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Predicting the Cloud in 2016: Identity Management will Grab Attention

Data Collaboration has emerged as one of the biggest advantages fueled by Big Data. This means more stakeholders seeking access to organisation-owned data, including employees, contractors, external vendors and business partners. As this digitalization trend grows, it is also putting up questions about access-level management (and optimization) to ensure organisational data is never put at risk. This is why Identity Management (IM) protocols are engaging serious attention.

Getting Acquainted with Cloud IM / IAM Basics

In its humblest avatar, Identity Management means defining how users can access a network or database, to what extent and through what type of devices. Businesses need to set-up user rights and restrictions within team and across organisational hierarchy, even global teams. This works rather well, helping enterprises control accessibility to sensitive information. Today, managing mobile access is an integral part of Identity Management. As sales teams get more global, their access to corporate systems needs to be controlled to ensure sanctity of data is maintained. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is fundamentally a part of IT security models. If you are contemplating a cloud management provider, you should demand IAM as a standard or add-on service.

Cloud Environment is Heterogeneous, Best Served by a Clearly Defined Identity & Access Model

Faster-to-Market Data Practices Need Better Accessibility Management

Increasing access to data repositories, including archived and real-time data, is good but every business resource does not require the same degree of access—it is wise to share only relevant information by setting up stringent access benchmarks. As a result, cloud-computing providers are getting big on creating the perfect IAM system. This is particularly critical for businesses with global workforce and outsourced processes. With IAM, you get the assurance of maintaining user-based identities and controlling access levels with extreme precision.

I am convinced about the utility of IAM but how do I set it up?

Creating an Identity Management system is not difficult but managing it, particularly scaling it, can prove demanding if you are employing only in-house resources. Running IM applications on dedicated servers and in-house networks can be expensive—CLOUD is your savior! The ideal IAM system should not create downtimes or performance barriers for authorised users. When run as an application, Identity Management presents amicable costing and impressive ROI.

IM on the Cloud Makes More Business Sense

With automated processes, cloud management providers can create smarter, unbreachable Identity Management solutions. As decision-makers, you merely need to finalize policies, such as type and volume of data silos that can be accessed across employees, hierarchical set-ups, regional offices or different geographical locations. IM on the Cloud presents many more advantages, including single console functionality, quick updates about policy changes, and setting-up intuitive interfaces that create alerts for attempt to breach.

Cloud IM Management for BYOD

Due to their inherent nature, enterprise IT systems will not trust anything beyond their data center. This includes security servers. However, when you are on the Cloud, centralizing becomes easier as the conventional data center is eradicated. The latest example in this niche is BYOD where strategic IMA means creating timesaving features that maintain employee and team level access controls. Cloud ID systems work across nearly every entity, ranging from devices to individuals, servers to databases, and work queues. Using the cloud, your IM dynamics become better, as you can:

  • Create common validation systems for in-house and external enterprise networks
  • Create single point of resolution for real and perceived unauthorised access threats
  • Create more accountability from a centralized model
  • Create specific, short-term grant/rights that can be easily revoked/de-scaled later

Is Identity Management (IM) actually so complex?

Identity Management is rather liberal and applies to nearly byte of data that is important to your business. It is versatile too, ranging from provisioning to onboarding, mobile data sharing to device verification. In the cloud, Centralized Identity Management is emerging as the preferred choice, particularly applicable for complex data sharing systems and globally/remotely located workplaces. IM is compatible across all cloud configurations too—Public, Hybrid, Multi-cloud, and Private, it fits rather well in service-oriented architectures.

Why the cloud is eagerly adopting Identity Management Practices?

With IM updates sorted & centralized control, on-cloud organisations achieve easier IM governance

Despite the cloud providing an easier way of securing data accessibility, managing user identities in the cloud is getting complicated. With more team members participating in virtual discussions or sharing virtual data, role-based access helps business owners maintain greater degree of control. Cloud-based IM should be scalable too. For instance, access levels might have to be repealed immediately when a stakeholder exits the company or takes upon new roles. Sometimes, software deployment needs periodic change of smarter passwords—executed easily via centralized Cloud-based IM. Cloud-based IM are also more centralized, easing the overall management. This means automated processes where one Cloud IAM update seamlessly updates any operational/procedural changes. When CIOs and CEOs are sure about centralized, validation layers without serious cost deterrents, they can relax!

We are not being biased: Is the Non-cloud IM Strategy Always Bad?

Not really…sometimes, a blended approach works better!

Consider this—cloud networks are known to run in the multi-tenant format, linked extensively with various service providers and consumers. While this is a cloud computing advantage, it also raises risk of unsecured access. Some organisations are exploring new IM solutions to address such issues, choosing a blend of enterprise and cloud applications to cook customized IM to perfection. Here, not all user identities are provisioned via the cloud. The enterprise, despite being on the cloud, controls the authentication process in a more dominant manner. This is done exclusively when data criticality is at its highest, translating into more enterprise-level control. For instance, senior managers usually get single sign-ins for accessing multiple accounts, including those warehousing sacred consumer data. Maintaining some level of on-premise IM control means senior management can instantly revoke access in case of a palpable threat. Here, access to users in the top hierarchy too can be immediately terminated/disabled without depending on the cloud ecosystem.

