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Solving the identity crisis caused by Office 365

Cloud | Posted on May 4, 2016 by Vikram Gandhi

Cloud apps are a tremendous boon to collaboration and productivity, but they can also create quite the headache around identity management.

Let’s use Office 365 as an example, since it is Microsoft’s fastest-growing commercial product ever and, since it encompasses everything from email to calendar and more, it’s likely used every day by nearly every employee.

If you’re in the testing stages of Office 365, the complexities of identity management problems—such as provisioning and single sign-on—have probably begun to rear their ugly head. Bad news: it’s just the start of what will be a bigger problem.

If you are at an earlier adoption stage, here is the problem in a nutshell: user identity is managed on premise with Microsoft Active Directory, but that doesn’t extend to Office 365 in the cloud. This results in needing to manage multiple identity forests, which is inefficient. And it creates a clunky user experience, as  users must log in separately for each cloud app.

This hardly promotes adoption. Plus, despite being cloud-based, you still end up needing an on-premise server for identity management.

What’s more, Office 365 is just one prime example of this issue. As we move more business applications to the cloud, identity management is going to get increasingly more complicated.

Looking for solutions

The industry has stepped up to address the challenge with a wide array of options for cloud-based single sign-on (SSO) and identity management, such as Okta, Azure Active Directory Premium and One Login. SSO will improve the end-user experience, encourage adoption and reduce the risk that your investment in Office 365 goes to waste.

These solutions may not replace Active Directory for applications on premise, but will often tie in and extend it into the cloud. A few important considerations when looking at such solutions:

  • Security — Look for enhanced security around application access, such as capturing backend and login data, flagging suspicious activity and providing multi-factor authentication prompts when outside the office.
  • Portal access — Centralized portal access for users will let them update their own passwords. This could help significantly reduce help desk requests since studies have shown that for some companies password resets can account for 30 percent or more of help desk tickets.
  • Automatic cross-device configuration— Look for a platform with enterprise mobility management to fully secure users whether on a laptop, smartphone or tablet. Compliance should be enforceable; a system of self-enrolment will help here.

By using a solution like Okta to extend the identity management capabilities we are used to from Active Directory into the cloud, we can eliminate one of the major complexities around deploying Office 365 and reduce roll-out from months to mere weeks. In addition, we set the foundation to streamline identity management for future cloud apps we deploy.

One thing is for sure, whatever solution used to solve the problem of identity management on the cloud: the problem exists and it is only going to grow. Schedule an identity management consultation with a Softchoice cloud architect to find out what is best for your business going forward.

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