Thousands of businesses currently operate in hybrid IT environments. For many organizations, the blend of on-premise Active Directory (AD) and Azure AD meets business needs and offers required functionality for daily operations. However, the work and effort required to manage the nuances of a hybrid AD environment can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating, even if it is the most advantageous setup for a business. IT teams with on-premise AD and hybrid Azure AD environment must frequently navigate these four common challenges.
1. Navigating nuances between Azure AD and On-Prem AD
Even though on-premise AD and Azure AD are intended to be similar, they have different nuances that must be accounted for in a hybrid AD environment. For Azure AD and on-premises AD setups, system-provided tools have limited capabilities to complete administrative tasks. To further complicate matters, those same tasks must then be duplicated to be accounted for in a hybrid AD environment. For example, PowerShell-scripted workflows set up in an on-premise AD environment won’t simply copy over to an Azure AD instance. In a hybrid AD set up, workflows will need to be carefully architected to ensure tasks in AD and Azure AD are properly executed.
Beyond just the time it takes to understand the nuances of Azure AD and on-premises AD, the effort involved in making sure processes can be properly executed across both platforms requires a significant lift from team members.
2. Manual processes
Organizations with a hybrid AD environment often rely on manual processes to ensure required information is included in both their on-premise AD and Azure AD instances. For teams who are already stretched thin, these manual processes introduce room for mistakes and inconsistencies. Because these manual processes are often rushed, it can result in further synchronization errors that will need to be fixed at a later date.
With a hybrid AD environment, it might be necessary, on occasion, to use manual processes. However, manual processes are not an ideal scenario for managing identities, especially if those identities are intended to be used to secure an organization.
3. Limited visibility into changes made
If errors are found, it’s useful to understand why changes were made, when they were made and who made those edits. Unfortunately, system-provided Active Directory management tools don’t necessarily track the full extent of valuable and necessary information, nor are those logs easy to understand and decipher. When dissecting why a change happened or if a change needs to be reverted, having a readily available breadcrumb trail is crucial.
Additionally, considering the nuances between on-premise AD and Azure AD, it becomes more difficult to determine what happened in which environment, or what information needs to be corrected in which instance.
Many breaches occur through elevated privileges. Adequate visibility, notifications and reporting into escalated identity privileges can help to isolate why access was granted and offer reasoning into why that elevated access should continue.
4. Wrangling granular privilege levels
Across on-premise AD and Azure AD, there is similar functionality for provisioning users, putting individuals in groups or resetting passwords. However, privilege control and access look different for each instance.
Azure AD instances have a “privileged identity management” function. Users should not share the available Global Admin account, however, that role can be requested or assigned to a user through the “privileged identity management” function. Unfortunately, the out-of-the-box assignable roles aren’t usually able to accomplish specific organizational tasks.
On-prem AD admins typically have two accounts: A regular user account and a privileged access account. In some more sophisticated instances with third-party tools, the privileged account may be checked out by a user or vaulted.
Although delegation of privileges across on-prem and Azure AD is available through the system, it can be a hassle to manage unless configured correctly. On the plus side, there is usually less that needs to be delegated by virtue of adhering to the principle of least privilege for sensitive accounts. However, this nuance can contribute to the overall productivity loss of an organization.
A combined on-premise AD and Azure AD environment offers the best functionality for many organizations. Though navigating the nuances of a hybrid environment comes with various frustrations and challenges, the right hybrid AD solution alleviates those productivity losses and makes managing it a lot more bearable.