In researching and producing our G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers story, we had a chance to speak candidly with Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, about the challenges and opportunities that cloud computing poses to IT implementers.
Balancing security with user satisfaction
Anderson talked about the rapidly changing IT landscape, and the expectation that users have of applications and solutions that work at least as seamlessly as their consumer tech.
"I think the world is just fundamentally changing for [IT professionals] at an incredible pace," Anderson said. "The data's moving out to mobile devices, it's moving out to the cloud, and they're still being asked to protect that data. What that means is the traditional, perimeter-based security model that they've used is no longer effective.
"Second, the level of sophistication of the attacks that are being positioned at them is accelerating; they're more targeted, they're more sophisticated. And third, the user's expectations just continue to go up, and so IT professionals struggle with this notion of, how do I meet the demands and needs and expectations of my users, as they want to work how, when, and where they want, in a world where the data's all moving to the cloud?"
Simplifying IT service delivery
By combining its decades of Office productivity experience with its user and software management expertise, Microsoft has created a cloud-based framework that enables IT to support mobile users and ensure security and control.
"We've delivered a solution that simplifies life for IT, gets rid of a bunch of the complexity of all these different moving parts that were not integrated, with a comprehensive way to think about enterprise mobility," Anderson explained.
With Office 365 providing anytime/anywhere productivity, he added, users have the app environments with which they're already familiar. IT managers can leverage Azure Active Directory to provide identity management and single sign-on, and Intune for provisioning and managing devices regardless of OS. Microsoft puts the horsepower of cloud computing to work in profiling user behavior and restricting access based on user, device location, and other factors.
"By utilizing the capabilities of the cloud, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, we can actually identify user accounts that we believe have been compromised or are being used to attack or steal data. That allows our customers to build out policies that will block access when we see these identities that look suspicious," he explained. "More than 70 percent of the attacks and the data breaches that we all read about come from compromised user identities. We believe that as we brought together productivity, management, identity and security, that comprehensive solution is the best way for organizations to enable their employees while also protecting the data."
Is the cloud safe?
Despite lingering concerns about cloud services being somehow less secure than on-premises solutions, Anderson said, Microsoft Cloud adoption is full-speed ahead.
"A couple of years ago, a lot of customers brought up the fact that we were doing this exclusively through Cloud Services as an objection," he recalled. "I actually don't hear that very often anymore. The world is much more comfortable with Cloud Services and I think the move to Office 365 is making more organizations more and more secure with that."
He pointed to risk-averse industries like healthcare and financial services as examples of cloud's growing acceptance. "When I see those moving to the cloud, I know that we have addressed the concerns around security and reliability," he said.
How to get started
For companies thinking about adopting or expanding a cloud engagement, Anderson said, "My advice is, be deliberate, be specific about the core scenarios you're going to go after to begin with. Is that managed mobile productivity? Is it secure email? Is it identity protection? Be specific and have a specific set of scenarios in mind that you're going to get after, then set goals and milestones: We're going to have this much usage by this date; I'm going to be protecting this many identities by this date.
"Set those aggressive goals that then drive everybody forward. And hold us accountable and hold yourselves accountable to delivering on those objectives and on those dates. Just stay focused and move as quickly as you can and get deployed."