Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Single Access to Multiple Applications in the Cloud

Cloud applications are proliferating. It's likely that somewhere in your company a group or more uses one or more of Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Workday, Taleo, Evernote, Webex, LiveMeeting. It's also likely that the first implementation was some sort of unauthorised trial followed by a departmental purchase and in many cases it was followed by an enterprise wide deployment. That first point of entry probably was in defiance of company policy on IT, bought via a low flying departmental discretionary budget and avoided the clutches of the IT manager.

That's how Cloud has grown in many companies and it was the way it was originally sold by people like me. Pick off specific groups with particular needs who had budgets at their fingertips and then work your way out from there with internal reference selling.

Today, it means that Cloud applications are usually on-boarded without the usual controls and checks by IT, particularly when it comes to security. This has been exacerbated in the recent past by the growth in the phenomenon of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Who would have thought that in these tough times people like you and I would go out and buy own devices like smartphones and tablets and then bring them into work and have them put on the network? And these devices aren't cheap, particularly as most companies issue perfectly capable products like Blackberries and laptops for us all to work with.

But times have changed and work and leisure are beginning to merge thanks to the new wave of smart devices that can combine the two worlds as one. But this also presents massive security issues for the corporation as many of us start to use handy applications like Dropbox to quickly share files we are working on. What happens if the device gets lost or stolen? The data can be accessed all too easily as most iPads or similar are protected by a PIN at best and with nothing as robust as a standard VPN.

And there is the general issue of 'password-fatigue'. Hands up how many of us use the simplest of passwords like a common word, your spouses' name or a simple thing like 'qwerty' or '123456'? And how many of us use the same password for all or many of our entry points? Why? Because we simply cannot remember all the multiple points of entry into the various systems we have. I recently bought one of these password memory apps and have recorded 32 applications or websites so far that I have entry points for. I just hope I can remember the password to get into it…..

So as this whole Cloud thing and BYOD takes greater holder on companies the issues of multiple logins, security and control over deployments, data and access rights is going to get worse and worse. And more complex. How is it all going to be controlled?

Well, one solution could via a US company called Okta.com who have looked at the whole issue of multiple logins, access rights and password fatigue in conjunction with the proliferation of applications and services in companies. They go a step further in helping companies to fully understand the ROI in SaaS or Cloud based software. One of the biggest aspects of this is that with perpetual licence software you basically bought one licence for every user regardless of how many people use the software, to what extent and how many simultaneously. 

Okta, by giving a single point of access to all applications in a Cloud Services Network, can also monitor and manage the usage of all software who gets access to what. Crucially, this control can be device agnostic and so all these new exotic devices being brought onto the network can come back under a single point of control by administering the access to the applications and data.

Okta are currently focusing on growing their North American business but could be coming your way soon. Certainly take a look at downloading their whitepaper and you may even be able to take a free trial but it's well worth keeping a watchful eye on this company as the Cloud grows.

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