Cloud Changes Status Quo for Identity, Access Management

Data security has always been a major concern for businesses around the world, encouraging decision-makers to implement robust identity and access management (IAM) technologies to ensure authorized individuals are the only ones who can use confidential resources. The proliferation of cloud computing in the enterprise is introducing new opportunities to this sector because companies can now outsource some of the responsibilities associated with safeguarding highly sensitive information.

Cloud infrastructure security technologies, for example, continue to change the status quo regarding data protection and authorization to restricted areas of sensitive networks.

As the cloud market continues to expand, the IAM industry will continue to feel its presence. A recent report by research firm Ovum highlighted this trend, noting that roughly 80 percent of organizations already make use of some type of cloud. Now, traditional IAM providers are being pressured by the proliferation of cloud-based solutions to offer more sophisticated tools that promise to keep sensitive information safe without introducing performance restrictions.

"The increasing use of cloud-based services is driving the need for better and more interactive single sign-on and federated identity management facilities," said Andrew Kellett, principal analyst for IT security solutions at Ovum. "For the foreseeable future, organizations will continue to make use of a mixed range of on-premise, hosted, and cloud-based systems and services."

Ensuring cloud projects are beneficial
The most significant problem businesses face when launching cloud security tools is the presence of "shadow IT" services, Ovum noted. These are solutions that have been deployed without the permission of the IT department, a practice that can introduce significant problems. By educating the workforce on best practices associated with IT procurement, however, executives can be sure their use of the cloud is positive.

"The cloud remains a source of opportunity for the IAM sector," Kellett asserted. "A new generation of cloud specialists are challenging established approaches to managing identity and are positioning themselves as offering a more flexible, easier-to-deploy, and cost-effective approach to managing identity from the cloud."

A separate Microsoft report highlighted similar findings, noting that the majority of companies that have implemented cloud technologies noticed an improvement in security. Another 62 percent of firms stated that cloud services allowed them to improve their ability to keep mission-critical resources private from unauthorized users.

The Microsoft survey suggests that cloud-enabled IAM services offer businesses around the world new opportunities to improve operations, reduce costs, and eliminate the chances of inadvertently experiencing a data breach, which can lead to short- and long-term problems. At the same time, however, enterprises cannot simply deploy the cloud and hope for the best. Executives need to thoroughly evaluate the cloud and recognize how implementing the tools one way or another will make a performance difference.

"[The cloud's] ability to operate independently as well as alongside existing IAM providers needs to be tested, as does the range, quality, and security of the bridging facilities and application program interfaces currently available for delivering access to cloud-based applications," Kellett noted.

There is no doubt that the cloud computing landscape will continue to grow in the coming years, especially as enterprises become more familiar with the technology and recognize its inherent benefits for multiple aspects of IT, including protection. Forward-thinking decision-makers need to plan ahead and calculate how their use of the cloud will either introduce distinct advantages or challenges, depending on how well the workforce understands the hosted services. With the proper education and procurement strategies, companies of all sizes can experience security improvements by implementing the cloud.

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