Rising Demand for Identity Management on the Cloud

“Gartner estimates that by 2020, 60% of all digital identities interacting with enterprises will come from external identity providers”

For some businesses contemplating the cloud, Identity Management remains an area of concern. The reasons are more about perception rather than facts. Despite such apprehensions, research firms like Gartner predict that access and identity management via the cloud will emerge as one of the most demand services as businesses aggressively virtualize their infrastructure. Escalating privacy concerns as data becomes more collaborative with rising incidents or threats of data breaches is driving decision makers towards the cloud. As consumer data becomes more shareable, concerns about unauthorised access are also growing. The situation is exacerbated when businesses are unable to follow regulatory mandates, such as healthcare data privacy standards stringently enforced across the US with overwhelming legal implications. Data accessibility administration via centralized Access & Identity Management tools powered by the cloud serves unarguable, immediate advantages.

Digging Deeper into the Cloud Computed Identity Management Framework

IM in the cloud pays special attention to privileged users and single sign-on functionalities. CEOs and CIOs are most likely to want common password capabilities for multiple applications. The cloud ensures safety for such passwords and aging directories. For CEOs and senior managers, IM is also an important tool to ensure corporate oversights. With clearly defined accessibility to applications, authorisation can be better monitored. Cloud Identity Management also works towards creating better audit practices—at a granular level. When specific individuals have clearly defined access levels, fraud or breach of data confidentiality is easier to prevent. IM using Cloud Computing also benefits from linking user identity with back-end directories.

Can IAM be a business driver?

Keeping track of silos of sensitive data can be overwhelming. Moving this to the cloud means consolidating and centrally managing via a streamlined security model. By deploying cloud IAM, you can focus more on your core business areas without worrying about unauthorised data accessibility. A lesser explored aspect of IAM is its efficiency testing capabilities. White Hat IM security test runs often uncover vulnerabilities that might be impairing business efficiencies. This is why we stress on IM testing before adopting an IM model. This is also a reason why cloud solution providers are maturing to the idea of presenting IAM as a service. Some cloud providers are offering this as an add-on service whereas the more future-focused cloud management providers are now offering IAM as a part of their premium, full-featured service options.

Does IAM on the Cloud have significant disadvantages?

Not really! Perfecting IAM is an ongoing process and even when your business is set-up on the cloud, there is a short, teething phase as you go about creating IM protocols. Using our earlier example of an unplanned employee exit, internal accesses are easy to revoke but to de-provision local applications presents a longer route. However, this is not a major limitation. Overall, IM empowered by the cloud presents a more customized, easier option with more elasticity.

IAM on Cloud—the Easier Way to Decode Access Behaviors

Better security measures can be enforced when user behaviors are tracked. The Cloud IAM model makes this happens. Conventional methods of tracking attempts at accessing data beyond designated access levels is a time consuming process. The cloud provides much more than data access administration, i.e. Insight. It helps you uncover underlying patterns in attempted breaches. This is possible via detailed analytics that are at the core of any cloud platform. When combined with ease of scalability, cloud-powered IAM translates into a proactive strategy to ensure access attacks are prevented. Analytical approach means digging out possible security workarounds. When access breach patterns can be tracked to employee pools, departments, devices, BYOD presence, locations, type of data, or regional patterns, better Contextual Controls can be created. When attempted break-ins are collated, it helps data analysts decipher patterns and address potential risks. Audited logs of such IM data facilitate security policy updates too.

Exit Traditional Helpdesk, Enter Resource-ready, Centralized IM Systems

Any organisation is likely to adopt new products, realign workflows, or recruit fresh talent. Every time the user base undergoes a change, your IAM should proactively process new identities, ensuring minimal time and uncompromised data access and privacy governance. Cloud-fueled identity management ensures greater compliancy with corporate and regulatory policies. With a centralized IAM repository, your business can create and manage access levels better without the conventional helpdesk. Cloud management providers are pushing for directory integration in Identity Management Systems. Central IM repository also means easier overall administration.

Concluding Thoughts on IAM Trends Prevailing in 2015

Identity management also includes creating multiple layers of authentication for remote devices apart from Network Access Control. Authenticating data endpoints can take a heavy toll in terms of resources if you do it outside the cloud where creating IAM standards requires lots of planning. At the time of adopting IAM measures, take special care of provisioning, issues like GUI, compatibility with directory services and existing network architecture. Focus on centralization to keep your IAM model straightforward, more productive and more conclusive for regulators and auditors.

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