SAP CIO: iCloud and DropBox Not Secure Enough, We’ll Build Our Own

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | November 14, 2011 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility,security | Comments (2)

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Users love cloud storage services like DropBox and iCloud for their power and ease of use. IT managers hate them for the ginormous potential for data leakage and loss they create. But clamping down on them isn’t so straightforward.

In the past, a CIO could simply decree DropBox and iCloud verboten and his or her will would be carried out. IT management software would prevent banned applications from being installed, while network firewalls would block outlawed Web sites or network ports. End of story.

That’s not so simple today. Many smartphones and tablets used inside companies remain unsecured by Mobile Device Management (MDM) software.

At the SAPPHIRE conference in Madrid last week, SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann gave a talk to fellow CIOs about how SAP is using its subsidiary Sybase’s Afaria MDM software to secure the 11,000 iPads used by its employees.

“I had a CIO ask me afterward, ‘Should we also do this [use MDM] with our iPhones?’” he said. “It just shows how there’s a lack of information.”

Another issue is that many of the Samsung Galaxy smartphones and iPads used inside companies today are owned by the employees themselves, courtesy of shrunken budgets and the desire of workers to Bring Their Own Devices.

That creates a legal grey area in regions like Europe, where strong data privacy laws there allow workers to unilaterally revoke their consent for employers to secure and manage the data residing on their phones and tablets at any time. Allowing BYOD devices can create liability risk for companies.

Moreover, we’ve moved on from command-and-control IT shops towards the ‘consumerization of IT’ era. Conditioned to the slick devices and apps they use at home, employees are rebelling against the ugly, kludgy gear and software they are issued at work. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. Consumer devices are more powerful and easier to use than their enterprise counterparts.

In this era, CIOs need to strike a balance between enabler – and dictator. That’s what Bussmann is doing. Using Afaria, he plans to shut down access to iCloud to his employees by the end of the month. “The risk is far too high,” he said.

But in closing that door, he plans to open another. His team has already created a prototype of a document-sharing service that will be released to employees by the end of year. Based on the WebDAV standard, Bussmann says the goals are to make it as easy to use as iCloud or DropBox for both mobile devices and laptops (something SharePoint, what many companies use today, is poor at), while also providing the security only an internal, behind-the-firewall network can.

Bussmann talked up the service at SAPPHIRE and says he got a strong reception from other CIOs. So strong, he says, that if things go well, the service might eventually end up being offered to SAP customers.

If you’re curious to learn more, you can ask Oliver himself during a one-hour Tweetchat tomorrow Tuesday November 15. Watch the #SAPchat hashtag starting at 11 am EST/8 am PST, and submit any questions using that hashtag.

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