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Applause Doubles Productivity with StrongDM

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Applause is a crowdsourced testing platform that helps brands like Google, Uber, and Microsoft ensure that their digital assets and experiences work as intended. With StrongDM, Applause was able to automate access to company-wide databases, empowering employees from multiple departments to connect to the resources they need. The result? Applause saw a 2x increase in productivity within days of implementing StrongDM.

Before StrongDM | The Problems Felt Insurmountable

Before implementing StrongDM, the operations team at Applause spent their energy and expertise putting out fires rather than building features for the developers.

The team did all user provisioning manually via tickets, and it took days to grant access to databases.

Since access wasn’t tied into an authentication system, offboarding was difficult to manage.

Additionally, with no centralized registry of who had what access to what, auditing was manual, tedious, and time-consuming.

It was also imperfect. To adhere to their security policies, the ops team needed to ensure that resources were not overprivileged. During one audit, they removed read-only access to a database, and because the access wasn't directly tied to roles, Chris says, "people were like, ‘you just broke all of Sales! Turn it back on!’” Without a centralized view of users, roles, and end resources, the team found it hard to determine who needed access and when.

Tracking Access was a Recurring Struggle

The team did manual user audits a couple of times a year, going to every single database and attempting to track who was doing what.

It could take days to verify a single record. Chris explains, “You can verify 95% of them in 20 minutes, and then you'd have the ones that you have to chase down for days. Our team was fully busy for at least a month.”

And some users were nearly impossible to track down. Employees from across the company–from developers to finance and marketing–needed access to databases, and the team couldn’t easily see who was using what and when. As a result, Chris Gianelloni says, “Anytime we tried changing anything, it would break.”

StrongDM Gave Us a Shortcut

StrongDM has enabled Applause to transform how it manages its platform.

We build features now instead of putting out fires. We've managed to build a better system because I'm not spending time working on databases.

Chris Gianelloni
Director of Platform Delivery

StrongDM allowed Applause to give developers secure production write access. Now, the developers–who actually understand the problems–can access the database and make changes themselves. Says Chris, “I run zero SQL queries now, which means I have time to do other things. It’s a completely different world when it comes to our security posture.” Says Chris, “Our security posture is literally night and day from what we had before. We were able to change how we expose stuff in the cloud. Everything is private now and requires admission through StrongDM.”

"StrongDM gives us a lot of peace of mind. It puts access control back where it belongs–in the hands of IT." -Chris Gianelloni, Director of Platform Delivery at Applause

With StrongDM, access is tied into the SSO, and offboarding is fully automated. As soon as HR marks a person as no longer an employee in ADP (their payroll software), that information goes to strongDM, and their access gets cut off.

And with automatic self-service ticketing, developers safely grant themselves access to strongDM for a limited period of time. Applause built compliance into the ticketing system. Anytime a user requests access to any production resource, it automatically triggers an InfoSec event, with a complete audit trail fed into Sumo Logic.

"StrongDM makes compliance and auditing ridiculously simple for us."

Applause uses strongDM for SOC 2, ISO 27001, and security assessments with third-party vendors. “Once you get to best practices in security,” Chris explains, “you're essentially meeting compliance requirements.”

The InfoSec team can now conduct their audits without asking Operations for help. Before StrongDM, any time the InfoSec team performed an audit, Operations had to manually dig up mountains of detailed evidence. Now, StrongDM does all of that. “We've empowered our InfoSec team to query that information themselves,” Chris explains before adding:

"I love StrongDM. It makes my job so much easier.”

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