Self-Hosted Software: Best Practices for Secure and Reliable Deployment

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Diagram showing self-hosted software: best practices

Many organizations power business operations with self-hosted software. Self-hosted or on-premise software runs on a server owned by you or your organization, whereas a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider manages deployed software using cloud services.

The responsibility to install and maintain self-hosted software lies with the user. For instance, the WordPress content management system requires you or your business to maintain the site's infrastructure and software dependencies, including software libraries and databases. Many open-source software projects offer self-hosted versions you can install on your servers that are open to modification, allowing for greater control and customization. 

The key takeaways to know about self hosted software:

  • Self-hosted software, also known as on-premise software, is deployed on servers owned by the user or organization, offering greater control and customization compared to cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.
  • Assessing software needs and evaluating potential providers are crucial steps when deploying self-hosted software, ensuring that the chosen solution aligns with organizational requirements and offers robust security measures.
  • Securing the software supply chain and bolstering infrastructure security are essential to protect against vulnerabilities and maintain data integrity.
  • Maximizing firewall security capabilities and employing a dedicated server help fortify the software's defense mechanisms.
  • Utilizing a DevOps approach enables better application security, collaboration, and automation throughout the software development lifecycle.

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What is Self Hosted Software?

To comprehend the concept of self-hosted software, it is essential to grasp the fundamental principles of software deployment and hosting. Traditionally, organizations have relied on cloud-based solutions or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings for their data engineering and analytics needs. However, self-hosted software provides an alternative approach by allowing businesses to maintain and manage their software applications on their own infrastructure.

Self-hosted software refers to applications that are deployed and run on an organization's own servers or data centers, rather than relying on external providers. This enables businesses to retain complete control over their software stack, data, and security protocols. By taking ownership of the entire infrastructure, organizations can customize the software to suit their unique requirements, scale resources based on demand, and ensure compliance with data governance policies.

8 Best Practices When Securing and Deploying Self-Hosted Software

If you're looking forward to deploying a self-hosted solution, follow these self-hosted software deployment best practices.

1. Assess Your Software Needs 

Getting a clear picture of your requirements and use cases helps you zero in on a suitable self-hosted app for your organization. You can start by analyzing your business objectives and considering the employees who would be using the software.

Ask yourself:

  • How many people will be using the software?
  • What's their technical proficiency?
  • How much pressure (or workload) will the software put on your underlying computing resources?
  • What devices will access the software?

Another thing to keep in mind is how the software functions. Get familiar with the software’s requirements, including its collaboration tools and its data management and reporting capabilities. When you know what you need, it's easier to choose the right software and deployment approach.

2. Evaluate Potential Providers

Consider the capabilities of the software providers, because they've built the software infrastructure. What kind of maintenance is required? What type of security is built-in? Competent software providers also offer APIs that streamline your workflows.

Security is an important consideration, too, as is the development environment. Are security elements built into the program? Are data encryption, intrusion detection, and other cybersecurity options available?

Don't be afraid to ask questions about the provider’s capabilities and services. A good software provider will present any certifications they've earned, especially for compliance measures, such as HIPAA, SOC2, and PCI-DSS. Ask about their policies on disaster recovery and data protection.

Finally, review the provider's service level agreements (SLAs) and ensure they're aligned with your performance and support requirements. Ask for clarity if it's not spelled out: What’s included with the service? What metrics do they use to evaluate their deliverables? And what incentives or penalties exist if they don't meet the agreement?

3. Secure the Software Supply Chain

The software supply chain is the entire software development lifecycle: creation, testing, and deployment. Every aspect of the supply chain should ensure your self-hosted software is free from any vulnerabilities.

Start by securing the codebase or software repository that stores the software's source code. You should have access control that can restrict access to only authorized users or the ability to set up two-factor authentication and prevent unauthorized access attempts.

Regular vulnerability assessments or code reviews look for potential security vulnerabilities in the software. Conduct these reviews using automated tools that look for common vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting or SQL injection. For more complex security issues, expert security and development professionals should conduct manual penetration testing.

4. Bolster Your Infrastructure Security

A robust infrastructure protects your organization from security risks, data loss, and significant downtime. Network security, such as firewalls and intrusion detection, is standard. Kubernetes, Docker containers, or other virtual methods are vital protection for the software runtime environment. For additional security, depending on the environment and userbase, consider secure remote access (think SSH) and network traffic encryption (like HTTPS and SSL) protocols.

