As a scalable alternative to a VPN, Enterprise Application Access improves our security posture and also enables better performance-based secure access to our applications.Sumit Malhotra, CIO, Times Internet
Times Internet is India’s largest digital products company, reaching more than 120 million users daily and more than 550 million users monthly. It is the digital arm of Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (also known as The Times Group). Times Internet currently owns and operates 38+ digital products across news, entertainment, and a suite of transaction-led marketplaces involving real estate, personal finance, education, jobs, table reservations, and more. Most of these products, such as TOI, ET, Gaana, and MXPlayer, are the leading brands in their respective categories.
Like many organizations, Times Internet is seeing a growing need for remote access to enterprise applications amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As Sumit Malhotra, CIO of Times Internet, explains, “It's not just about enabling access to our CMS to our publishing platforms. To ensure uninterrupted business, we need to securely provide these and other tools to our employees, partners, and third-party owners everywhere.” The company was able to do just that by harnessing Akamai Enterprise Application Access.
Satisfying Application Demands in a COVID World
Until a few years ago, the Times Internet network enabled its employees, partners, and vendors to access 3,000 or so applications via a VPN as part of its well-defined network perimeter. However, the adoption of more software as a service and cloud platforms had already started blurring the line between the network and endpoints. In addition to its VPN-based solution, Times Internet needed to employ a plethora of tools to onboard new applications.
Bring Your Own Everything (BYOE) adoption also made the company rethink how it gives access to applications. “VPNs do a poor job accounting for BYOE third-party contractors and partners,” explains Malhotra.
These VPN shortcomings were proving problematic as Times Internet needed to provide remote access to far more end users. “While our employees forgave minor performance issues when remotely accessing applications in the pre-COVID world, they now demand a consistent experience across devices and different networks, because their work depends on it,” continues Malhotra.
Malhotra felt a Zero Trust model was the answer. “Instead of binding application access to a network perimeter or the physical boundary of devices, you can provide access to applications based on user and device attributes. We knew this approach would eliminate our VPN-related challenges,” he says.
Moving to a Zero Trust Model
It was natural for Malhotra to turn to Akamai for its business continuity needs. “Akamai has been our trusted partner for over a decade, helping us address various needs like performance, delivery, and security. By taking advantage of a plethora of Akamai services, we’re able to deliver an amazing experience to our customers,” Malhotra explains.
Once he’d learned of the Akamai Enterprise Application Access solution, Malhotra knew it was the solution his company needed. Malhotra liked the fact that Enterprise Application Access integrates data path protection, identity management, application security, visibility, and control in a single solution. He was also impressed that it performs the dual task of authentication and authorization. “Enterprise Application Access effectively stitches these capabilities together so that you get a secure connection to a firewall, making it far more secure than a VPN,” says Malhotra.
Immediately, Malhotra and his team saw the value of Enterprise Application Access. “We were able to onboard fairly complex internal applications in minutes without making any changes to our applications. This is far simpler than our previous approach, which required numerous tools and correct configuration by various teams,” continues Malhotra.
In the first six months since adopting Enterprise Application Access, Times Internet onboarded nearly 100 applications for use by more than 1,000 users.
Easily Enabling Business Continuity
In addition to easily onboarding applications, Times Internet uses Enterprise Application Access to improve its security posture. “The solution provides granular, application-level control by closing all inbound ports and providing access to only permitted applications instead of the entire network, which was the case when we used a VPN,” explains Malhotra.
The fact that Enterprise Application Access is clientless and incorporates route optimization enabled Times Internet to reduce help desk calls by nearly 90%. “Not only are we able to keep our IT team lean and efficient, we can easily enable users to work from home securely, without interruption,” he continues.
Though Times Internet had never planned for a situation in which its entire workforce would be working remotely, it has handled the transition seamlessly with Enterprise Application Access. As Malhotra explains, many companies have tried to quickly provision additional hardware like VPN gateways, firewalls, and other solutions to meet this demand. Times Internet did not need to do any capacity planning or deploy new infrastructure. Instead, it easily enabled application access for its remote employees, partners, and vendors, scaling up instantly without impacting the user experience.
“Enterprise Application Access gave us wings to fly in difficult times. We plan to continue this journey and make the solution a single point of access for all our corporate applications,” concludes Malhotra.
About Times Internet
Times Internet is India’s largest digital products company. Times Internet owns, operates and invests in various Internet-led products, services and technologies, It is the digital arm of The Times Group, the largest media conglomerate in India. Times Internet currently owns and operates 38+ digital products across news, sports, music, video, gaming and a suite of transaction-let market-places across real estate, personal finance, education, jobs, table reservation, etc. Times Internet reaches over 550 million monthly visitors who collectively spend over 130 billion minutes across all its products and services.