SaaS management platforms (SMPs) centralize administrative, usage, and security information for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.
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SaaS management platforms (SMPs) allow companies to centrally manage and operate their software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. SMPs aggregate usage, administrative, and security information from these applications onto a single dashboard.
SaaS applications, or software that runs in the cloud as opposed to on hardware or local networks, are central to many organizations’ daily operations. Google Workspace, Slack, and Salesforce are common examples of SaaS applications.
Because SaaS applications are accessed over the Internet, they introduce many security considerations like ensuring only authorized users are able to login. And that the devices they are logging in from are secure. These concerns place additional strain on the IT teams who are responsible for managing application access policies and ensuring compliance across entire organizations.
You can think of an SMP like the dashboard control panel in a car. The panel will signal to the driver when issues arise, like low tire pressure or a passenger not wearing a seatbelt. It would be difficult for drivers to manually check all of these areas and diagnose the issues. Similarly, SMPs enable IT teams to maintain control over SaaS applications without having to manage the settings of each individual application.
According to research and consulting firm Gartner, SMPs have three primary functions:
It is worth noting that not all applications or SMPs allow administrators to make actual changes to the settings they manage. Some solely offer read-only settings.
Companies use SMPs for a variety of reasons, including:
Some of their functionality — like shadow IT discovery and certain access control capabilities — overlaps with SMPs. However, CASBs offer data loss prevention (DLP) and threat protection functionality that extend beyond an SMP’s more administrative role.
That said, SMPs and CASBs can integrate with each other. For example, SMPs can use data from CASBs to create a more accurate picture of what access and usage look like across SaaS applications.
SMPs also have similarities with SaaS security posture management (SSPM) tools. SSPM tools can identify security issues in SaaS applications like misconfigurations, user permission concerns, and compliance risks. Like some SMPs, certain SSPMs can automatically remedy these security issues.
Overall, SSPMs focus more on security while SMPs offer broader administrative and visibility functions.
The following is a non-exhaustive comparison of the three types of platforms:
|Centralizing administrative functions||Yes||No||Yes|
|Shadow IT discovery||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Access control||Yes, to a limited extent||Yes||Yes|
In addition to SaaS and internal applications, Cloudflare Zero Trust services protect users and devices. Cloudflare Zero Trust offers shadow IT discovery and the ability to enforce [Zero Trust policies](https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/security/glossary/what-is-zero-trust/) as well as data protection rules across SaaS applications.
Learn more about how Cloudflare secures SaaS applications.
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