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Addressing Public Sector Cloud Challenges: Cybersecurity and SaaS Vendors

Recently, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying the four biggest challenges that Federal agencies must overcome to fully realize the benefits of transitioning to cloud services: procuring cloud services; maintaining a skilled workforce; tracking costs and savings; and ensuring cybersecurity.  

The last one likely comes as no surprise – small budgets, limited expertise, and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats make this a particularly difficult challenge to tackle. The White House offers a solution, however, in the newly published National Cyber Security Strategy: shifting cybersecurity responsibility to software providers, organizations most capable and best-positioned to reduce cloud risk.  

Under this new strategy, it’s more important than ever that public sector organizations partner with trusted and reliable SaaS vendors who can ensure the security of their data. Let’s discuss four security qualities public sector organizations should look for in a SaaS vendor.  

1. FedRAMP authorization 

FedRAMP, or the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, aims to streamline the process of ensuring a cloud solution is robust, resilient, and safe enough for sensitive government data. 

FedRAMP authorization is required for all cloud services used by Federal agencies; despite this, the GAO report found that many agencies continue to use cloud services that are not FedRAMP authorized. To ensure your vendor upholds high-security standards, you must follow federal mandates and choose vendors who meet this qualification.  

If you are not mandated to partner with FedRAMP-authorized vendors, choosing a FedRAMP-authorized vendor is still a cybersecurity best practice. Approval involves a stringent technical review by the FedRAMP Program Management Office and an assessment by an accredited independent third-party organization.

As a company that underwent the authorization process several times, AvePoint has experienced first-hand how rigorous the FedRAMP assessments are, and the comprehensive technical review should give you confidence the provider can protect your data.  

Deploying a Zero Trust security framework? Discover how to evolve your security model to meet modern challenges.  

The rigor of the assessment is also why we are proud to have recently added three new solutions to our FedRAMP (moderate) authorization, bringing our total FedRAMP (moderate) authorized solutions to 19.

New additions include Cloud Backup for Azure, which provides granular recovery and restores of Azure Active Directory, Virtual Machines and Blobs/ File Storage, ReCenter, which helps customers find and restore lost data in Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, and Confide, a highly secure virtual data room hosted within Microsoft 365. We do not take our role in data security lightly and believe that the peace of mind credentials like FedRAMP offer customers are invaluable. 

2. Hands-off data storage  

Because public sector organizations work with some of the nation’s most critical information, from scientific research and healthcare data to civilian information and classified defense assets, it’s crucial that access to this data is controlled. With so many other data security concerns already on your mind, the one threat you shouldn’t be worried about is your SaaS vendor.  

That’s why a helpful question to ask your SaaS vendor to determine its dedication to security is what level of access they have to your data. If your vendor is storing, backing up, or recovering data for you, they don’t necessarily need access to your content to meet their SLAs. Customers, not vendors, should dictate who has access to data. 

For example, at AvePoint, we take strong measures to protect customer data from inappropriate access or use by unauthorized persons, either external or internal. AvePoint leverages Azure Key Vault to provide unique encryption keys for each tenant that is owned by each customer to prevent unauthorized access. Customers can also bring their own encryption key or storage for extra security.  

Learn the importance of data protection in our free eBook: More than Security: Public Sector Cloud-to-Cloud Data Protection for Microsoft 365. 

3. Safeguards against cyberattacks 

Cyberattacks are occurring at an all-time high, and public sector organizations are favorite targets of these malicious actors, with ransomware attacks on US government organizations costing over $70 billion from 2018 to October 2022.  

Should you fall victim to an attack, you must have safeguards in place to minimize the impact. In these scenarios, having a backup copy of data can enable agencies to quickly restore the compromised data and resume operations. Even better? A SaaS vendor who can offer a backup solution that not only restores but prevents a data incident, detecting the ransomware before it takes hold. 

For example, AvePoint’s backup and recovery solution, Cloud Backup, offers proactive ransomware detection. After the solution detects unusual activity, you receive detailed reports to shorten the investigation and flag the areas of question. If necessary, you can restore all or specific data. Throughout, Cloud Backup has easy-to-follow guides that help suggest the best time range for restores, ensuring a faster and more precise recovery of backup data.  

Cloud Backup for Salesforce 320

4. Advanced protection measures   

The above capabilities are great to get started – but if that is all a provider can offer, there will still be gaps in your security strategy. From malicious insiders to accidental oversharing, there are so many risks that threaten your digital security, and without the proper controls in place, you will constantly scramble to plug holes in your defenses.  

Ready to bolster your defenses against cyberattacks? Download the Ransomware Readiness Checklist  

For example, the top initial access vector in 2023 is phishing, a cyberattack method that prods users to reveal sensitive information, clicking on links to malicious websites, or opening attachments that contain malware. In these scenarios, it won’t matter how secure your SaaS vendor is as it’s your users inadvertently letting the threats in (which is why agencies are required to achieve specific Zero Trust security goals by end of FY24). 

what is zero trust

These scenarios can be avoided if you establish clear guidelines and rules for your users to follow and updated governance policies to protect your workspaces. These measures can be implemented manually, but it takes time, effort, and expertise, potentially overburdening your IT team. However, the right SaaS provider can help you eliminate the hassles (and risks) of a DIY approach by offering solutions that automate governance and security monitoring.  

AvePoint’s FedRAMP (moderate) authorized solutions guide users to security best practices without extensive IT overhead. Cloud Governance helps you build a sustainable, secure governance framework, simplifying your security processes, while Insights offers visibility into what is happening across your tenant, helping you identify issues before they become a problem.


Leveraging solutions like these, you can take your security to the next level, building proactive security processes that prevent human errors and protect your digital workplace from ever-evolving threats.   

Find the Best Partner for Federal Data Protection

When you are leveraging the SaaS solutions of a vendor, you are inheriting their level of commitment to organizational security. Before partnering with any provider for cloud services or solutions, it’s essential you assess their security capabilities and ensure they meet Federal standards for data protection.  


Beyond that, the right SaaS vendor for you will improve efficiency and security while being cost-effective. After all, while demand for a more robust security model is growing, a more robust budget isn’t necessarily following. To balance your need for increased protection with other priorities, you need to find a partner that delivers more.  

Facing roadblocks to your “Cloud Smart” approach? Watch our free webinar, Modernizing Gov IT and Securing Collaboration in M365, to hear how other government agencies have solved their collaboration challenges.

Kayla Haskins
Kayla Haskins
Kayla Haskins is a Content Marketing Manager at AvePoint, writing about all things cloud collaboration – including Power Platform, Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and Salesforce. An advocate of operational governance and process automation, Kayla creates content that helps businesses manage technology to drive efficiencies in the modern workplace and make work/life balance a reality.

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