We're not going to deal with today's IT admin issues with yesterday's technology

If I were to put you in a time machine and transport you five years into the future, do you know what you’d find in IT administration? Even more complexity, heterogeneity, and increased use of novel new platforms and technologies. And yet IT admins would still be worried and stressed about their security gaps, whilst still managing all user authentication, device management, and access to resources via a piece of legacy, on-premise, software first launched in the year 2000: Active Directory. 

You read that right. That’s 24 years ago. Don’t get me wrong; just because something wasn’t created yesterday doesn’t mean it’s not useful. But what is concerning is that, for all the incredible digital transformation initiatives that SMEs (small to medium enterprises) have initiated in the last few years -- we somehow think that the default option is best. 

The World Economic Forum has specifically highlighted the importance of staying up-to-date with technology if SMEs are to remain competitive in the evolving digital landscape. Indeed, if the UK government’s vision of a digital Britain stands any chance of success, SMEs need to ensure their technology stack matches their commercial ambitions. 

Budget, staffing and legacy tech constraints threaten scalability

Our latest SME IT Trends report polled over 1,200 SMEs across the USA, UK, and India. The data showed that IT admins have limited budgets; in the UK, IT admins reported the lowest overall budget increase and the lowest proportion of respondents saying they’d had expenditure increases of over 20 percent. 

Furthermore, more than half of IT admin teams have lost staff, and 23 percent of UK respondents who haven’t yet seen redundancies so far expect them to happen in 2024. Across all three countries, SME IT admins predict that their organization will cut cybersecurity spending in 2024 by 41 percent and, unsurprisingly, 72 percent expect that this will increase operational risk. 

A lack of budget directly impacts the expertise that SME IT admins can call upon. Whilst 74 percent of Indian IT admins have a budget for training, only 62 percent of UK respondents do. In the US, 87 percent of SMEs have an in-house cybersecurity expert, but only 78 percent of UK respondents do. As a result of the loss of money and skills, it’s no wonder that UK SME IT admins cite security as their biggest challenge, outweighing challenges in rolling out new services and applications. 

And the complexity of managing and administering IT tech stacks just keeps growing. Nearly half of UK organizations surveyed admit they have to use five or more tools to do this; an astonishing 9 percent need more than 15. It’s clear, therefore, that using legacy on-premise directory technology that caters solely to one type of operating system (OS), is blocking the kind of agility IT SMEs need to work their way through these challenges. Today, SME IT admins need choice when it comes to how they securely manage users and infrastructure. 

Scalability can be a considerable challenge for SMEs, too. Typically, new companies invest in the cheapest and most primitive user accounts that give them just enough: email, collaboration and documentation capability, and basic cloud services and security. 

But as they scale with increased funding, and hire more staff, they naturally evolve their technology stack so it can deal with increasingly sophisticated business processes, adding more software into the mix. As the cycle of employees leaving and joining continues, and the number of devices proliferates, they may forget to revoke previous employee access to old systems, whilst charging ahead with new solutions.

In the meantime, these dormant, unmanaged accounts are an open door to threat actors looking to compromise valuable customer and prospect data. At a critical stage in an SME's scale-up journey, a breach can be catastrophic.

Growth means challenge, and that means implementing the best tools to deal with it

Growing companies that are facing tight budgets, insufficient expertise, and scale-up issues need a new and better way of preparing for their future. Rather than relying on default, legacy technology, they need total flexibility that allows them to quickly pivot in an alternative direction, with the right software, the second it is needed.

For UK SME IT admins looking to deliver and manage secure, frictionless access to resources 100 percent of the time, they must consider a cloud-based open directory platform that provides flexibility of device and identity access management, regardless of OS and device location. With so many devices, tools, networks, and applications to manage, IT admins need to put identities -- with one authoritative identity for every user -- instead of devices, at the heart of their IT strategy.

Image CreditKornilovdream/Dreamstime.com

Denis Dorval is Vice President, International EMEA & APAC at JumpCloud.

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