When you think about data analytics, identity and access management (IAM) might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Data security certainly isn’t a glamorous topic, but it’s an important one, especially if you’re moving to the cloud. More organisations are leveraging cloud-based data analytics solutions for the flexibility and scalability they provide, but security is still a significant hurdle to cloud migration. Although emerging technology has greatly improved cloud security against outside threats, people are still the weakest link—in fact, 90% of cybersecurity issues originate from human error within the organisation.
To secure data in the cloud, business leaders must establish a process for effective data governance to ensure data is consistent and trustworthy and that it won’t be misused. This includes verifying that valuable and sensitive data can only be accessed by specific users. However, setting up user authentication and authorisation presents a number of unique challenges.
Challenges of user authentication and authorisation
As far as cybersecurity goes, both authentication and authorisation are necessary to protect sensitive data assets. Authentication is the process of proving the identity of a user, while authorisation is the process of verifying what they can access. Without either, vulnerable data is left exposed to potential breaches and theft. But, of course, effectivity managing IAM controls creates many challenges and obstacles for IT leaders:
Zero Trust models are useful, but complicated
Many organisations have adopted Zero Trust models, which follow the policy of “never trust, always verify.” Those inside and outside of the network parameter are cleared, checked and verified before accessing resources. While Zero Trust policies are effective against threats, the time and effort to set them up should not be underestimated – especially with today’s variety of apps, users, and devices.
Licensing models test the limits of authentication
For organisations managing user licenses, dealing with possibly hundreds to thousands of rotating users is a logistical nightmare. In this case, automation becomes a necessity to ensure that licenses are assigned and freed-up in a timely manner to prevent disruption.
Multiple logins are cumbersome and time-consuming
Adopting a cloud service generally means having to create multiple logins for each user, which can drain time and IT resources. Alternatively, cloud analytics solutions with single sign-on (SSO) and federation can help manage users centrally, since they require only one set of credentials and one login for each user across multiple platforms.
Traditional user authentication constrains collaboration
With traditional IAM strategies, collaboration is limited in order to create a Zero Trust environment. However, modern businesses need the ability to collaborate and share insights across the organisation. An effective cloud analytics platform will include attributes such as group memberships or custom roles that allow users to create and manage “shared spaces” that enable collaboration and information sharing.
Lifecycle management bogs down IT departments
Many organizations manually onboard and offboard users, which slow IT workflows. The right cloud analytics platform will allow for the rapid creation and deletion of accounts and management of access and entitlements across platforms without weighing down IT teams in the process.
Choosing the right technology is critical for success yet optimizing your IT systems for a secure cloud experience can take time. That’s why it’s important to know there are both short-term and long-term strategies that help to overcome these hurdles.
Two strategies for overcoming identity and access challenges
For organisations that need to get up and running quickly, a short-term solution includes a best-in-class data governance platform like Qlik Sense to quickly automate and support authentication and authorisation in the cloud. Qlik Sense leverages internal and external resources to manage access, authentication and authorisation across the organisation. This includes using attribute-based access control to ensure only permissible users have access to allowable data via a secure connection.
Organisations contemplating a longer-term solution may need more than a “lift-and-shift” to a cloud-based platform. It may require an altogether different process that includes:
- Using an existing SSO solution like Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services or Azure Active Directory to securely share digital identity and entitlements rights across your security and enterprise boundaries.
- Leveraging a dedicated third-party identity provider, such as Okta or Auth0, to create a custom IAM solution for your organisation that adds SSO, multi-factor authentication, user management, lifecycle management and more to build an effective Zero Trust environment.
- Using another cloud-based platform or product from an Identity Provider like Salesforce or G-Suite to authenticate credentials on behalf of your website or applications.
These processes will be more time consuming but may be a good option for those that need data to remain on-premise or to work around complex legacy systems. Whichever method you choose, it’s essential to set up your identity and access management in a way that works for your business and addresses your specific needs.
Acumen can help you get up and running quickly
Working with a knowledgeable partner can simplify and speed up the process. At Acumen BI, we are seasoned experts at supporting and deploying cloud and on-premise data analytics and data governance solutions. We work with you every step of the way to ensure you have the right authentication and authorisation strategy for your business and that you can tackle cloud complexities with ease.