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Cloud-based security as a service: It's catching on and here's why

When technology manager Lincoln Cannon wants to give his company's employees and business partners controlled access to various internal resources or cloud-based services the company uses, he goes to one cloud-based single sign-on security service to assign access privileges.

"Our users have a portal for single sign-on access," says Cannon, director of sales and marketing technology for medical-device manufacturer Merit Medical Systems, who notes both employees and distributors can gain access to this portal via PC or mobile devices such as the Apple iPad. "You just load up our single sign-on app."

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The cloud security service for single sign-on is provided by Symplified and today about 350 employees and more than 50 distributors for the medical-device manufacturer log on to designated internal resources or external cloud services, such as Google Docs or eLeap training, through the one portal. In use for several months, it's proven reliable and fast to deploy, Cannon says.

Cloud-based security services, as they're known, are catching on as technology managers find them to provide more flexibility than they found when running their own network and security equipment.

NetSpend Corp., the Austin, Texas-based business that provides reloadable payment cards and other financial services, recently migrated from running its own Web proxy to using a service from Actiance (formerly Facetime Communications) to set controls on how its 500 or so employees use social networking sites such as Facebook.

"We deal with confidential information quite a bit," says Denis Brooker, NetSpend's vice president of information security, who notes that it's critical to set controls on how information is shared. The company's policy also prohibits speaking on behalf of NetSpend online unless it's part of a work effort. "And nobody is allowed to play games, like Farmville," Brooker says.

"Actiance gives us very granular controls on what happens on a social-networking site," says Brooker. For instance, not only does the company establish controls for read-only groups, but it also has moderators working with managers in departments to review each posting. If it's approved, it gets posted. Using the Actiance service was a very fast way to deploy, Brooker says.

Troy, Mich.-based auto parts manufacturer Inteva Products, with 8,000 employees, is shifting gears into a cloud-based service to secure and manage smartphone devices. The company is expected to soon start migrating from use of BlackBerries to Android devices for a number of reasons, one being that the company's workflow approval application is easier to see and use on it, says Dennis Hodges, chief information officer at Inteva.

Inteva Products, which already uses cloud-service provider Virtela for services that range from URL filtering to ordering wide-area network circuits for its offices, will now turn to Virtela for security and management controls on both BlackBerries and Androids. The cost per month per user is about $5, says Hodges, which he sees as quite reasonable.

The security service, based on an agent running on the Virtela device, will continuously monitor that password policy is enforced, will provide the ability to remotely wipe or lock the device, and will keep unwanted apps off the smartphones, as well as facilitate configuration management.

And also important for the firm, which does business internationally in 18 countries, the Virtela service will be able to spot when someone falls into the trap of roaming charges. "International roaming is a huge piece of our cellphone costs," says Hodges, adding that the managed service from Virtela could be a way to hold down costs. With monitoring round-the-clock, Virtela will be able to send alerts within 15 minutes of when it detects mobile activities that fall afoul of the established corporate policies.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.


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