It’s hard to deny the transformative impact that the cloud has had on businesses. In the past year, I’ve seen more and more of our employees looking to cloud apps to provide them with the best tools available to get their jobs done. It’s quite a contrast from just five years ago, when information technology departments were often forced to enact coarse “allow” or “block” policies for cloud apps, making it more difficult for employees to use the cloud for tasks such as storage or collaboration, and turning the IT department into the “no” department.
Like many other organizations worldwide, MaRS is using a number of cloud apps already: Box for cloud storage, Okta for identity management, Pantheon for website hosting and AirWatch for mobile device management, to name just a few. The increase in productivity and the cost savings associated with these apps is tangible. At the same time, we’re also finding that employees are bringing in their own apps (like Evernote or DocuSign) in order to be even more agile and productive, gaining access to data anytime, anywhere.
Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. These unsanctioned—or “shadow IT” apps—are great for our employees, but they’re a nightmare for someone like me who works in IT and is tasked with making sure our network and sensitive business data remain secure. That’s where Netskope comes in.
With Netskope, we’ve added an additional layer to our cloud strategy. The platform gives us total visibility into the cloud apps that are in use at MaRS and allows us to enable safer usage of the apps we’ve already sanctioned (like Box) through user coaching. Perhaps most importantly, Netskope gives us the ability to take action if a cloud app is being used for purposes that it should not be—like sharing sensitive data from cloud storage apps, for example.
The net result is extremely positive. Our employees get to use the cloud apps they choose and I get to have the visibility and control required to ensure that everything happening on our network is secure. Just like that, IT moves from “Dr. No” to “Yes, man!"
That’s as it should be—and not just for the folks who work at MaRS, but for everyone. I’m particularly passionate about this matter because driving and supporting innovation and new businesses is part of MaRS’ mission and, in support of that mission, I like to both talk the talk and walk the walk.
Mark Zimmerman is CIO of the MaRS Discovery District, a global innovation district connecting science, technology and social entrepreneurs with business skills, networks and capital.