Using a Risk Assessment for a SaaS Company

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24-hour support and uninterrupted services are at the core of SaaS product offerings, and a single downtime could be detrimental to the business. Case in point, when Slack went down, the support staff had to deal with numerous complaints from customers. Considering that most organizations rely on Slack for their daily operations, this is understandable.

Sadly, risk is not foreign in the SaaS world, and companies often have to look for ways to mitigate it. In fact, with data breaches having increased by 54% in 2019, there has never been a more demanding time to be conscious of the security posture of your business. By leveraging risk assessment, businesses can be steps ahead of the risks it faces, especially those that threaten to lead to some downtime.

Here is how to use risk assessment to improve the uptime of your SaaS business:

The Power of Risk Assessment

Risk assessment helps to measure and quantify risks. With the right approach, your business can identify the risks that it faces, and the kind of impact these risks can have on your security as well as the probability of the risks occurring. Since resources are generally scarce, it might not always be easy to deal with all the risks that your business faces.

The assessment can show the risks that pose the greatest dangers and the best ways to offset these risks. Often, you might need to use a risk matrix to help you rank the different threats. A risk matrix can be calculated by multiplying the risk likelihood by the impact it would have on your business. Once you deeply understand the risks you face, the next step would be to implement controls for mitigating them.

The Importance of Cybersecurity

With the Equifax data breach recently being in the limelight, it stood as a reminder of how detrimental data breaches can be to the data quality and reputation of a business. Luckily, Equifax managed to handle the PR nightmare, which will not be the same case for all businesses, especially small businesses. When running your SaaS and storing data in cloud solutions, cyber-security ought to be at the back of your mind.

You need to set up technical controls that will improve your security posture. For instance, you should install firewalls on your networks, and implement an airtight software update schedule. This ensures that all corporate systems are ready to face common risks. It might also pay to implement a log monitoring system to identify threats from a mile away.

Since your business will only be as secure as your weakest point, you ought to ensure that employees understand their role in the security of your business. This includes training them on good password management practices, avoiding phishing attacks, addressing common security risks, and data management. Be sure also to back up data in at least two separate locations to reduce the effects of downtime.

Mitigating Operational Risks

The onus is on your operational team to ensure that you can reach your profit margins while reducing the liability that your business faces. Ideally, the team has to work on a way to minimize risks to ensure your services do run smoothly. Ideally, the first way of implementing this would be to use administrative controls like contracts, documenting processes, and internal procedures.

These documents should not only contain how your business functions internally to limit risk, but also pass on your SLAs to your customers, for them to understand the intricacies of how you run your business. They should also be in line with common regulatory requirements, such as the GDPR. With such regulations becoming part of running your business in certain regions in the world, non-compliance isn’t acceptable.

Lastly, you should also implement technical components to ensure that operations standards are upheld. This can include employee scheduling tools, centralized logging, and leveraging metrics and alert-based systems.

The Value of Insurance

What if the risks actually occur? Insurance can be pivotal in limiting your business’ liability. For instance, professional liability insurance can be quite essential in protecting your business. It ensures that you can remain relatively safe if lawsuits arise from failing to achieve your end of a contract. This can arise from something like professional negligence.

Next, you should also look for cyber liability insurance. A cyber-attack can happen to any business, especially with the way hackers are aggressively targeting SaaS businesses. The policy protects businesses from the financial consequences of a cyber-attack. In most cases, the cost of these policies will depend on the risk posture of your business, and the number of times you have faced a threat.

Picking the Right Risk Mitigation Solution

Insurance is not a panacea for all of your risks- just like all the control measures above- and risk assessment can be pivotal in identifying the best solution. Ideally, there are four risk mitigation options; acceptance, avoidance, mitigation, and transfer. For any risk which can be handled by other businesses better than you can, transfer it. This can be done through insurance or outsourcing.

For risks that are too small to make an impact on your business, accept/ignore them. Risks that are too big or too expensive to handle should be avoided. Lastly, if you can handle a risk in-house, implement the necessary control measures.

Optimal uptime is a key selling point for your SaaS business. Anything that poses a threat to it should be dealt with fast. Focus on risk assessment to keep your business safe from common business risks.

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About Author

Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. Learn more at ReciprocityLabs.com.

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