The Business Insights Hidden in Your Cloud Apps

Organizations that proactively monitor their cloud applications gain critical insights into security, usage, performance, and compliance.

Mike Mason

December 25, 2018

4 Min Read
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The cloud business is booming. Organizations want to take advantage of the cost savings, increased efficiencies, and greater productivity. In the process, they take on a hoard of additional data due to increased user activity. This introduces a whole slew of potential issues related to security and compliance.

That is why many organizations are adopting solutions to help them monitor user interactions with cloud applications and customer data. Specifically, organizations are proactively monitoring cloud applications to gain critical insights into security, usage, performance, and compliance, as well as foster a culture of compliance to create trust among themselves, their users, and their customers.

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Four areas to monitor

When organizations monitor what’s happening across their cloud applications, they gain insights that empower them to maximize their investment, saving time and money. What’s more, they can use these insights to secure and optimize their cloud environments. By examining the top areas monitored in security, usage/adoption, performance, and compliance, it is possible to learn best practices for your own efforts.

Stay compliant: New laws and regulatory bodies have evolved as organizations have embraced the cloud. Along with the regulations from FINRA, HIPAA, PCI, FFIEC and FCA, new regulations include the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the New York State Cybersecurity Rule.

In this climate of heightened awareness about the need for data privacy, the regulations will keep coming. So, while organizations have found new and more efficient ways to meet compliance within the cloud, a misconception persists. You may think your application provider is solely responsible for the security and compliance of your data storage and handling, but it’s a shared responsibility. By monitoring your cloud-based environment, you can ensure stronger security, avoid regulatory fines and business interruption, and ensure trust among customers.

Stay safe: Migrating to the cloud changes how business gets done, but it creates security challenges as well. This means critical data is available any time, anywhere to all employees with access to those applications. The cybersecurity skills gap increases your organization’s vulnerability to internal threats, underscoring the need for monitoring.

What types of reports are employees running? What – and how much – data are they exporting? Knowing the answers to these questions helps organizations spot inappropriate behavior. For instance, of the 15 percent of workers who changed or lost their jobs in the past year, half took confidential company data – and 52 percent didn’t view the use of such documents as a crime.

Another question to answer is, “Who is logging in? Where are they logging in from?”

Watch for inactive users trying to log in, or login attempts from unusual locations or after regular business hours. Profile and permission changes can also signal malicious behavior. Monitoring new profile creation and escalation of privileges—and who is performing these actions—will help you mitigate data misuse.

Pay attention to performance: How available is the information within your cloud application? Metrics and availability data provide insight into the end user experience. For example, organizations can spend a vast amount of time and resources detecting, investigating, and remediating login failures, which wastes everyone’s time and frustrates users.

Shadow IT is typically the result of users creating workarounds that decrease usage, adoption, and trust in your application. Without insight into the quality of performance of your cloud applications, you won’t know that performance issues exist. However, with advanced insights, you can take a proactive approach to maximizing the productivity of your workforce to enable trust between users and customers.

Check for usage/adoption: Because you have made a business investment in the cloud, you need to know whether employees are using your cloud applications securely and to their best advantage. This is why you need visibility into your cloud applications.

Cloud monitoring reveals high performers or “power users” and use them as a benchmark to help other users enhance their own usage and adoption. For instance, 52 percent of high-performing salespeople indicated they were power users who take full advantage of their company’s CRM technology and other internal systems, compared with only 31 percent of underperforming salespeople.

Another way to use usage metrics is to check time and quality of use to reveal users who need training or perhaps don’t need a license at all. This can save your organization countless resources.

Better business through monitoring

Monitoring cloud activity provides a high level of visibility into what’s going on behind the scenes. Monitoring usually starts at the greatest point of pain—security—watching for signs of specific users, for instance, exporting abnormally large reports or logins occurring from restricted IP addresses. But along with security monitoring capability comes the ability to gain additional insight into usage and adoption, performance, and compliance.

The four best practices above are a starting point for your own cloud monitoring program. The increased clarity that comes from monitoring will reveal how your employees are using cloud applications. You can use this data to make adjustments to how users access certain applications or whether they need to at all, as well as to create a more secure environment.   


About the Author(s)

Mike Mason

Mike Mason is General Manager, Cloud Security at FairWarning.

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