Gavin Garbutt, President and Co-Founder Augment. Former CEO and co-founder of N-able.
When it comes to cloud applications for the modern enterprise, adding them is easy. Maintaining control over them is another matter entirely.
As companies migrate to cloud computing, the applications and services deployed in that space are quickly becoming virtual but invaluable assets. However, for many organizations, the willingness to adopt cloud IT may have grown ahead of the ability to manage it.
The significant increase in cloud adoption requires skilled technicians and advanced tools to ensure everything runs smoothly. Even then, managing multiple cloud applications on different platforms can quickly become a head-scratching operation.
IT is prone to risk when it is mismanaged.
Outsourcing IT management to the cloud may seem like a risk, but in reality, it is no more risky than all the other types of IT outsourcing that are so prevalent today. The modern organization is better off trusting specialized expertise and proactively addressing challenges such as unauthorized “shadow IT” that can arise when users add cloud applications that want to solve problems immediately.
With variables such as application proliferation, unauthorized “shadow IT”, widespread use of multiple cloud providers, and data sharing between public cloud and on-premises applications, effective monitoring of cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications is a growing challenge that will probably only grow in complexity.
Moreover, responsibility for the governance, management, and security of cloud applications and infrastructure can be difficult to determine because some elements are managed by the vendor and some by the end user. This makes monitoring the big picture even more challenging.
In this context, few organizations get the in-depth IT oversight they want and instead have to worry about new management tools for the cloud versus what they use for on-premises workloads.
All in all, it became clear that if IT asset management (ITAM) includes the optimization of both hardware and software assets, this vital monitoring practice must also have a separate arm to encompass cloud and SaaS application management.
Indeed, since the widespread adoption of cloud assets theoretically makes it possible to never buy a server or own software licenses again, cloud applications themselves are arguably among the most critical assets in the modern IT environment.
Effective cloud IT asset management can change that.
For starters, the vast majority of internal IT groups will have access to the Microsoft 365 administrative portal and all critical corporate software assets. They will also have the ability to deploy tracking software across corporate devices through policies.
Monitoring, you see, is an important first step.
Organizations and their technology consultants need advanced tools that can, for example, quickly identify every SaaS application in use, regardless of where users work, what device they use, or how they run the applications. A diagnostic tool can be useful for assessing applications and classifying their security risk and how they contribute to an organization’s productivity. In this way, you remove bad applications and strengthen the good ones.
From there, the day-to-day management of cloud applications can become much more focused and meaningful. With the right engagement tools, IT teams can quickly realize big gains to simplify provisioning, accelerate on- and offboarding, and improve security.
Of course, superior management is of little use if cloud IT assets remain open to the growing incidence of cybercrime that mainly targets SaaS applications and the valuable data they contain.
Since multi-factor authentication (MFA) is now a must-have anti-hacker measure, an organization’s cloud resource management strategy should include robust security features such as MFA configuration and alerting to secure and monitor user access across the cloud environment.
The most advanced tools also include the ability to create compelling cloud asset threat reports that can assess and flag actual threats that are happening in real-time. Overall, monitoring capabilities must enable an improved security posture, identify blind spots, and reduce the risk of future threats in key areas of vulnerability such as MFA and policy enrollment.
A difficult task, but the future demands it.
The best approach is to avoid biting off more than you can chew and implement a phased implementation. With something like MFA, for example, users may struggle to log in at first and will often log support tickets. That’s why a phased rollout can be much less disruptive compared to transitioning every user at once.
Cloud applications are the future, but the future should not be rushed.
Any organization that aims to match the pace of modern innovation must get serious about controlling, monitoring and integrating IT applications and data in the cloud. A more refined, measured and transparent approach to cloud asset management will enable the entire organization to become more innovative and deliver value more efficiently.