How National Geographic solved its IAM issues

National Geographic, the 125-year-old worldwide nonprofit, has more than 1,400 full- and part-time employees, and hundreds of contractors working at its headquarters in Washington, DC and in remote offices throughout the world.

Nat Geo’s employees must access several cloud applications, including Google Apps, each with different credentials, to perform their daily duties. In addition, because of the hundreds of contractors Nat Geo employs, the IT department has to deal with high turnover rate of user accounts and manually making sure access is revoked once an employee moves on.

The situation was so out of hand that IT administrators were manually creating 10 new accounts for employees each day and deleting five others at the same time. The process was overwhelmingly consuming and inefficient, especially for such a geographically diverse organization.

Such a task was a tall order, especially since most of the IT administration and help desk-related tasks were taking place in Washington, DC.

But as big and recognizable as National Geographic is this is a situation taking place at a variety of companies, small and large around the world in every economic sector. Like the thousands of other organizations with employees at various locations throughout the world, National Geographic faced a variety of issues when employees lost access to their accounts, either because they were locked out or because they forget them.

When employees were unable to take corrective actions to get themselves back to work because the help desk was closed or unreachable as it was located in a different time zone, productivity was lost, other issues developed.

Solving IAM Issues

To ease any password management issues that arose, National Geographic added a series of technology components to its lineup – solutions available to businesses small and large – including a self-service reset password solution.

To use it, employees simply answer pre-defined security questions that enable them to reset their passwords, even in the middle of the night, without contacting the help desk. This ensures that they are able make a simple change, regain access to their files and get back to work without having to sit around in an unproductive manner waiting for the help deck to unlock their accounts.

The benefits of using such a technology are obvious, but Nat Geo also added an automated account management solution, which allows its administrators to connect the PeopleSoft HR system to Active Directory to automatically read new data twice a day and synchronize it to AD and Google. Now, when someone enters a new personnel request, the account management solution automatically creates a new Google Apps account, AD account, share drive and personal drive access and a profile. The manager in charge then receives an audit trail of all actions and can continue to request additional services needed, such as hardware or mobile devices.

The automated account management solution also assists with automatically de-activating accounts. Once an employee account is disabled in PeopleSoft, the solution automatically disables the AD and Google accounts to ensure the employee no longer has access to any internal accounts, records or information.

National Geographic also set its solution up to transfer that employee’s personal drive information to the manager, as well as ownership of all of the employee’s work-related Google documents. For organizations with high turnover and those with remote environments, implementing such a tool ensures that any projects that are in process are not lost forever.

The identity and access management solutions allow the company to better serve employees worldwide and help them address the high turnover of contract employees in a way that is simple and cost effective.

Though National Geographic is a large organization, businesses operating on a smaller scale also can learn from its actions. These solutions allow all-sized organizations to easily manage accounts, users and passwords. Even though organizations with just a few employees may not see identity and access management as a major hurdle, the issues can be still be just as frustrating to handle.

No matter the size of the organization, IAM issues can become a major problem for not only for the IT department, but can also affect the employees and, like Nat Geo, can impact worldwide productivity.

Though dealing with IAM issues can seem daunting, there are actually several easy ways that organizations can efficiently handle their identity and access management without major time or cost investments.

IAM Issues for All-sized Organizations

For organizations that have staff in various locations across different time zones and borders, identity and access management is designed to protect against a series of issues, including improving security, protecting against inefficiency and mitigating against productivity problems for organizational leaders and end users.

Organizations with frequent movement of employees within their systems, where employees tend to be constantly moving -- joining the company, leaving, changing positions – may see a tremendous need to address IAM issues sooner than their smaller counterparts.

However, no matter the size of an organization, manually performing such administrative tasks can create a plethora of potential problems, like manual errors when inputting data. For example, employees in remote locations may begin employment and still have to wait for their accounts to be created, leaving them unproductive, in an environment where account creation and access is not automated.

In addition, account management for companies operating worldwide can create many security issues. Because of communication issues between offices in different areas, like Europe and South Africa, employees who leave the company may never have their accounts disabled and may be allowed to access the company’s network for long periods of time. The organization may also find it difficult to keep track of which employees have access to what systems.

This leaves the network unsecure, and also makes it difficult for administrators and company leaders to audit files should the need ever arise.

For National Geographic, this is no longer a problem as the company, at least in regard to identity and access management, is fully automated.

Dean Wiech is managing director of Tools4ever, a provider of identity and access management solutions, such as user provisioning, role-based access control (RBAC), password management, single sign-on (SSO) and access management. Tools4ever serves more than five million user accounts worldwide.

 

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