Single sign-on solutions can be elegant rather than expensive.
Let's face it: today, it's all about reducing costs. But it's the rare IT department that tracks how much it's spending on users who lose or forget their passwords. And with the number of systems that people need to access today on the upswing, you can't blame the poor user for losing track of a password now and then.
I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I have to ask for my password to one or another Web site to be sent to me. Sure, I try to write them down in a secure place, but there are so many of them now. And you don't want them all to be the same; whoever might stumble upon the keys to the castle could have a field day.
An IT department surely could reduce its costs if it were able to reduce its help desk calls from users with password problems. There also is the intangible cost to the organization of the user thrashing around trying to gain access to a system—albeit unsuccessfully—and not getting any work done during the process. Just think of leaving the front door open in the middle of winter in Minnesota and letting the heat flow outdoors as the furnace kicks in trying to maintain a comfortable 68 degrees. You're wasting money, people—and that's a sin!
OK, so you've considered reducing the number of sign-ons—let's call it enterprise reduced sign-on, since "single sign-on" is perhaps an ambitious goal—but the implementation costs are a little scary. Sure, the users are annoyed by having to keep track of a dozen passwords and repeatedly being prompted to log in and log out. But who cares? They don't have to fork over the thousands of dollars that it's going to cost to do something about it.
Company Web portals today are becoming increasingly popular, and users invariably will come to need single sign-on to the portal and all that it offers. Users need to access numerous back-end applications, each with its own authentication requirement. Without a coherent authentication strategy, accounts must be set up for each application for each employee. Naturally, support costs can surge with this arrangement. The answer is a single sign-on solution to the portal and all its applications.
Authentication can be a complex problem that quickly, or over time, drives IT costs skyward. A good programmer can figure out all the ins and outs of the authentication briar patch given enough time, since a number of open-source solutions are available. But therein lies the thorn. How much time do you have to research a whole new area of security?
Many vendors have proprietary solutions to the challenges of multi-system authentication. Oftentimes, these solutions are expensive. They may be good, but they aren't cheap. So you put off addressing the problem for another year until there is more money in the budget. And while you're waiting, you're wasting more of the company's money by supporting multiple employees with numerous passwords on a growing list of applications. What is an IT administrator to do?
Enter the independent consultant—in this case, a former IBMer who has held several key technology positions within IBM, including leader of the AIX workstation solutions team for CAD/CAM systems support, system security team leader for the OS/400 operating system, and lead OS/400 and IBM i system security architect. Pat Botz, who is president of Valid Technologies, also heads another firm, Botz & Associates, which is an independent information security consultancy that focuses on solving IT security issues from the perspective of their being business problems. Botz & Associates specializes in single sign-on solutions, user ID management, HIPAA compliance, access control, encryption, PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), and cost reductions across a variety of IBM platforms. The company's TeamSecurity service offers businesses ongoing strategic and tactical security expertise.
Clearly, Botz has the experience and credentials to address the access challenges of today's complex, multi-platform businesses. Botz says it's not a stretch to believe that some help desks spend half their time—or more—on password-related problems. It may just be provisioning users or, in a shrinking economy, closing out user IDs for employees who have left the company. Botz believes he can help a number of these companies save money by working with them to develop an educated analysis of where the time is being spent and how to stop the bleeding with perhaps a very simple solution that may not eliminate all the passwords but can eliminate a sufficient percentage to save considerable resources.
"It costs too much to manage authorization to IT assets," says Botz. While users may be happier with fewer passwords or fewer prompts during the day, the more important issue is that the IT department can provide access to those assets in the least costly way possible, he says. With the right approach, IT can significantly reduce its own costs of managing the process of user authentication.
Botz is offering a free evaluation and consulting session to help IT professionals map a route through the stages of figuring out if an enterprise reduced sign-on solution is worth the investment. First, he shows you how to determine how much the organization is spending now on user ID and password management. Then, he helps you identify single sign-on and password management alternatives to help reduce those costs. These alternatives may even include using technology the company already has in-house. Botz then will help estimate the cost for implementing the best alternative, calculating the return on investment for the most promising one. He even has a little ROI calculation tool that users can download from his Web site.
Botz makes it clear that he is not affiliated with any vendor nor does he get a finder's fee or commission from any vendor that a client may choose to resolve its sign-on challenges. "Customers can rest assured that they are getting the most independent advice available," says Botz.
People say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is free consulting from Botz & Associates—at least for the time being. Combine that with a free ROI calculator on single sign-on solutions, and what's not to like?
To schedule a free hour of phone consulting with Pat Botz, visit the site here, complete the Contact Us form, and suggest a time that would be convenient.