What Is SharePoint?
SharePoint is a Microsoft-based web application platform that offers an organization the ability to manage and share information from multiple applications in one location. SharePoint is designed to streamline workflows and increase efficiencies surrounding content and application development, document and content management, intranet and extranet functionality and enterprise-level search capabilities.
Why SharePoint Is Best for Governments
A government agency’s ability to function efficiently relies on the secure and timely collaboration of information. SharePoint allows government sectors to streamline workflows while providing the services they need more efficiently. This platform allows for different offices and departments to securely share and collaborate on sensitive information at any time or from anywhere. Agencies are also able to access and generate reports and analysis information in real time. A tool like SharePoint is extremely valuable to the government sector, as it allows for increased workflows and efficiencies while satisfying security and budgetary restrictions.
SharePoint Challenges for Government Agencies
Although SharePoint provides a good foundation for increased workflow efficiencies and collaboration, there are still several challenges when customizing the platform to integrate seamlessly with an organization’s unique specifications and structure.
For example, SharePoint on its own does not have the ability to merge user information when it exists in multiple LDAP directories or AD forests. This can make it difficult for government agencies to access SharePoint when their identity data is stored in separate locations, depending on the particular agency or department.
Out of the box, SharePoint cannot be deployed across multiple active directory forests without a trust, and it is a grueling, timely process when trying to deploy access to both internal and external users. This particularly presents a challenge when a government agency is trying to share information with external agencies such as a police or fire department.
In addition, because SharePoint is such a robust platform, the administration process can be overwhelming and time consuming, especially when constantly having to manage users, groups and permissions. Security and compliance can be compromised due to a lack of flexibility, allowing users access to more information than necessary and creating a lack of visibility due to the limited audit reporting available. These are all challenges that organizations, and particularly government agencies, cannot afford to face.
Key Features of VIS SharePoint for Government
Virtual Identity Server for SharePoint is a secure, manageable multi-forest SharePoint solution that provides intelligent claims-based authentication and federation in SharePoint. In other words, VIS for SharePoint enables organizations to effectively deploy and maintain SharePoint in a secure, manageable fashion, saving them time and greatly reducing total cost of administration. Below are just some of the key features that make Virtual Identity Server for SharePoint essential to getting the most value possible out of SharePoint:
- Virtual static and dynamic groups: Enhance the security model, providing a more robust, flexible solution
- Extensive audit and compliance reporting: A complete audit and compliance solution with built-in reporting
- Multi-forest SharePoint solution: Deploy SharePoint rapidly across multiple Active Directory forests without trusts
- Two-factor authentications: SharePoint claims based authentication offers increased security using SecurID, Smart Card, USB Token, etc.
- Forms-based authentication: Can span multiple forests and multiple platforms such as Active Directory (AD) or any data store
- SharePoint federation: Seamless integration among systems and applications supported via our STS standalone or integrated with AD FS
- CAC authentication: Department of Defense, Common Access Card (CAC) authentication
- Digital certificates: Seamless login via client certificates
- Single Sign-On: One secure login providing seamless access to systems and applications
- People picker/claims provider: Ability to search for users/groups across all identity stores
How VIS for SharePoint Can Benefit Your Agency
Virtual Identity Server (VIS) for SharePoint offers significant benefits for any organization. However, VIS for SharePoint offers specific benefits for government agencies that make it an essential part of the identity management infrastructure.
1. Virtual Dynamic Group Capabilities
The virtual dynamic group capabilities allow for security settings and permissions to be configured once, and then they automatically get updated as data changes within the environment. VIS for SharePoint is also designed to access users from any data store, whether that’s AD, SQL database or any other data store. This means it does NOT require a domain controller or any admin privileges on a domain controller.
The end result is increased security and governance while significantly reducing the cost of administration. This is crucial in the government sector for meeting audit and compliance regulations and complying with government budget restrictions.
2. Robust Configuration
Another major benefit of VIS for SharePoint for government agencies is the extensive and robust configuration abilities surrounding Common Access Card (CAC) authentication. Out of the box, VIS for SharePoint can authenticate to SharePoint with a Common Access Card (CAC). Any attribute off of the card can be validated against the Active Directory (AD), with the most common attribute being the EDIPI number. Even the validity of the CAC itself can be verified by checking the CRL.
3. More Detailed Information
VIS for SharePoint can also call out to other systems to get more detailed information, such security clearances. This data can be sent as a role claims to SharePoint and used to control access to SharePoint document libraries, lists and more.
4. Customization Options
CAC authentication can be customized and configured to fit specific conditions. For example, anyone with a CAC can have access, or additional conditions can be configured, like requiring group membership to be checked before authorizing. For an even higher level of security, authentication via CAC can also be configured to send a workflow request to a Del admin to approve or deny before authorizing access. Workflow requests, as well as auto self-registration and account creation, can significantly reduce the time and cost of administration.
5. Availability for Non-CAC Users
VIS for SharePoint can also be configured to allow non-CAC users to access certain information on SharePoint. This is essential when government agencies need to share information with first responders such as firefighters, police or ambulances. These users can log in via a user ID and password that can be stored in the VIS — there is no need to access the Active Directory. Learn more about VIS for SharePoint.
Identity Access Management in Government Agencies
Government work requires privacy and high-security safeguards. When unauthorized access becomes a matter of national, state or local security, you need to know that the only people gaining access to your system are those with the clearance to be there. Identity access management (IAM) is also a key part of boosting productivity for these organizations, making logins faster and easier for both workers and citizens.
When it comes to identity management for federal governments, organizations need to manage a wide range of accounts with varying levels of access, and they need to be able to respond quickly without sacrificing security. Identity management for state governments and local agencies has similar requirements, and these groups often need to keep costs down to stay within budgets. Both require robust IAM systems to protect organizational and personal data and ensure operational efficiency.
Another important part of IAM is the citizen experience. It’s becoming more common for the general public to accomplish various tasks, like license renewal and tax filing, online. While these capabilities have modernized and vastly expanded citizens’ options, they’ve also increased the need for secure, user-friendly authentication systems. Users digitally exchange a range of personally identifiable information (PII) that needs to be responsibly protected.
In general, IAM refers to ensuring that only authorized users can access information however and whenever it’s appropriate, and it can include cloud, on-premise or hybrid solutions. Many IAM services will overlap with SharePoint programs, such as multifactor authentication and Single Sign-On (SSO). It also includes user management and can help government organizations closely monitor permissions and access while automating various processes, such as adding new users and revoking access when employees leave.
The advantages of IAM for government facilities are wide-reaching and include:
- Greater data security: Of course, a robust IAM program can keep PII safe, preventing data leaks and breaches from carelessness or intentional hacking. SSO eliminates the need to write down various passwords, while multifactor authentication adds an extra layer of security to whichever logins deemed appropriate.
- Full compliance: Our IAM programs take applicable government regulations in stride. For cloud-based, hybrid and on-premise solutions, we employ the right protocols to help you stay compliant.
- Centralized control: Managing a large staff with varying levels of access or clearance calls for an efficient, centralized method of management, and an IAM system can deliver this, reducing fragmentation from disconnected programs and directories.
- Greater efficiency: By limiting the number of logins, automating provisioning and improving ease of use for many other tasks, IAM can be a significant component of a more productive workplace and a faster, easier citizen experience.
At Optimal IdM, we understand the challenges that face government agencies and take steps to address them to provide identification management that government agencies and their citizens can depend on.
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