How SaaS knowledge bases offer better security than open source wikis

There has been a continuous debate on which one is a better knowledge base – a SaaS knowledge base or open source wiki.

I have been writing on knowledge management and knowledge base software for sometime now, and I often come across people who either have no idea what is the difference between an open source wiki and a SaaS knowledge base or they are confused which one is better and why. 

Honestly, it all depends on your tailored needs, your resources and what is your budget. Some may find an open source as a better option while others may find SaaS knowledge base to be perfect. 

Anyway, let’s get started!


SaaS knowledge base v/s Open source Wiki

When it comes to the comparison, you can compare both type of tools on many factors but the core difference is as follows:

SaaS knowledge base: It is a cloud repository which is hosted and maintained on third party servers (typically by the service provider). It is a ready to go software and you pay according to the space you take on the servers. The data is on cloud and doesn’t require any IT assistance as all the back end maintenance is done by the service provider. 

Open source wiki: An open source platform is free and the source code is readily available to everyone. Anybody can study and modify the program according to their needs. Open source needs to be downloaded, hosted and maintained locally. 

In a nutshell, if you are going for an open source wiki, you have the authority to modify the program as per your like, however, you would need an entire IT dedicated development team to do this. But the most concerning factor is not this but the security of keeping the data safe from threat, theft and hacks. 

I think this is where SaaS knowledge base has an edge over the open source wiki. Now if you are a fan of open source wiki and the possibilities it offers to modify the program, then I respect you for that. But when you are hosting your own wiki and maintaining it locally you might want to take some notes on how these giant SaaS companies are protecting theirs as well as their client data. 

Security measures in a SaaS knowledge base

Now these security measures are becoming an industry standard and are generally adopted by most of the SaaS companies. However, I am not declaring that every SaaS company is doing the exact same thing to secure their data.

SaaS knowledge base companies generally rely on a multi layer security system which involves numerous kind of protection. 

Why multi layer security?

Well, imagine it with this cliche example:

Suppose you are a speed junkie and love to rev your engine when on road. But when you have your wife and baby onboard, you may not do that, in fact you’ll be extra careful as you are in the driving seat and responsible for their lives too. 

In the same way, the SaaS companies are driving this car and all the customers are the passengers. Customers have decided to take this journey with you because they trust your services. So, it becomes insanely important for you to maintain that trust and keep customer data safe and secure.  

Before we proceed to security layers, let’s see how SaaS companies avoid data loss.

Data backup and reliability 

Data backup is the most important aspect in keeping client data secure. Sure, theft and hacks are a major concern but if you lose your client data without any theft or hack, simply because of a technical error then you may not be able to step into cloud computing ever again. Your reputation will quickly go down the tubes and so will the clients who trusted your services.

Think of it this way, I had a collection of my favorite rock, blues and metal music which was more than 200 GB. My hard drive crashed and I did not have a backup. I was so frustrated when I changed the drive, I took out the old one and threw it off my roof twice and then dumped it into a river (seriously, no exaggerations). 

And this was just my music, imagine the clients whose every inch of hard work and life is stored on your servers? 

You definitely don’t want to screw up with that. Yet the data loss every year is unbelieveable.

If you look at the Breach Level Index of just the first half of 2016, there were 974 data breaches which lead to the loss of 554 million data records. And these are the ones which were publicly disclosed. A lot of the companies won’t even bother to disclose such things and put their organization’s reputation in jeopardy.

So, SaaS knowledge base pay extra attention and do the following things to keep data backed up:

  • Local and daily backup of all the data on servers.
  • Generators, batteries and backup to avoid any data loss due to power failures.
  • Safe location of servers with multiple power feeds and fibre links.
  • Regular maintenance of servers and infrastructure.  

The multi layer data security 

When it comes to hacks and threats, you can never be sure how big the threat is going to be or what kind of attack you would have to defend, which is why SaaS companies rely on a multi layer security mechanism to protect the data from normal phishing attacks to SQL injections. 

Now, let’s talk about the security measures which are taken to avoid data threats, thefts and hacks.

Remember, these measures may not be taken by every SaaS based knowledge base company. If you have any additional information or other methods, please feel free to share in the comments. 

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is an industry standard to secure the data when passing from web server to browser. SaaS knowledge bases are cloud based, which means all the clients using this system would have to use a browser to login and start using it. 

