Want to regain control of your remote workers? You’re not alone. Now that a much larger swath of office workers is remote due to the pandemic, many more IT administrators view controlling access and managing systems for remote workers as an imperative.
Historically, an organization’s small population of remote workers might have gone unmanaged, but that’s not possible anymore as entire organizations shift out of the office. Solutions abound with VPNs, expensive remote management and monitoring (RMM) tools, and vast amounts of manual intervention. Unfortunately, those don’t really solve the problem. But there’s good news: A massive shift in the IT landscape and new cloud identity management platforms help admins regain control over remote user access permissions and workstations. Read on to learn about historical approaches to remote user management and the new cloud-based solutions that make managing remote workers as seamless as in-office.
Remote Worker Management: The Old Way
Traditionally, remote workers — often sales personnel and users in satellite offices — connected to the organization’s headquarters and internal Active Directory® network via a VPN. Admins sent users’ machines to them with the software already configured. The machine, typically a Windows® device, would often require multiple logins in order for the user to connect to the network and the applications they needed.
If something went wrong, the user had to be reasonably technical to understand how to fix the issue, send the machine back for repairs, or require IT intervention with a remote desktop solution. This was a productivity sink for both users and IT teams.
The Evolution of the Remote Employee
Beyond that, the number of IT resources users needed grew with SaaS applications like Salesforce, GitHub, and Slack, as well as productivity suites like G Suite™ and Microsoft 365™. Users didn’t need to connect to the internal network as often for resource access because so many of them became cloud-based — but users still needed to connect to the internal network to change their passwords and have their machines configured properly. If a user was managed by AD, admins could implement critical security mechanisms and centrally control access to Window-based resources, but unfortunately, web applications were often outside of the purview of AD.
As organizations began to adopt macOS systems and move to BYOD models, admins were also expected to manage a wider array of operating systems. This confluence of IT changes rendered the existing path of managing remote workers useless. Consequently, new access control and system management platforms have emerged to better accommodate remote workers and their IT resources.
Remote Worker Management: The New Way
As the IT landscape has evolved, innovative Identity-as-a-Service providers have created the category of cloud identity management. By shifting the core directory service to the cloud, admins can easily connect and manage remote workers without VPNs or other workarounds.
In fact, the end user’s device doesn’t need to connect to the on-premises network at all. Instead, users access their IT resources, and admins manage their machines entirely from the cloud, and the process doesn’t differ based on their locations. Cloud directory services integrate natively with virtually all IT resources, including macOS®, Windows, and Linux® machines and cloud-based services. Admins can use cloud directory services to federate core identities everywhere they’re needed and lock down user workstations regardless of OS without the limitations of a traditional Windows domain established via AD. They can also require multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA) at access points for increased security.
This new approach, known as the domainless enterprise, employs core security fundamentals and a seamless user experience — and allows admins to regain control over remote workers. Admins can take a stepwise approach to transitioning away from the domain-bound model by implementing a cloud directory service integrated with their AD instance to serve as a comprehensive AD identity bridge. They can also stand up a full-suite cloud directory service to work in its place. In either case, they can begin to move access control and system management functions to the cloud, rather than relying on on-prem infrastructure or leaving remote users and cloud resources unmanaged.
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