Identity and access management (IAM) is an essential component of a robust security strategy. IAM is used to enforce individual role-based access controls when users connect to networks or systems. Organizations implement IAM to ensure that only authorized users have access to a company’s IT infrastructure and resources.

IAM employs a combination of processes, policies, and technologies to manage users in an information technology (IT) environment. Specific implementations are necessary tailored to the platform they are designed to protect. The popularity of multi-cloud computing environments can make it challenging to maintain a viable IAM program across a company’s complete infrastructure.

What are the Benefits of IAM?

Implementing IAM provides companies with the following benefits.

  • Organizational security is enhanced by enforcing access management policies across all systems, applications, and endpoints. Centralized management facilitates identifying attempts at unauthorized access and protects against internal users gaining elevated privileges.
  • The ability to compel user adherence to strong and secure password policies reduces the possibility of data loss. Insecure passwords are one of the major causes of data breaches.
  • IT security costs can be reduced with an effective IAM system. Simplifying the activities of help desk and security teams allows companies to reduce headcount or redirect resources to more value-added projects. IAM reduces the chance that elevated privileges are granted and streamlines the processes of onboarding or removing users from the system.
  • User access is streamlined with IAM by consolidating a user’s necessary credentials into a single digital identity. This aids productivity across the organization and eliminates unnecessary user frustration and requests for password resets.
  • Regulatory compliance is enhanced with the data security and protection of an IAM system. The IAM solution can also be used to demonstrate the proper controls are in place during a regulatory audit.

What is Azure Active Directory?

Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (AD) is an extension of Windows Active Directory designed to address the requirements of implementing IAM in a cloud architecture. The Azure AD service lets employees access internal and external resources like Microsoft 365 and other SaaS applications.

Azure AD is used primarily by the following three groups.

  • IT admins use Azure AD to control access to applications and infrastructure resources. Azure AD can automate user provisioning between legacy Windows Server Active Directory and cloud apps. The tool also provides the functionality to protect user credentials and meet regulatory compliance guidelines.
  • Application developers can use Azure AD to add single sign-on and build personalized experiences into their apps.
  • Online subscribers to Microsoft 365, Office 365, Azure, or Dynamics CRM Online are already using Azure AD and can use it to manage access to integrated cloud applications.

Microsoft offers four Azure AD licensing options to address its customers’ diverse requirements.

  • Azure Active Directory Free provides user and group management, self-service password change, and other features to all Microsoft online subscribers.
  • Azure Active Directory Premium P1 adds support for advanced administration and lets hybrid users access cloud and on-premises resources.
  • Azure Active Directory Premium P2 provides additional security with Azure AD Identity Protection and Privileged Identity Management.
  • Pay-as-you-go licensing lets companies add extra features like Azure Active Directory Business-to-Customer (B2C) to provide IAM solutions for customer-facing applications.

What are the Benefits of Azure AD?

Azure AD offers organizations the advantages of a reliable IAM solution as well as providing the following specific additional benefits in the Azure cloud.

  • Enhanced Azure AD security that includes:
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) that can be verified through the Microsoft Authenticator app, hardware or software tokens, SMS messages, and voice calls;
  • Conditional access that restricts data access to that needed to perform a specific job or role;
  • Privileged identity management (PIM) provides in-depth control of privileged accounts and resources and an audit trail that can help identify suspicious activity.
  • Single sign-on (SSO) features let users log in to SaaS and on-premises apps through a single interface. SSO streamlines the process of onboarding new users and saves administrative time and effort.
  • The Azure AD MyApps panel furnishes users with a list of all apps they can access and lets them perform account management from a web browser or mobile device.
  • Self-service features including the ability to reset passwords save time and money for IT teams. It also aids productivity by allowing users to quickly resolve password issues themselves.
  • Azure AD fosters collaboration with Azure AD B2B (business-to-business) and Azure AD B2C (business-to-customer). These systems facilitate sharing your apps or services with business associates or customers by using their existing credentials.
  • Azure AD supports credential integration with multiple identity providers so users can log into Azure AD using Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and GitHub accounts.
  • Azure AD offers users a variety of reports on security and system activity. Administrators can track user activity and identify unauthorized cloud applications that have been introduced into the environment.

Azure AD offers businesses a comprehensive IAM system that addresses the heightened need to protect valuable data resources in the cloud. The features available in Azure AD may influence a company’s decision when considering the appropriate cloud platform for migration. Organizations that are heavily invested in Microsoft products will often find Azure an attractive cloud destination.

Overcoming the Challenges of Implementing Azure AD

Organizations can face challenges when implementing the features of Azure AD. The implementation may be part of a general cloud migration that moves legacy, on-premises systems to the Azure infrastructure. It can involve integrating Azure AD with an existing Windows Active Directory environment. Customers have to evaluate their current and future needs to determine which licensing option will be most effective for their business requirements.

VAST can help companies implement and optimize the IAM protection offered by Azure AD. VAST partners with Microsoft and has extensive experience managing Azure cloud environments. They can provide assistance and guidance whether your business is just beginning its journey to the cloud or needs help optimizing its Azure infrastructure. VAST will help your company get the most out of its Azure cloud environment and protect it effectively with Azure AD.