This is where SSL plays an important role. It encrypts the data which passes from the web server of a knowledge base to  the browsers clients are using. This way information is kept secure and undetected. 

To get an SSL Certificate, one has to apply for certification in which various verifications take place including the name of the company, website and so on. After the validation of SSL certificate, the company is given cryptographic keys –  a public and private key. 

The public is not required to be kept secret and is mentioned in the CSR (Certificate Signing Request). The private key is matched with the SSL certificate which finally allows to use SSL on your web servers. 

Users can identify this security by the “lock” icon on the address bar near the “https”.  

DDos Protection 

Dos attacks are fairly common in the world of internet and are considered the deadliest. Denial of Service attacks are when the system is flooded with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload it and make all the resources completely unavailable. 

These attacks are deadly and can completely take control of your data where you cannot do much about it. Cisco released a white paper , which was company’s larger report. But it shows some shocking statistics on Dos attacks: 

  • Frequency of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks has increased more than 2.5 times over the last 3 years.
  • The average size of DDoS attacks is increasing steadily and approaching 1 Gbps, enough to take most organizations completely off line.
  • Peak DDoS attack size (Gbps) is increasing in a linear trajectory, with peak attacks reaching 300, 400, and 500 Gbps respectively, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, at about 10 to 15 percent per year.
  • In 2015 the top motivation behind DDoS attacks was criminals demonstrating attack capabilities, with gaming and criminal extortion attempts in second and third place, respectively.
  • DDoS attacks account for more than 5 percent of all monthly gaming-related traffic and more than 30 percent of gaming traffic while they are occurring.

Globally the number of DDoS attacks grew 25 percent in 2015 and will increase 2.6-fold to 17 million by 2020.

So, to protect data from such DDos attacks, SaaS companies rely on Dos protection which has become a necessity with the increase of such attacks each passing year. 

CloudFlare (online security provider) believes that even though DDos attacks are not a recent phenomenon but the methods to mask the attacks have improved drastically which cannot be addressed by traditional on premise methods.

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Another measure of security taken by SaaS based knowledge base to protect data is WAF. This firewall is essential in protecting data from cross-site scripting and SQL injections. It can come in the form of either an appliance, server plugin or filter. 

Apart from web application firewall, many SaaS knowledge base also rely on enterprise firewalls which have IPSec VPN capabilities. It also incorporates IPS technologies and this Next Generation Firewalls provides:

  • Single point of control at the edge / perimeter for access
  • Application and user awareness for both inbound and outbound traffic
  • IPSec VPN consolidation of all branch communication
  • Physical separation of the DMZ, trust and untrust zones

Final Thoughts

These security methods are just few of the many security strategies SaaS companies use to protect their data. Like I said before, I would love to know more of such security measures, if you or your company are using some different methods, please do share it in the comments. 

The methods to secure the company as well as client data takes a lot of money and maintenance to keep it running seamlessly without any threats, thefts and hacks. This is the reason when I would say that SaaS knowledge base have much better security measures than an open source wiki. Sure you can get all these security features all for yourself but by the looks of it, you would have to spend a LOT of money to get these security features and then maintain them on regular basis. Also, you would need an expert IT team to maintain all of this locally. 

SaaS knowledge base companies cater to several clients, which is why they stay updated on the new security trends, popular hacking strategies and that’s why they are constantly improving their security methods. While, if you choose an open source wiki, you might not be able to stay updated as you are hosting it only for your business and may not get enough exposure to educate yourself on the fickle changes in this field. 

To sum it all up, here are some points why I think SaaS knowledge bases offer better security: 

  • More layers of security measures.
  • Regular server updates and maintenance.
  • Better infrastructure because of catering to large client base.
  • Multiple back ups to avoid data loss.
  • More financial means to handle all of the above. 

When you are starting off with an open source wiki, you may not have enough financial means to have multiple backup servers, several layers of security and regular updates to be as secure as an established SaaS knowledge base organization. Please feel free to share your thoughts below.    

Author Bio:– Bhaumik is a professional content developer with an experience of over 2 years. He is currently associated with ProProfs and contributes on several topics from customer support, project management to knowledge management. In his free time, he is an avid traveler, musician and an overly obsessed Pink Floyd fan!