SaaS Sprawl

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What Does SaaS Sprawl Mean?

SaaS sprawl (Software-as-a-Service sprawl) is a phenomenon that occurs when the number of third-party cloud applications being used on a network reaches a point where administrators can no longer manage them effectively.


SaaS sprawl typically occurs when project teams and individual users download and install cloud apps to meet an immediate work need without waiting for their IT department to review and approve the cloud vendor’s software product. The ease of procuring, deploying, and using software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications has made this type of shadow IT easier to deploy than ever before.

(Note also that Individuals can also use Cloud-based SaaS applications directly on the web without installing any software. This can lead to Data Loss Prevention (DLP) issues and place unauthorized business data outside of your normal operating environment or jurisdiction.)

COVID-19 work-from-home mandates inspired many business departments to allow the unsupervised use of cloud apps without stopping to consider how the apps would fit into the organization's workflows. Although the large majority of cloud apps are used in isolation, it’s still important for IT departments to manage the data that moves in and out of them.

Techopedia Explains SaaS Sprawl

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies used spreadsheets to manage their SaaS cloud stacks, but this quickly proved to be both time consuming and inefficient.

In response to changing business needs, software asset management (SAM) vendors quickly made improvements to their cloud integration platforms and rolled out additional management tools to help IT administrators combat SaaS sprawl. Depending upon the targeted market segment, such tools may be referred to as SaaS management platforms or SaaSOp platforms.

Advantages of Using a SaaSOps Platform

The advantages of an effective SaasOps platform include the ability to:

  • Gain visibility into cloud app use across the organization.
  • Help organizations drive business value from data stored in third-party apps.
  • Minimize budget wasted on SaaS apps that have overlapping functions.
  • Recover unused SaaS licenses and protect proprietary data from ex-employees.
  • Support the principle of least privilege (POLP) and Zero Trust across both in-house and cloud apps.
  • Reduce interoperability and configuration issues between cloud and in-house apps.
  • Allow business unit leaders to take ownership of budget while still providing the IT department with visibility into cloud app use.

SaaS Management Platforms

According to the IT research firm Gartner, SaaS management platforms (SMPs) allow IT operations managers to oversee both the day-to-day operations of enterprise-level SaaS like Microsoft Office 365 as well as user-provisioned SaaS apps like Box.

Some of these tasks can also be achieved by monitoring the traffic on your Web Gateway or Cloud Access Security Broker to see who is using what SaaS service, but there are times when hiring a company is preferable. Popular SaaS management platforms include:

Productiv – according to their website, this vendor's SaaS management platform (SMP) allows IT staff to automate SaaS workflows and establish consistent security policies across all apps in a cloud stack.

Snow Software – according to their website, this vendor's products can supply detailed insight into application usage through self-service access request, time-bound provisioning, automated approval and license reharvesting.

Torii – according to their website, this vendor's products can automate discovery, operations and compliance for SaaS applications.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.