Expanding physically to new locations, or digitally by introducing new applications for customers or partners, are key challenges for many enterprises. For geographical expansion, they have to determine the right region for growth, identify the best workspace, recruit talent, figure out how to best engage customers and account for the total financial impact of expansion. When it comes to expanding digitally by introducing new ways for customers and partners to interact online, companies have many strategies, technology, and user experience challenges to overcome.
To simplify and aid this expansion, many organisations are tapping into the benefits of the cloud. With the cloud, companies no longer need to worry about the on-premise data centre, and software infrastructure previously needed to support new locations. Cloud applications now enable people to collaborate easily in real time, no matter where they are located. Modern cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are built to provide great web and mobile experiences, making access for users even more productive. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) also alleviate the need for upfront investment in tools required to support IT.
As companies embrace the distributed workforce, applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Box and Slack are just a handful of popular cloud-based services that enable employees to work together in real-time, regardless of their location. Rather than relying on in-person meetings or calls, these cloud-based tools allow more fluid interaction, leading to faster response times and stronger relationships between staff and customers. This not only helps to maintain a company’s culture across regions but also helps organisations provide their external stakeholders, such as partners and customers, with a better user-experience.
But while the benefits of moving to the cloud undoubtedly outweigh the negatives, rolling out cloud apps can also present its challenges.
More apps, more headaches?
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Not only does a successful cloud application deployment require the right people to have access to the apps they need, it also relies on giving those people access from any device. Due to the multiple log-ins required for each service, this can create a massive headache for IT teams.
Onboarding and provisioning employees across an organisation and ensuring they can access trusted cloud applications from devices can be laborious and time-consuming. This requires new accounts to be set up and provisioned for each service, and devices to be configured with policy-based controls to ensure security. When expanding headcount quickly, this can significantly slow down the time taken to get new employees up and to run, often leaving some without access. There is also no guarantee that they are accessing from trusted devices.
And with more accounts come more passwords. People can only remember a finite number of credentials, and will often use the same one across multiple accounts, creating a significant security risk. If hackers can breach one password on a less secure website, they are likely able to gain access to much more – including sensitive work information, or a personal bank account.
It’s also not just employees that organisations need to keep secure. When companies build their apps or websites to engage with customers and partners, they need to ensure that their customers’ and partners’ user data is kept safe as well. The potential damage a security breach can have on brand reputation and the overall business is enormous.
Identity unlocks the benefits of the cloud
Cloud-based identity and device management have become a viable solution in addressing many of these issues.
For your employees, an integrated identity and device management solution provides a consistent and secure way for users to access their cloud-based apps across the devices they use. In this way, employees, no matter where they’re based, can be quickly and easily granted access to the services they need while maintaining the right level of security. IT leaders can easily assign apps to contractors, freelancers, and business partners, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of cloud collaboration while still benefitting from centralised management. This ensures secure access across devices, locations, and applications.
That said, the advantages of identity management aren’t reserved for third-party apps alone. When an identity management service is accessible via APIs, developers and technologists get the ability to deliver seamless digital experiences that are also secure across their partner and customer-facing applications and websites.
To illustrate, Adobe undertook several major cloud initiatives a few years ago. The company also rolled out hundreds of cloud apps including Microsoft Office 365 internally to its tens of thousands of employees, at one point supporting 300 applications and effectively moving critical email, calendaring and SharePoint tools to the cloud. Around the same time, the company also moved all of its Creative Suite applications to the cloud. This enabled users to access, download and install every Adobe Creative Suite application via a Creative Cloud membership – not only changing Adobe’s business cycle but its customer identity needs.
Adobe now uses an identity management solution to ensure both customers and internal users have secure access to the apps they need. Their enterprise customers seamlessly and securely connect to its Adobe Cloud offering using existing corporate credentials. The company also uses identity management to support the third-party cloud apps used by its staff, meaning access can be managed safely and efficiently while providing a seamless experience for the end user.
The ‘cloud paper trail’ has been another benefit for organisations investing in the cloud. By utilising cloud apps, organisations can better visualise who is using what app or website and when. Organisations can now tap into what services are being used most frequently, understand which apps are not being used, detect usage based on location and prevent nefarious logins. On a more granular level, this can help enterprises discontinue particular services to save on business costs.
As businesses expand, physically or digitally, the cloud can enable global collaboration for internal groups and deeper connections with customers and partners. Through cloud identity, all members of a business ecosystem, from employees to the end-user, can enjoy an improved user experience. As the cloud continues to innovate, so will its importance as a foundation for business growth.