By Rajat Bhargava Posted February 16, 2015
Non-technical folks and management often ask: “Why are directory services beneficial, and could we live without one?”
The short answer is yes. In theory, an organization could get by without a directory service if they are very small.
However, building a business without a strong infrastructure to scale will mar your ability to grow. User management and directories are perhaps the most critical piece of IT infrastructure outside of the network itself. This post explains why a user directory is key to business foundations. It also explains why you shouldn’t build – even a small business or startup – without one.
Businesses Need One Place of Central Control
An organization needs to control who has access to which IT resources. This means organizing (1) the people on the team (employees, contractors, vendors) and (2) those individual’s access to various IT resources (laptops or desktops, servers, applications, WiFi, etc).
This is possible to manually manage in a spreadsheet or document when a business has only a few employees with a few resources. However, the number of possible combinations exponentially grows as you add employees and resources.
The question concerns the number of “combinations” or a selection of all or part of a set of objects, without regard to the order in which objects are selected.
- With 5 employees and 15 potential resources at a time, there are 3,003 possible combinations. Check out the combination calculator.
Imagine receiving a small investment and growing your company to 50 employees but keeping the same amount of resources as your company scales.
- Suddenly, with 50 employees and 15 potential resources at a time, there are 2,250,829,575,120 possible combinations.
3,003 can be manually managed in Excel. Two trillion is another problem altogether. Oh, and we didn’t even talk about differing levels of access such as administrator or general user!
IT Admins Need to Ensure Security to Business Data and Information
Controlling individual access to IT resources is also a security issue. Manually tracking user access will work for the short term, but it breaks down quickly.
- Can you accurately track what resources a person needs to access? When they are offboarded, can you ensure that all of those connections have been disabled?
- What happens when one part of the organization adds cloud servers or web apps and creates users on those IT resources?
- Is there central awareness? Who owns that process?
A directory service manages all of a business’s network connections as the central point of authority. It ensures that all IT resources are connected to the right users. When employees are terminated, a directory service automatically turns off all access to every resource or device in that individual’s library. No strings are left untied; security is greatly enhanced. Some of the most significant breaches have occurred because of improper access controls. A central directory ensures that there is strong security around access.
Businesses Need to Audit Their Users and Access at Anytime
Not only is it critical to have central control, but it is vital to know that the controls work properly.
This is where auditing comes in. If you don’t have a central user management system, you can’t double-check that the right people have the right access. You can’t go back and see when a person was on-boarded, what access they were given, or when they were off-boarded. All of these things are critical for a company that is growing. IT admins and finance folks understand controls by definition. They know that ensuring a catastrophic breach of their financial processes is just a missed control away. The same is true with IT systems.
A lack of visibility can lead to a breach, theft of data, or gap in systems. None of these are a positive outcome. If the company is subject to any regulations, it is even more serious. A central directory service provides accountability. It provides the history of who has access to what and when. That is critical to any organization.
A directory service brings systematic organization to a critical task: connecting your employees to the IT resources they need. In an era where digital assets are the crown jewels of an organization, protecting them starts with controlling user access to the network, your devices, and applications.
Moving Forward with Directory Services Key Benefits
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