“There’s an app for that.” We’ve all heard it: the jingoistic catchphrase Apple users have been repeating for years. It’s consumer-oriented marketing drivel, but it’s powerful drivel because it carries more than a grain of truth. It’s also becoming true in the business market as app proliferation spreads exponentially with the addition of hundreds or even thousands of new offerings each year.
The examples are too easy to point out. Which public cloud vendor are you using, Microsoft, Amazon, Google? Or are you going with a smaller vendor or a private cloud or no cloud at all? Which BDR solution do you prefer? Which PSA? Which RMM? Which office productivity package? Which phone system? Which security vendor? There are dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of vendors offering each of these solutions.
Businesses are presented with the ever increasing challenge of selecting the best app for their business, no mean task considering the proliferation of apps that take vertical segmentation to an extreme. That done the challenge is passed along to the IT support team – whether internal or an outsourced service provider like a VAR or MSP – who then has to install and maintain the new solution.
Intermedia and Osterman Research have released a new study and infographic that highlights the problem for SMBs. The report, “Death by 1000 Cloud Apps,” found that the average SMB is managing more than 14 cloud apps, with an average of 5.5 apps per user. According to the report, this leads to four main problems for SMBs:
Too much choice – Teams can spend months of valuable time vetting and deploying all of these cloud apps, distracting them from their most important goals/responsibilities.
Too much to manage – Once deployed, these apps must be managed, and that time adds up fast; if you have 15 people using the average of 5.5 apps each, that’s 82.5 accounts that will need to be managed on an ongoing basis.
Too many logins – This impacts team productivity outside of IT as well. It takes an average of 20 seconds to login to an app; that means that a 75-person SMB can rack up more than 570 wasted hours and $13,900 per year in lost productivity.
Too much risk – When forced to choose between security and productivity, security usually takes a back seat. This leads to lazy, risky password selections that are easily breached, leaving companies at risk.
“The fundamental issue here is that organizations are losing control over their content and their ability to control applications use,” says Mike Osterman, adding that in many small organizations people download their own apps, creating a bring-your-own-app situation much like the Bring Your Own Device movement that has played havoc with IT infrastructures over the past three years. Osterman calls it “BYOA” (app) or “BYOC” (cloud).
For example, some who needs to share large files might install Dropbox. But what if the person in the next cubicle prefers Google Drive? Or Skydrive? Or SugarSync? Or SpiderOak? Or iCloud? Or LogMeIn Cubby? Or...you get the idea.
While the ability to simply go out, find what you need and use it makes individuals more efficient, it causes serious problems for organizations, says Osterman. “Now if you have to search for that content it’s going to be very difficult. If you have to find content to respond to a lawsuit or maybe an employee has left the company, you can’t find their work. And from a security perspective if you have multiple apps in use, especially doing the same things, you have a lot more attack surface.
“The fundamental issue is that most orgs want to get away from this problem. They want to consolidate on a smaller number of apps. It’s just that they don’t know where to start.”
So how do you address the problem without denying staffers the value offered by the apps in question?
“We recommend that don’t start with a vendor, but rather start with a policy,” counsels Osterman. “Find out what (your staffers) are using and why and then use that to develop a policy that will provide the functionality they need. It starts with sitting down and thinking about the issue in a really cohesive way.”
Another solution is to pass the whole problem off to a vendor like Intermedia, which simplifies app management by doing all the selection, integration and management work for you and provides an all-inclusive service with a single sign-on. The SMB gets a single subscription service which includes most of the major applications – email, conferencing, security, collaboration, telecommunications, etc.
“If you’re a SMB the value we provide is that rather than having to go out to 12 different vendors, negotiate the deal, migrate people, deal with multiple support organizations and multiple control panels, we provide all that in a tightly integrated way. All the apps work with each other,” says Intermedia CEO Michael Gold.