5. Maximize Your Firewall's Security Capabilities

Your firewall is your built-in security system, and it can be software- or hardware-based. It’s responsible for monitoring all incoming and outgoing network traffic and preventing unauthorized access to your host server. If your software is accessible online, not having a firewall is not an option. 

Setting up your firewall before deploying self-hosted software requires rules that only allow essential traffic to pass through. For example, the firewall rules might authorize incoming traffic on the default HTTP and HTTPS ports (ports 80 and 443, respectively) but prevent all other incoming traffic. Outgoing traffic restrictions can prevent the software application from communicating with unapproved servers or services.

6. Employ a Dedicated Server 

Self-hosted deployment best practices include using a dedicated server. A dedicated server, as a single-tenant infrastructure, allocates all resources, storage capacity, and processing power to just one person, department, or organization. This dedicated resource allocation ensures the program can function as intended, without interference from any other applications running on the same machine.

If you decide to use a dedicated server, review the software's system requirements first. The server needs to meet or exceed the software's requirements for RAM, processor speed, and storage capacity, with sufficient bandwidth to manage your expected traffic volume.

7. Use a DevOps Approach

A DevOps approach offers several benefits when deploying self-hosted software, such as:

  • Improved application security and reliability
  • Reduced risk of downtime and data loss
  • Improved automation of tasks and collaboration between teams in the software development lifecycle

  • Improved configuration management
  • Automation of scripts that define and manage infrastructure, such as databases, servers, and other components
  • The use of monitoring tools that track performance and security

The data generated from a DevOps approach provides feedback to your development team they can use to continuously improve the program.

8. Provision Your Software Properly

Provisioning self-hosted software involves setting up and configuring the infrastructure necessary to run the software. The process can be complex and time-consuming, but provisioning the right way the first time ensures the software runs as intended. 

Select the Hardware

Ensure your hardware meets the program's capacity and performance needs, then install the operating system and other software dependencies to run the software. The operating system and any other software should be properly configured for security and performance.

Configure the Network Settings

Set up the required network connections at this stage and configure the firewall and any other security settings. You may need to set up load balancers or other networking equipment to make the software available and responsive.

Customize the Software Settings 

Follow the installation instructions given by the software vendor. Also, configure any other important settings or options. The security teams have an essential role to play at this stage so the software is appropriately configured for cybersecurity. Change any default passwords to prevent security breaches.

Test the Software

Now, test the self-hosted software endpoints to make sure the program works. Run tests to verify the software performs as expected and is secure. Conduct user acceptance testing and regression testing at this step.

Regularly monitor how the software functions over time to identify any issues and apply proactive fixes when necessary.

Manage Your API Development with DreamFactory's Self-Hosted Software

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Frequently Asked Questions - Self-Hosted Software: Best Practices

What is self-hosted software?

Self-hosted software refers to applications that are deployed and run on an organization's own servers or data centers, providing control and customization compared to cloud-based solutions.

How is self-hosted software different from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)?

Unlike SaaS, where the software is managed by a third-party provider, self-hosted software requires the user or organization to install and maintain the software on their own infrastructure.

What are the benefits of self-hosted software?

Self-hosted software allows organizations to retain complete control over their software stack, data, and security protocols. It offers greater customization options and the ability to scale resources based on demand, ensuring compliance with data governance policies.

How can I ensure the security of self-hosted software?

Secure the software supply chain by implementing access controls, conducting regular vulnerability assessments, and employing manual penetration testing. Bolster infrastructure security with firewalls, network encryption protocols, and dedicated servers. Regularly monitor the software and apply proactive fixes when necessary.

What is the role of a DevOps approach in self-hosted software deployment?

Adopting a DevOps approach improves application security, collaboration, and automation throughout the software development lifecycle. It enables better configuration management, infrastructure scripting, and monitoring of performance and security.

How do I properly provision self-hosted software?

Provisioning involves selecting hardware that meets software requirements, configuring network settings, and customizing software options. Thorough testing ensures the software functions as intended, and ongoing monitoring helps identify and address any issues.

How can DreamFactory's self-hosted software benefit my organization?

DreamFactory's self-hosted software empowers businesses to build and manage powerful APIs, streamline development processes, and customize integration with existing infrastructure and databases. It offers control, flexibility, and enhanced functionality for API management.

Can I migrate from a SaaS solution to self-hosted software?

Yes, migration is possible. However, it requires careful planning and consideration of factors such as data migration, infrastructure requirements, and ensuring a smooth transition without disrupting business operations. Consult with experts to ensure a successful migration process.