally, the resources required to maintain and update these tools can quickly outstrip any money you are “saving” by choosing free stuff in the first place. When considering any solution, it pays to investigate its long-term operational costs and compatibility with other tools.
Too often, companies adopt an open source tool, only to ignore or forget about it as they grow. An unmanaged, out-of-date tool can be more dangerous than no tools at all, giving you the illusion of security while failing to flag new risks and vulnerabilities. We recommend that you take the long view when considering open source tools, researching communities you can leverage to ensure timely updates and making sure the upstream maintainer will accept updates over the lifecycle of the tool. Also, make sure that someone on your team (or multiple someones) is in charge of managing the tool at all times.
Open source tools can end up costing you more over the long run, so we recommend that you carefully consider whether it’s actually worth it. And if you are already dependent on open source solutions, be sure to assign someone to stay informed on features and improvements so you can continually re-evaluate whether the tool is serving your organization well.
Step Four: Choose Tools That Work for Your People
Every security investment should be driven by strategic objectives, as we laid out above in step one. However, don’t forget to consider that an actual human or team of humans must use these tools on a day-to-day basis. You want to pick tools that they can use confidently and that make their jobs easier, not harder.
In many cases, that means adopting the smallest number of tools possible and selecting those that offer the best support for your goals without complicating operations or overburdening your people. High-end tools can be a big waste if no one knows how to use them. And even the most affordable tools (including free and open source) can drain your organization if they require specialists to understand, operate, and manage them.
You can save your organization a lot of headaches by choosing a well-integrated security platform that syncs with your current processes and suits the capabilities of your team.
Ideally, the platform you choose will be usable by everyone, not just the security team, because security should be seen as an organizational responsibility. This is true even if your organization can afford a dedicated security department, but it’s even relevant at smaller, leaner companies.
Final Words . . .
A strong security platform should integrate smoothly with your existing processes and adapt easily to your team’s abilities. It should streamline operations from the outset and scale as your organization grows. And it should check all the boxes on your security checklist without increasing operational stress or saddling you with a new set of expenses. If you keep these requirements in mind as you go to select a security platform, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that the investment pays off in the near term as well as over the long haul, rather than draining your organization.
To read more about how to make good security decisions using lean security principles, a lean budget, and a small team, download our latest eBook: Lean Cloud Security: Your Guide to SecOps Efficiency in the Cloud.