Wednesday, 01 February 2017 15:05

In the cloud, you can be anyone you want to be

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Businesses and their mobile workforces — including contractors, suppliers and freelancers — increasingly rely on cloud-based apps and services for productivity. But this rapidly increasing trend is creating massive security — identity — issues.

The expectation is that workers and partners should be able to access information anywhere, anytime, be it via phone, tablet or desktop, and access applications seamlessly.

IT support has had to move beyond simply connecting people to information on-premise and focus heavily on a plethora of Bring Your Own Device, user experience and productivity. Rightly so, IT should act as a line of business enabler, not a hindrance to productivity.

With the huge number of security breaches and the universal finger-pointing at users as the weak link, iTWire asked Graham Pearson, regional vice-president JAPAC at Okta (and previously Oracle’s ANZ Sales Director Security and Identity Management), to pen a few words on the issue and possible ways to stop us mere mortals from being the weakest link. “Yes, to the first request, and impossible to the second,” he replied.

Cloud is the New Normal

OKTA Graham PearsonTechnology is changing to make the workplace more efficient, and cloud-based solutions are the new normal for businesses looking to make agile decisions and provide a superior work environment. The reason cloud-based apps are becoming such a key aspect of a modern business is that they offer a level of efficiency, scalability and ease of deployment that cannot be met by clunky server/client infrastructure.

What’s more, due to changing professional landscapes, the number of contractors working from remote locations is increasing. To stay competitive, businesses need to offer their distributed workforces freedom and flexibility and are adopting new technologies to improve the user experience. Often, this will place a strain on legacy IT departments as they struggle to stay on top of provisioning and deprovisioning access to mission critical apps. The solution is to put an integrated identity system in place that enables businesses to employ multiple services from a range of providers, but at the same time maintains a uniform user experience whether their people are in the office or on the road.

Identity Is the key to offering best-of-breed

Workers want choice and flexibility in defining what business tools they use and how they use them, which is why many organisations are taking a “best-of-breed” approach to IT. With a best-of-breed approach, businesses choose the apps they need to run to do their work, enabling productivity.

Cloud-based tools like Salesforce, Box, Google Apps and Office 365 are changing the way we do business. These best-of-breed applications are efficient because they allow flexibility and ease of use. According to research by Gartner, general-purpose suites have several limitations that an open ecosystem approach is able to easily manage. Hardwired integration of suites tend to be rigid and complex, with implementation being costly and disruptive to the business, as well as lacking a timely turnaround. Contrary to best-in-suite, the appeal of best-of-breed is functionality and flexibility, offering a user experience that is more understanding of the business’s individual needs, creating a more targeted approach with a better functional fit. In addition, they generally are easy to implement, saving businesses time, money and frustration.

The only issue with the best-of-breed approach is that it can be difficult to integrate and secure so many different apps from different vendors. Being able to integrate multiple applications and unify the user experience — or better yet, make it seamless — with identity is a game changer. By removing any barriers to accessing essential work applications, employees can focus more on their core functions. For example, accountants and salespeople who don’t have to struggle with password resets can spend more time looking after accounts or on the phone closing deals.

Security doesn’t have to inhibit productivity

With an increasing dependency on technology, security is an impending issue for businesses and individuals alike. Security in the workplace is paramount, but it shouldn’t be an impediment to productivity. Identity providers need to offer a balance between functionality and security by handling identity unobtrusively to ensure workforces, partners and customers can focus on what they do best. Better yet, identity can bolster the efficiency of IT departments by providing simple, rapid provisioning and deprovisioning — a massive benefit for large organisations with rolling workforces, or in the case of universities, incoming or outgoing student populations.

Flinders University transformed its business by bringing on best-of-breed applications and securing those applications with identity. The organisation moved to the cloud to provide students and staff with a seamless online experience, drastically reducing calls to the IT department and enhancing student services – and they didn’t compromise on security.

As the workplace continues to evolve and cloud-based services increasingly replace more traditional server/client infrastructure, robust, flexible identity management will continue to gain momentum. The efficiency and security benefits speak for themselves.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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