As little as ten years ago, there was no real choice when it came to selecting a directory service. Microsoft Active Directory (AD) wasn't just the default option—it was the only option. This monopoly has since left businesses reliant on a static, on-premises solution that can’t easily scale or integrate with modern cloud-based applications.
Now, organizations have to meet the access needs of their employees, customers, and third-party partners all at once. According to Deloitte, 74% of companies are outsourcing IT functions so they can focus more on growing the business. Despite this, many organizations don’t have the right systems in place to enable effective collaboration with external users.
To mitigate this issue, companies need a meta-directory that acts as a central location for all their user identities—one that seamlessly integrates with both legacy infrastructure and modern applications.
IT needs a more modern approach
Businesses that haven’t adopted a centralized meta-directory to manage all of their user identities face a number of issues. To start, they likely have disparate systems that host user profile information that includes their traditional directory (such as AD), HR services (including Workday), and email, to name a few. This makes it very difficult for an organization to have a single source of truth when it comes to user data.
For IT, managing multiple identity sources can be a massive headache. In each onboarding, offboarding, or role change instances, IT admins need to input or update user information across all of these systems. This can be a very manual, error-prone process that takes significant time away from higher-value tasks.
When it comes to external users—like partners or contractors—IT might not be responsible for managing their identities, yet they’re often tasked with ensuring that these users have access to internal resources and systems. Without being able to establish consistent group access rules across all their resources, whether on-prem or SaaS, IT opens itself up to security risks.
How a meta-directory makes cloud adoption frictionless
A cloud-based meta-directory creates one central location to oversee and manage users, groups, and devices. This approach enables businesses to have a single view of all their users and attributes, such as linked-objects, sensitive attributes, and predefined lists. While a meta-directory reduces costs, it is also vital for increasing data security in a digital landscape experiencing a growing onslaught of data breaches.
Specifically, meta-directories can help businesses to:
- Synchronize user profile information across cloud HR systems, on-premises directory systems, and applications
- Provision user accounts with rich profile information such as roles, managers, geo-locations, and other attributes that help to configure complex authentication and authorization rules
- Collect, import, and store any type of user attribute, including externally defined custom attributes
- Implement a single sign-on (SSO) solution to eliminate helpdesk calls for password resets
- Integrate users on any app or directory with lifecycle awareness and extensibility
- Receive dynamic data by integrating with internal systems
- Speed up the integration of systems and IT with acquired businesses
Centralizing identity reaps many rewards
As enterprise cloud adoption increases, it is critical for businesses to ensure that employees and external users enjoy seamless access to all their resources—while offloading low-priority tasks from IT. Internally, that means a centralized directory, like Okta’s Universal Directory, that easily manages all users.
Deploying a meta-directory will help your organization securely adopt cloud apps, update legacy IT infrastructure, and cut IT admin costs—all while keeping both your internal and external users happy.
For more information on how legacy infrastructure could be holding your business back download our whitepaper.