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Tanks for the memories: Building a post-Microsoft Office cloud suite

Redmond owned it, Google invaded. Your options

Video conferencing and IM

Google Hangouts doesn’t seem to have been embraced as well by the community, except for die-hard G Suite fans. It upset a few people this year with the removal of SMS functionality. Whatever the past, Google has pressed on regardless and Hangouts this week swallowed Google Talk instant messenger, which started life in 2005. Hangouts supports an online or offline presence indicator and limits you to 10 or 25 people participating in a video call (depending on your plan), with 10 participants and unlimited viewers in the Hangouts on Air broadcast product.

Identity and access management

Cloud identities are constantly evolving and can be complex, which is why events like Identiverse exist. The more you move away from a single SaaS vendor, the more you wade into that cloud identity jungle. At a recent conference, Amazon software engineer Darin McAdams pointed out that SAML (security assertion markup language) isn’t always an easy answer, showing the five complicated steps to achieving single sign-on between Google and GoToMeeting. Congratulations if your two services do natively support each other’s authentication. If not, or if you’re looking for more advanced control over multiple cloud SaaS products (including on-prem directory integration), you’ll need to send some money to the likes of OneLogin or Okta.

Two-factor authentication

It’s a pain in the neck to get your users accustomed to it, but expiring authentication app codes give your data an extra level of protection. All the products mentioned so far support multi-factor authentication, but how many people are actually using it? Just make sure you’ve got a good mobile device management policy in place too, so someone doesn’t end up with your user’s unlocked smartphone – giving them access to both the email account AND the second authentication factor, all on the one device.

Backup and recovery

If you are going to put valuable information into any of these services, first find out how you can back them up. Google Drive files can natively be recovered up to 25 days after deletion, but overwritten files (hello, encryption ransomware) have a shelf life of 5 days before they are irrecoverable en masse. Individual files may still be able to be reverted to a previous version, but over a large Drive that’s extremely painful. Deleting a Slack channel or a Slack team is an irrecoverable action, but enabling regular data exports first can help to mitigate that risk (and those delete actions must be performed by an admin).

Fortunately the regular backup providers have jumped on the Cloud bandwagon, so you’ll likely find a product to back up your SaaS info (even to another Cloud) from the likes of CloudHQ, OwnBackup, Backupify, Spanning and StorageCraft, to name a few.

An age of choice

We’re living in an age of choice overload and self-provisioning. As IT professionals, the simplicity of buying Microsoft has been replaced by the complexity of multiple SaaS providers. As the business signs up to these new providers we’re left to figure integrate, secure and backup.

Hopefully this guide will have served as a useful map to navigating this new landscape. ®

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