This year, many organizations have changed the way work gets done. Whether you call it remote work or work-from-anywhere or work from home, it is here to stay. With multiple major companies announcing that their employees can work from home until 2021, employees are now expressing a desire to work at-least partly remote in a post-pandemic world, forcing companies to take a hard look at their investments in real estate infrastructure.
Back in March, when initial remote policies went into effect, companies scrambled to rapidly enable work-from-home and ensure secure access. Organizations quickly found that their VPN solutions, which were built to support occasional remote access by limited users, were unsuited for entire workforces accessing all apps remotely all the time. Many experienced VPN outages or integrated MFA failure due to increased load.
As proven by the pandemic, digital transformation and cyber resilience are fundamental to business operations. Organizations should adapt the Zero Trust security principles of never trust and always verify. Zero Trust begins with identity in the “any network-any device world” while identity is the new control plane. You can connect all your apps, whether they are SaaS, internally developed, and/or legacy apps, to Azure AD to provide a secure hybrid identity without depending on VPN. You can use native Azure solutions such as Application Proxy to connect on-premises apps or leverage partnerships with major Application Delivery Controllers to provide seamless, secure access from anywhere.
Benefits of connecting your apps to Azure AD:
- Unified Identity – As the digital transformation is embraced, one of your first steps in modernization will be to bridge a common identity for your users across your hybrid on-premises and cloud identity. Unified identity enables you use of single sign-on secure access to any application regardless of where it is hosted. Azure AD supports a breadth of applications whether they are modern apps or legacy apps. Unified identity supports seamless handoffs of shared devices, enabling partners and suppliers access to apps with secure external identities.
- Secure Adaptive Access – In the new perimeter-less world, Zero Trust’s mindset of assume breach and explicitly verify security posture is imperative. Identity is the new control panel. By connecting all your apps to Azure AD and leveraging security features such as risk-based identity protection, Multi Factor Authentication, and conditional access, you can increase the cost of compromising an identity.
- Ease of Use – Securing identities and apps does not mean that user experience must be sacrificed. Azure AD not only secures the access, it also maximizes a user’s productivity. By connecting apps to Azure you improve the end user experience by providing users with seamless single sign-on access to all the apps, regardless of where they are hosted, and a single place to access “My Apps Portal.” Forrester’s Total Economic impact study found that securing apps with Azure AD reduced the likelihood of data breaches by 45% and increased ROI significantly; it also led to a reduction in operations overhead and end user password reset requests.
- Identity Governance – By connecting all users and all apps to Azure AD, you can govern them by managing the entire lifecycle. Empowered users can request access to apps and resources via entitlement management access packages that are easy to use. Businesses can ensure the right people have the right level of access with approval workflow for employees and guests alike. With just-in-time privilege elevation, you can efficiently comply with audits and conduct access reviews.
2020 has forced everyone to work when, where, and how they can while making best use of the devices available to them. By bringing in users and connecting all apps to Azure AD, you don’t have to sacrfice security to provide ease of use or scramble to upgrade VPN infrastructures. You don’t have to worry about providing consistent access regardless of app location, either. Instead, users are easily kept productive. By connecting all apps to Azure AD, you can strengthen security posture with cross-domain integrated security solutions between identity, endpoints, network, apps, and data.
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About the Author
Lavanya Murthy is a senior consultant in Intelligent Workplace at New Signature- Cognizant’s Microsoft Business Group. Her expertise is in helping clients strengthen their security posture and implement a Zero Trust framework with M365\Azure identity and security solutions and modernizing SecOps. In her free time, Lavanya enjoys reading, knitting, and teaching coding to kids.