Human Resources and Technology

Cloud apps drift into focus

July 16, 2013
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Cloud apps drift into focus
David Meyer. Photo by Mike Nichols

The clouds are shifting, but not in the sky.

Cloud-based software and the related identity management market are starting to become a future trend for businesses users.

“There’s an endemic shift happening that every company is going to need to figure out,” said David Meyer, vice president of engineering for OneLogin.

Meyer spoke as a featured expert and panelist at the Grand Rapids office of Corporate Technologies for an Information Technology Management Association meeting earlier this year.

Meyer has been around cloud technology for a while before his position at OneLogin, a San Francisco-based provider of single sign on and identity management for cloud-based apps.

He started out in the field in 1997 as a director of engineering with Plumtree Software, before eventually moving on to work out of California in the sustainability department for SAP, a German-based leader in enterprise software applications.

Cloud apps

A cloud app, such as Google Docs, is web-based software that doesn't need to be downloaded.

Cloud app security is commonly theorized to be safer than desktop software, because cloud systems generally have more backup, firewall security and disaster recovery than personal computers.

Cloud app management: "You can afford free"

Companies urgently need to manage their cloud apps, he said, but too many wait for a disaster before making it a compelling focus.

The companies deploying portal systems with access to cloud apps in place are the ones trending in the direction business is going, he said.

Almost every company on the West Coast is using some form of cloud-management software, Meyer said, and although in Grand Rapids talk of implementing such systems might be more speculative, it’s still a technological force finding roots here.

The cost for cloud-management systems is relatively cheap, he said.

“Everybody we’ve talked to, they tell us the cost doing it far exceeds of the cost of not doing it,” Meyer said. “You can afford free; just roll out our free plan. We have customers thriving on our free plan with 100,000 employees.”

Cloud app security: companies "misleading themselves"

The transition into cloud apps, however, should happen securely, he said.

Meyer echoed many of the technology security concerns raised by Scott Montgomery of OST during the Business Journal’s live video chat, adding that if employers offer no management of the new systems, the employees themselves might accidently create more security problems.

Too many passwords, too many logins and too many other barriers to implementing cloud systems could mean individuals choose poor passwords, Meyer said.

When people leave companies, de-provisioning can lead to serious problems.

On the other hand, too much control over cloud app security might actually be the biggest security risk, he said, because if employees want or need to use outside apps to do their jobs, they’ll find ways around the security, cutting holes in the system and leaving it vulnerable.

“There’s always been this phrase that, ‘You have to find the balance between convenience and security,’” Meyer said. “The only way you can provide security these days is through convenience, because if you don’t make it convenient for employees, they’ll find another way to do it on their phones, because technology is everywhere.

“When a company tells me they have no cloud applications, I know they’re either misleading me or misleading themselves," he said. "If the company controls their (employees') desktop and their browsers, so they can’t use one, they’ll pick up their phone and use one."

Millennials and the cloud 

Meyer thinks employers are likely worried cloud app access could lead to problems with productivity, security breaches and public leaks.

There’s some truth to that, he said, but it’s not an excuse to ignore finding a secure cloud system and let employees, particularly those in the Millennial generation, drive a company forward.

“As the Millennial generation enters the workforce, they come in with fairly high-end app experience and access,” he said. “An employer might limit their access to the apps, but Millennials still know they can do their job better and faster with apps.”

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