SIEM Tools Explainers:
Why You Need SaaS-based SIEM and 5 Things to Look Out For
What is SaaS SIEM?
SaaS-based security information and event management (SIEM) solutions provide real-time monitoring, security events analysis, and security data logging for compliance, auditing, and tracking purposes, all delivered as a cloud-based managed solution.
SIEM platforms delivered via a software as a service (SaaS) model are becoming more popular. SIEM as a service offers the opportunity to simplify deployment and reduce the time to implement, manage, maintain, and scale SIEM solutions. It also reduces licensing complexity compared to on-premises solutions.
SaaS SIEM solutions aggregate security data into a single pane of glass, providing a comprehensive view of the security state across your tool stack and protected resources. A SaaS SIEM solution can surface user behavior anomalies, using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate threat detection and incident response processes.
Organizations leverage SaaS solutions to identify potential security vulnerabilities and threats before they can disrupt business operations. Security operation centers (SOCs) employ SIEM for daily security and compliance management.
What Are the Benefits of Cloud SIEM?
Maintaining an on-premises SIEM deployment can be very expensive, especially for large organizations. These costs have four key components:
- Hardware requirements, because the SIEM solution must be deployed in the local data center.
- Software licensing costs, which can depend on the number of users, the amount of data stored or processed, or some combination.
- There is a need to collect data from multiple branch offices and remote sites and send it back to the central SIEM source over dedicated WAN links. These WAN links are expensive to set up, and the SIEM system reduces bandwidth available to other services.
- Both hardware and software require an initial upfront investment, and can become outdated over time, requiring additional investments from the organization. As a result, the total cost of ownership of the SIEM system over a number of years can be difficult to predict.
By migrating the SIEM platform to the cloud, organizations can eliminate all of these costs, and replace them with a predictable month-by-month subscription cost.
Cloud-based SIEM provides organizations with several key advantages over on-premises solutions:
- Easier deployment — cloud-based SIEM helps organizations get up and running faster. When a company installs an on-site SIEM solution, it may require a lengthy onboarding process to make the system fully operational. Customize and deploy your technology faster by choosing a cloud-based SIEM solution.
- Support for hybrid environments — SaaS-based SIEM allows organizations to better integrate event data from on-premises infrastructure and cloud-native assets. A combined view of activities and events is particularly important in hybrid cloud deployments.
- Smoother learning curve — SIEM solutions can be complex and difficult solutions that need to be properly configured and maintained by solution experts. Cloud-based SIEM solutions simplify solution implementation and maintenance tasks, reducing the level of expertise required and the number of staff required to manage it.
- Easier updates — SaaS-based SIEMs don’t require operators to handle software updates. They are automatically updated with new features or bug fixes.
- Elastic scalability — many SaaS-based SIEM solutions allow organizations to scale up, adding more data or users, in a flexible manner. This typically involves purchasing additional capacity from the cloud service provider.
How to Choose a SaaS SIEM Solution?
1. Determine Geographical Location and Where Data Is Stored
It is important to know where your data is stored. This affects data security, service availability, ability to meet legal data residency requirements, and how the solution can integrate into existing and future environments. Important questions include:
- Whether the solution is based on a public cloud provider, and which provider
- Will you have control over which geographical region your data will be stored in
- What are the options for transferring data from on-premise systems to the cloud
2. Determine If It Is a True SaaS Solution
Many SIEM solution vendors claim that their solutions are SaaS, but they may actually be hosted versions of the same on-premises software. For example, vendors could manually install instances of their software in their own data centers or a public cloud, manage them as standalone instances, and deliver them to users over a network.
While this hosted model can still be beneficial, it limits the scalability of the solution to the maximum scale enabled by a single instance. Pricing will also be similar to the on-premises model. The important thing is to clarify if the solution you are purchasing is hosted or a true elastic SaaS service.
3. Identify How Data Is Collected and Transported to the SIEM
SIEM solutions collect data from the customer’s environment through a variety of technical methods and send it to the cloud environment for log collection, management, analysis, and retrieval.
The monitored assets, which might include firewalls, endpoint protection platforms (EPP), routers, switches, and on-premises servers, need to collect, package, compress, and secure log events and other data for processing in the provider environment. This can either be managed by deploying a central log aggregation component in the on-premise environment, deploying agents that collect logs from specific devices, or some combination.
4. Understand How the SIEM Interacts with Other Offerings from the Vendor
Some SIEM vendors take a platform approach, providing SIEM together with other solutions like endpoint detection and response (EDR), file integrity monitoring (FIM), data loss prevention (DLP), and vulnerability assessment. These additional technologies might be deployed in the customer environment or in the cloud. They could be deployed as separate components or as an add-on module to the core SIEM platform. Important questions include:
- Are there additional security components offered by the vendor, are they included in the solution, and what is their cost?
- How does the SIEM support and integrate with these solutions?
- Does the SIEM or any of its functionality depend on these additional solutions?
5. Understand High Availability Guarantees
SaaS-based SIEMs are delivered using the Internet (although in some cases direct network connections might be available). It is important to understand how the SIEM vendor addresses availability issues (such as failure of SIEM servers or the cloud data center), or interruption of connectivity (which will interrupt data flows to and from the SIEM). Important questions include:
- What is the service level agreement (SLA) the vendor commits to?
- What is the procedure for communicating a planned or unplanned outage?
- What is the vendor’s contingency plan in the event of a large-scale outage?
- What are your options for caching log data locally before forwarding them to the SIEM in case of an outage?
- What is your in-house contingency plan for detecting and responding to security incidents if the SaaS-based SIEM is not available?
Learn more in our detailed guide to SIEM solutions
Cloud SIEM with Exabeam
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