September 27, 2017

“We’re cloud-first.” For many educational institutions, that phrase is not only a leadership mandate, it’s already a reality. The relative ease of purchasing and deploying cloud solutions means users, both individually and at a department level, are actively implementing critical applications as a service. Also, the inherent cost-effectiveness of cloud solutions means schools can do more with less. Cloud is transforming the way institutions do business and serve their broad constituents.

Successfully managing the adoption of SaaS applications – and securely migrating to a cloud enterprise – requires identity governance. Identity is what powers the cloud and enables educational institutions to securely migrate to a cloud enterprise while still having full visibility to identity information across the IT infrastructure. Identity solutions govern who has access to applications, systems and data – regardless of where they’re deployed – and empower users to work wherever they are and on whatever device they want to use. This is essential given the diverse user population (faculty, staff, students, volunteers, etc.) which brings to the equation their own devices, needs and expectations.

The Power of Cloud-Based Identity

As educational institutions become more comfortable with moving strategic and mission-critical applications into the cloud, it can feel overwhelming to consider using larger and more complex solutions – such as identity – as a service (SaaS). Even as schools migrate toward the cloud, they often “don’t mess around with identity” because they believe they lack the budget, time or skilled identity resources required to implement such a technology. But that’s no longer an inhibitor to implementing identity management.

Cloud-based identity governance offers the same security, automation and compliance delivered by enterprise-class identity solutions, coupled with a low total cost of ownership and rapid deployment. Put simply, identity provides the power to make the cloud enterprise secure.

Are You Ready?

While the benefits of SaaS are clear – faster deployment times, cost savings, simplified management and increased business agility – there are still elements to consider before moving identity governance into the cloud. The following four questions will help you determine if moving identity into the cloud is the right move for your business.

  1. Have you already moved any infrastructure to the cloud?
    It’s estimated that most enterprises have more than 1,000 cloud services already running in the organization. While many applications are relatively easy to use as a service, transferring more complex infrastructure – such as an identity program – into the cloud can be much more challenging to implement.

    If you’ve already started migrating portions of your infrastructure to a services model, e.g. Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, then you have likely already experienced both the benefits and tradeoffs of working in the cloud. However, if cloud-based infrastructure is new to your institution, carefully consider the other questions below before making the leap.
  2. Is your institution flexible enough to redefine its approach to identity governance?
    Cloud-based identity governance solves all these identity-related problems – but it does so using a configurable best practices approach. For educational institutions that don’t have the time or expertise to create custom identity policies or compliant processes from scratch, this provides an ideal approach to identity governance. However, if your institution has rigid requirements about how identity governance must be used, it may be more of a challenge to move to a cloud-based solution.
  3. Do you have limited resources for administering an identity governance program?
    Next, take a look at your institution. Effective identity governance requires an artful blend of people, processes and technology, and deploying a successful solution is both time- and resource-intensive. This is true even with a cloud-based deployment. However, if you have limited resources, either in size or expertise, the cloud is a good option.

    With no hardware to upgrade or infrastructure to manage, deploying and administering an effective identity governance program becomes exponentially simpler. This makes cloud-based identity governance an ideal option for educational institutions that have smaller identity management teams or IT and security teams that don’t have a deep bench of expertise.
  4. Do you have the right vendor?
    Identity governance is more than just modifying who has access to what. Effective identity governance must also answer the questions of which user(s) should have access, what kind of access are they entitled to, and what can they do with that access. It’s important to work with a vendor that is invested in your long-term success and approaches the relationship as a partner. The vendor should also possess a deep understanding of the enterprise identity management space and can effectively meet your business needs.

    While cloud-based identity governance is simpler to use, it’s still a complex program that needs to be at the center of your security and compliance efforts. Furthermore, to fully gain all the continuous upgrades and cost benefits of a SaaS deployment, your identity governance vendor needs to offer the solution as a true service versus a hosted version of an on-premises solution. A hosted version does not allow you to split infrastructure costs with multiple tenants, whereas a true SaaS-based solution ensures you use the latest version of available software, and the cost and time to upgrade are essentially non-existent.

Identity governance delivered as a service adds fine-grained control over access to all your cloud-based corporate resources and on-premises applications, while extending secure self-service capabilities out to your diverse user population. With a comprehensive solution, you can use best practices to govern access to all the information that business users need. Use the power of the cloud to limit the risk of inappropriate access and empower your institution to grow.

Learn more about Identity for Higher Education.

Find out how SailPoint can help your organization.

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