Most people know me as that security engineering geek, the Microsoft Security MVP that shows weird ways to hack pretty much any connected device, within a Windows world. (You can check out crackthecred.tv for some examples if you haven’t had the chance.) What isn’t known is that in my day job, I serve as the CTO at Scorpion Software, where we build identity and access management solutions surrounded around password management, multi-factor authentication and single sign-on. This post isn’t about how I think as an MVP Microsoft Cloud Services are awesome (which I do), but as a CTO of a small software firm, how I have gained uncompromised productivity to compete in the world market against billion dollar competitors. So without further ado, this is my story.
We live and collaborate in a connected world. As a small software company on the West coast of Canada, we don’t always have the breadth of experience within our local talent pool to accomplish some of the amazing things that we do. With Microsoft Cloud Services like Office 365 and Windows Azure we are not shackled to our location, allowing us to compete on a global scale and accomplish anywhere. Almost anything. No matter if we’re across the city. Across the country. Or across the globe.
And we aren’t boxed into the ‘Cloud-or-bust’ mantra that so many IT firms and vendors are trying to force upon the industry. We get an uncompromised experience leveraging a hybrid of on-premise Windows servers and desktops with subscription-based cloud services that meets our specific needs. As an information security company focused on protecting the clients of our IT Service Provider partners, we choose to keep many resources on-premise allowing us to maintain our own data sovereignty. Yet at the same time, we get the benefits of using a complete productivity subscription service that seems to continue to get more valuable as time rolls on. More services are always being added, and the environments we use get more interconnected.
Now adays sales and marketing staff who are on their iOS devices have the same access to information stored in Skydrive and SharePoint Online as they do when on their Windows 8 desktops at work. And I can still access everything from my Surface Pro tablet, even though it’s not tied to our domain and is managed from within Windows Intune (another great service in the Microsoft Online Services cloud stack). Never mind the tablet. With the subscription benefits letting me install on up to five different devices I have access from my phone, my home laptop, my work tablet, my desktop and… wait for it… my TV. (Don’t ask)
As our IT needs continue to shift, move and expand I’m also not limited by our fiscal budget. We don’t have to fret about capital costs when we can spin up new virtual servers in Azure as we need them, or push CloudApps directly into their SaaS stack, all controlled within an affordable subscription model that allows me to amortize costs more efficiently.
I will be honest, as a security guy that looks at risks and threats all day, having everything so connected could get worrisome. As a company we bet on Microsoft because we found it aligned very well with our needs, without compromising security. We use our own product, AuthAnvil, to deliver federated single sign-on (SSO) to Office 365 (and virtually all Microsoft Online Services) without the need for complex directory services. This means we don’t have to even know or remember passwords to Microsoft’s services in the Cloud, and more importantly protect access even better through strong multi-factor authentication. Nothing like generating one-time-passwords from an app on your smartphone to access your SharePoint library while on someone else’s system that you may or may not trust. Nor care to. That’s a pretty sweet benefit I enjoy every day. And not just to Microsoft’s Online Services, but to tons of other cloud services that we use for work. And even to applications we use on-premise. The world of hybrid IT is here.
We use Lync with VoIP giving us meeting collaboration and anywhere access to people when we need them. It’s weird sitting in a hotel room in another country and having a call route directly to me because through its “Presence” capabilities it knows I am available to take a call on my Windows 8 tablet. Or the fact I can be inking in a page on OneNote while on my Surface at a client’s site and have it automatically sync the document in the Cloud, which is shared with the team giving them immediate access to my thoughts and direction. All possible through real time collaboration via SkyDrive and SharePoint.
Just because we are a small business doesn’t mean we have to think small. Day in and day out we can share and collaborate with peers, partners and patrons of our business from wherever we are, and on whatever device we use. Even now, I am sitting here writing this article at a local coffee shop on my Surface tablet in Office 2013, that was pushed to me through the Company Portal app that Microsoft made available for free as part of my subscription with Windows Intune. A truly better together solution of a Windows client operating system (Windows 8.1) running through software deployed and managed in the Cloud (Office 365 + Windows Intune), all protected through a great third party ecosystem (AuthAnvil for Office 365 running on Windows Server).
Ya, my head is in the Clouds. And I really like the blue sky potential that I see here.