Forging a path to Productivity-as-a-Service

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Now we’ve seen an amalgam of on-line and on-demand software hoisted in the name of productivity. The difference today is conviction and target audience of the vendors.

The bulls eye is squarely on large enterprises as opposed to medium and small.

Productivity software ideally ships as suite of products. You get e-mail, instant messaging, calendaring, document sharing etc. all part of a fixed monthly or yearly licensing fee.

Storage allocation is fair to avoid quota complaints – and can be throttled without the typical IT department hassles.

Observing the market we should take note of the exceptionally large scale on-demand deployments of email and calendaring. It is not unusual to also see "silent rollouts" of document sharing and other collaboration tools.

Security will remain an issue of course. However, it’s the vendors that are touting the benefits this time.

Analysts estimate over 20,000 to 30,000 samples of potential malware are sent for analysis each day. Mail systems managed by a cloud provider are likely to stay more up-to-date with email filters that can spot malicious file attachments and URL filters to inspect for exploits are vital.

Of course so-called ‘signature-based’ detection suffers from the delay in finding and blocking zero-day attacks.

Another intriguing and positive security side-effect of on-line productivity applications is shoring up data-leakage.

More than half of employees who left their companies in 2008 took some sensitive corporate data with them.

Nearly 80% of these employees said that they knew it was against company policy to take the data, but they did it anyway (source: Ponemon Institute & Symantec).

Email messages are notorious as a means to exchange files and documents that are loaded with sensitive and personal information.

Online productivity suites store documents in the 'Cloud' and pass around hyperlinks that point to files that can only be shared with those that you previously granted permissions.

Tack on message discovery, archival and document management – and for some organisations they can get much closer to meeting compliance mandates.

A large enterprise will more than likely trade-off price, convenience and security. Some (not all) SaaS vendors offer an off-premise messaging and collaboration system that is also hosted in a dedicated fashion. More security at a higher cost.

Finally, one area to keep an eye out on is solid training and communications plan and strategy to allow for a smooth user adoption.

Walid Negm, Director of Cloud and Security Offerings, Accenture Technology Labs

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