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In the past, the majority of businesses were unaware of the cloud directory. The concept was essentially a mystery. But today, cloud computing is nothing new. But despite this, some businesses still do not understand the implications and benefits of cloud computing.

Modern technology and digital transformation have ensured the cloud is now an essential component of modern business including identity management. Therefore, understanding this new technology is the first step towards improving the efficiency of a business. Once the business understands the advantages, the next step is implementation.

What is Cloud and Cloud Directory?

The simplest definition for cloud computing is accessing and storing programs and data using the internet as opposed to the hard drive of a computer. Internet providers offer software and hardware solutions for cloud computing. This means the cloud is essentially another term for the internet.

The term cloud computing came from the days of presentations and flowcharts as the representation of the enormous number of infrastructures associated with the internet. Connections are accepted as information is received.

It has nothing to do with a computer hard drive. Local computing is when a hard drive is used to run programs or store data. Everything the user needs remains in close proximity to ensure easy and quick data access for the entire local network or a single computer.

Businesses remained functional for decades by using the information located on a hard drive. Cloud computing, on the other hand, means the data or programs are accessed through the internet.

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How It Works

The data accessed must be synced with the information received through the internet. Big business has come to understand what is needed to make this connection. Many individual users do not realize the data being processed is actually massive. The power required for one data center in a single day is more than an entire town requires during the course of a year. The combination of cloud computing and an online connection enables businesses to process information anywhere at any time.

A cloud directory is the result of cloud adoption. This is different than an on-prem directory service or multiple cloud identities. A cloud directory is a platform supporting the latest generation of identity access management (AIM) software. The directory scales hundreds of millions of items automatically as they are required for applications. Directories can be created for numerous uses including device registries and organizational charts.

What is On-Prem?

On-prem, on short for on-premise, is a hardware and software infrastructure setup, with everything running within the organization. The business has full control over the infrastructural setup. All of the data is located in a private network and only authorized teams or users can access this information.

Directories Before the Cloud

In the past, the directory was on-prem, generally delivered through the Microsoft active directory. Since the IT network was on-prem and based through Windows, managing user access with a Microsoft solution made sense. The identity provider was responsible for connecting the IT resources to the users including the network, system, files, and applications.

At this point in time, Windows handled everything. The user logged into a computer, enabling access to everything in the on-prem network provided the user was authorized.

The identity and access management model began breaking down due to the shift away from on-prem. This was when cloud servers became popular.

The network was infiltrated by Linux and Mac machines, with Exchange replaced by Office 365 and G Suite. This led to the struggle of on-prem directory services.

Moving the directory service should have been simple, but the identity provider stayed on-prem and was not able to adapt. This resulted in the release of add-ons by numerous vendors. The idea was to close the gap between Windows, on-prem, and cloud computing.

Identity bridges, governance solutions, and SSO tools were created. Although this provided important assistance for functionality, the result was not a complete solution.

During the course of these changes, the emergence of an identity management platform was created for the next generation. IT departments were able to effectively make the necessary shift. This was referred to as the cloud directory. Users were able to securely manage and connect to systems such as Windows, Linux, and Mac through on-prem applications.

Benefits of a Cloud-Based Directory System

A cloud-based directory service is essential for the majority of businesses for numerous reasons.

The admin selects the best possible solution for the IT environment of the business. This includes on-prem and web applications, cross-platform systems, cloud storage, Samba file servers, dynamic VLAN tagging, SSH key management, multi-factor authentication, and Wi-Fi authentication. All user information is authenticated and stored through the cloud. IT resources are managed securely, providing users with a connection to nearly any IT resource. This includes the IT platform, protocol, provider, and location.

When Your Company Shouldn’t Use a Cloud-Based Directory Service

There are instances where a cloud-based service is not appropriate for a business. When there are only a few employees, the business will be too small to require directory services. The majority of IT administrators can efficiently manage the connections due to the small number of users.

Some organizations are cloud exclusive or native, lacking the ability for the management of directories. The business must be able to manage and host the software and servers, or the business risks both ineffective user management and security breaches.

Things to Consider When Adopting a Cloud Directory System

Below are the most important considerations:

Is It Secure?

The system is secure for many reasons. All stored passwords in the cloud-hosted directory are hashed and one-way salted. All communication occurring within the platform is accomplished using mutual TLS. Certificates for parties on either side of the connection must have certification. This increases the level of security. The hardened infrastructure controls the different ports, and the levels of access necessary for the communication.

It is required to consistently test the infrastructure. This often includes penetration and vulnerability testing. The approach used by a cloud-based directory service is innovative.

The Cost

The initial cost includes both software and hardware. The main expense is the continuous management of the directory services including both the attention and time of the staff. The total cost is dependent on the size of the business, and the number of employees. Despite the many advantages, the cost of implementing directory services is fairly expensive.

What If the Cloud Directory Goes Down?

The design of the cloud directory can handle outages. This means that even if the cloud directory goes down, the servers will continue operating on a global basis. This is survivability. The impact of an outage will not directly impact the business.

What If I Lose My Internet Connection?

To eliminate potential impact, a majority of applications cache credentials for authentication based on LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). Other systems can eliminate any potential downtime with the creation of a redundant connection for the internet.

You can also configure LDAP apps to cache credentials. The configuration will then return to general SSID to ensure network access is available. These steps ensure the business continues even if there is a loss of an internet connection.

Making a Decision

There is no doubt that a cloud directory has become essential for the efficient management of modern business. If your company would like to leverage the power of cloud directory and cloud computing, Teamstack may just be what you need.

Teamstack’s cloud directory allows you to manage users, groups, authentication methods, and permission levels in an intuitive, secure web interface. It also improves the onboarding process, acting as a safeguard against fraudulent users.

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