Modern Remote User Enablement

Written by Kayla Coco-Stotts on April 2, 2020

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User enablement and provisioning is a vital component of the job of IT. Admins are responsible not only for providing employees with the tools they need, but also for ensuring that users and their machines are protected from potential threats. And now, with much of the world adjusting to the idea of mandatory remote work, setting users up for success is essential.

Traditional User Enablement

Identity management has increased in complexity throughout the years, reflecting advances in technology that range from web applications to cloud data management and storage. Historically, IT departments managed users and their devices using Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD), which functioned primarily for on-premises, Windows-centric environments. 

AD was designed to service employees that conducted all their work within the four walls of their organization, within the Windows® domain. User management used to be relatively convenient for AD-centric environments, but that has changed with the increased implementation of modern IT resources such as:

  • SaaS applications (like Salesforce®, Slack®, and G Suite™)
  • A mix of operating system platforms (such as macOS® and Linux®)
  • VPN & WiFi networks
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms (e.g. AWS®, GCP™)
  • Cloud and on-prem storage systems (based often on Samba)

Even more impactful in today’s environment is the sudden and dramatic shift to remote work due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. With this new way of working — both where and what — Active Directory has become cumbersome for organizations wanting to securely enable their users.

Modernizing The User Experience

One of the main goals for IT professionals is to quickly and securely allow users to get their work done. In remote environments this is vitally important, as users working without the proper tooling could be left vulnerable to threats such as phishing attacks, or users could be left unable to work in a timely, productive manner.

For many organizations, implementing a core directory service that is designed to support modern IT resources (whether they’re remote or not) is the logical solution. Below, we’ll go over the ways in which a modernized cloud directory service changes the flexibility and security for both users and admins, and how a domainless approach is optimal for supporting the needs of users.

Identity Management

Upon its release, Active Directory was widely praised for its ability to facilitate flexible work for users; they could connect to their on-prem systems, networks, and apps using one set of credentials. However, while the working world around AD has transformed to prefer cloud-forward, location-agnostic technology, Active Directory has maintained a focus on Windows-centric, on-prem environments.

This has forced many admins to layer additional solutions to connect users to their modern resources, and with countless organizations implementing a work from home model, AD’s gaps in user management capabilities have left IT departments seeking out a directory service that addresses identity management holistically. 

Modern remote user management focuses on the user’s identity. It both secures and connects users to nearly all their resources with a single set of credentials. Instead of layering on services for multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO) to web apps, system-based password management, and server access/management, admins can leverage one core directory service to wholly manage user identities.

For the users, this means that they can securely and conveniently access their resources from wherever, regardless of provider or platform. And for IT departments, this modernized approach to user enablement allows them to gain access to a whole new world of support resources via cloud-based service providers, so the job of managing user identities doesn’t solely rest on internal IT’s shoulders.

System Management

In a world where AD thrived, users walked into a building, used their password to log into a Windows computer, and conducted the entirety of their work using either their machines or on-prem apps. Now, users conduct work on a variety of systems, not just Windows but also macOS and Linux, and they do so from a variety of locations.

Using a core directory service built for modern needs allows users to be flexible in how they approach their work. For example, modernized directory services give users the opportunity to have one place (their system) to change their password for every resource they use.

Because users are changing their password through their system — and not through a web page or application — there’s reduced risk for phishing attacks. Additionally, IT departments don’t have to spend time and effort configuring and troubleshooting VPNs, because modernized directory services enable end user self service, to update their credentials wherever their systems are located.

So in regard to system management, employees use their system as a secured gateway to their resources, making user enablement convenient and scalable for both IT and the users they’re servicing. 

Connecting a Remote World

Remote working in itself can be challenging for both users and IT admins. It can be hard to focus when isolated in your home, and troubleshooting user issues via chat can be difficult for any experienced admin. Modernized identity and access management (IAM) tooling alleviates any additional stressors that users and IT may be experiencing.

Users can employ one set of credentials for all the resources they need without compromising choice of platform, convenience, or dependability. IT departments can enable MFA, full disk encryption, anti-virus/anti-malware software, preconfigured VPNs, SSO, and more from one platform — effectively freeing up the time they need to help their users adjust to this new way of working.
Interested in modernizing your user enablement so it is better equipped for a remote, cloud-focused world? Feel free to reach out to one of our representatives to learn how JumpCloud® can help you with this transition. You can also read our comprehensive guide on remote working, which includes best practices, common questions, and strategies to ensure you have the right tools to adapt to this remote world.

Kayla Coco-Stotts

Kayla is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in Print Journalism from the University of Kentucky. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and loves to eat good food and hike Boulder's beautiful trails when she is not writing.

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