Everyone uses the cloud these days—it reduces long-term financial commitments, updates software automatically, and provides flexibility. But what happens when businesses run into multi-cloud? Several things… and not all of them are good. Multi-cloud can turn streamlined productivity into an IT nightmare, making user management extremely difficult in several ways. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.
But before I discuss its potential problems and give you solutions, let me first explain exactly what multi-cloud is.
What is multi-cloud?
Multi-cloud is commonly thought of in the IT industry as using multiple providers to give you the server technologies needed across your business. However, it can also be used as a more generic term for using multiple service providers within your cloud. I use the term “multi-SaaS” as well, when I want to refer more specifically to the applications I’m using, rather than the server suppliers or service providers. In any case, “multi-cloud” and “multi-SaaS” refer to multiple cloud solutions being used within a single network.
Why does multi-cloud make user management difficult?
When using multiple cloud servers, services, or applications within a business, several problems can arise, making it difficult to regulate cloud usage.
1. You lose central control of resources.
As soon as you start buying services from different providers, you lose central control of your resources. One thing that becomes difficult to manage is who’s using a service. In any business, there are always changes. Employees move jobs and change roles within an organization; new employees start, and others leave. Managing IT around all of that is a challenge in itself, but when you have multiple cloud services, you also have to think about who’s using which service, and how you’re going to either get them access to the new accounts they need or delete their accounts when they leave. You have to make sure everyone is using the services you want them to use as soon as changes happen—this can be difficult. You also lose control of functionality and data access. You not only have to think about who has access to what data, but you have to think about each person’s role within a particular department to know which data they should or shouldn’t have access to. For example, in your support department you’ll have agents, administrators, and users. Each person is at a different level, so they’ll need access to different data. It’s up to you to make sure each person has the data they need and that no one has access to data they shouldn’t. The more cloud services are used, the harder this becomes.
2. It can create more costs—both directly and indirectly.
A lot of the cloud services used within your company are based on volume. You pay for a certain amount of users, and when you want more users to have access, you move up to the next service plan or stage in price. That means knowing and managing how many users you’ve got on each individual service is necessary to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money—this is a direct cost. You also have to take into consideration the indirect costs, which could include inefficiency among employees, or employees not having access to the right information. All of this requires extra time and money.
3. It requires more management.
Another problem with multi-cloud and multi-SaaS is the extra management it requires—it takes a lot of time to keep up with all of your suppliers. For every single provider, you have to go through a contractual process, and if your company is bigger or regulated, you have to discuss exactly where your data will be within the application. This commercial process has to be done every time you bring on a new supplier. And when you begin using these services, support becomes an issue, as well. You’ll have tens, hundreds, or even thousands of users (depending on the size of your company) all using different services, and each user will require support at some point or another. This makes the problem of correctly managing and supporting them exponential.
What can you do about it?
The goal is not to put a lockdown on multi-cloud. You want to start centralizing the management of multi-cloud. One way to do that is to have administrators for each service, making sure the same person (or account) is signing up for each different service. This ensures that any alerts or service updates go to the right person. You should also make sure the billing address is the same for each service. That way, you’re able to keep track of bills as they come in, and make sure they end up on the correct expense account. The next step would be to introduce a multi-cloud process similar to an on- or off-boarding process. Most companies have a checklist of procedures to implement when someone starts or leaves their company, so make sure that checklist includes your changing landscape of services. You’ll want to make sure that when someone changes roles in your organization, you know exactly what should be done to get them the cloud services they need.
You’ll also want to perform an audit around functionality. Chances are you’ve got multiple cloud services doing the same thing, so figure out what specific functions your business requires and get rid of any unnecessary applications. Providing a limited set of services that deliver the correct functionality will be much easier to manage.
If you’re struggling with these multi-cloud problems in your organization, don’t be discouraged. Remember that using multiple service providers and cloud applications can be a good thing, so start taking action by following these steps. If you begin centrally managing your multi-cloud and implement a process around it, you’ll take back control of your user management.