5 Challenges of Azure AD Integrations
The sprint to the cloud is fraught with complexity, risk and inefficiencies. If not implemented and managed properly, it can cause headaches or worse for your Active Directory (AD) administrators and users. As you attempt to navigate the transition to Azure AD integration, there will be five potentially pain-inducing challenges that you'll likely have to overcome first.
1. Disparate Tools
At best, system-provided AD tools (which are supposed to help manage identities and access) have limited capabilities. Most organizations find that they need to adopt a third-party tool to streamline, automate and bring consistency to AD management tasks, and the situation is only exacerbated as organizations aim for Azure AD integration since Azure AD requires its own tool for basic administrative tasks. Therefore, an already cumbersome task for on-prem AD doubles when it must be duplicated for Azure AD.
2. Manual and Inconsistent Processes
When forced to rely on manual processes, busy organizations struggling with managing the intricacies of a hybrid AD environment often find themselves doing the best they can. Often, that struggle for time leads to falling into bad habits in order to ‘just get it done.’ The need to get tasks done as quickly as possible also leads to the use of inconsistent processes that result in synchronization errors. Typical areas of inconsistency for the hybrid AD environment include:
- Aligning group membership with job roles in both AD and Azure AD
- Gaining appropriate line-of-business approvals for provisioning actions
- Assigning correct permissions to individual admins (least-privilege model)
- Designing easily repeatable processes for particular tasks
Since Azure AD is not a cloud copy of AD, consistency does not mean you cut and paste an on-prem AD workflow into the cloud, such as PowerShell-scripted workflow. You need to ensure that your workflows address the unique needs of both AD and Azure AD to do Azure AD integrations properly.
Much of the burden of AD/Azure AD management can be blamed on user provisioning (which involves setting up accounts in the directory, placing people in the correct groups and making sure they have access to the proper accounts and access to all the necessary applications). But setting up the accounts is one thing, turning them off (or de-provisioning) is another and, perhaps, the more important. After all, the risk associated with a terminated employee retaining access to valuable intellectual property is extremely high.
4. Sync Issues
Azure AD includes a capability called Azure AD Connect, which synchronizes users, groups, attributes, and passwords from on-prem AD to Azure AD. This single capability has driven the widespread adoption of Office 365 – the smooth migration of Office users to the cloud, often without user realization. It enables users to login once to access on-prem and cloud-based resources seamlessly and easily. Of course, this smooth migration is much easier said than done.
Typically, security for cloud-based access is based on permissions and memberships established in the on-prem AD world. Any errors, risk factors or security gaps that exist in the on-prem AD will replicate to the Azure AD environment. For example, say you have a group in AD called Finance. You add employee A to the group while employee B is on leave to cover for them. However, when employee B comes back from leave, you forget to remove employee A from the group. Because of this oversight, when Azure AD integrations with AD occur, the same inappropriate rights associated with this user in AD are now also present in Azure AD. If there are Finance resources available on the hundreds of applications that could potentially be enabled via Azure AD, this user has permission to access and manipulate this sensitive data. Situations like this put the organization at significant risk.
5. Granular Privileged Control and Access Issues
Both on-premise and Azure AD offer similar functionality when it comes to provisioning a user, placing people in groups, resetting a password, etc. However, system-provided on-premise AD tools and Azure AD management tools differ in how they handle privileged control and access.
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.
Azure AD instances have a “Privileged Identity Management” functionality, and users typically don’t share the Global Admin account (or they shouldn’t) however, that “role” can be assigned to a user. With the basic Azure AD Privileged Identity Management function the role can become requestable. Unfortunately, the assignable roles available out-of-the-box typically aren’t able to accomplish specific tasks required to meet organizational needs.
This granular privilege control and access is an issue. However, though delegation is extremely limited, there’s usually less that needs to be delegated. This nuanced difference contributes to the overall challenges of Azure AD integration.
Now that you’re aware of the five big challenges of Azure AD integrations, how can you overcome them? Check out this e-book to find out.