Serverless networks are coming to businesses near you.
Yes, I’m talking about technological advances that could mean you’ll never need to buy another server again.
Back in the day, businesses needed on-site servers to run their applications, store their data, and implement their network security. But, over the past few years, the IT industry underwent a shift.
Tech giants and consumers began a push for cloud-based applications and data storage.
However—despite all the improvements—there was one aspect of your IT infrastructure we simply couldn’t move into the cloud. Charlotte businesses (and organizations across the country) still needed at least one on-site server to manage network and information security.
But all that has changed.
Thanks to Microsoft’s advances with Azure Active Directory, business owners can now enjoy the benefits of serverless networking without sacrificing security and control over their intellectual property.
Before we jump into the benefits, let’s start with a basic knowledge of your active directory server. Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding Serverless Networks: The Active Directory
If your business is serious about cybersecurity, you need a way to apply your security policy to users. An active directory server does this by requiring users to authenticate themselves on the business network.
In a traditional setting, an employee will log into his computer at your office. Active directory will then change the way a computer works—controlling your systems locally. For instance, this server makes sure the PC’s antivirus is running. The server also controls file access for users, and it directs what happens if an employee is fired. The list goes on and on.
Until recently, ensuring these security policies were in place usually involved an on-site server…which needed to be replaced every 5 years at a significant cost.
However, Microsoft has rolled out an update to Microsoft Azure, their cloud-computing platform. The big shift?
If you’re working off the Windows 10 operating system, your company can now connect computers directly to the cloud-based Azure Active Directory.
To be clear, Windows Azure Active Directory has been around prior to this announcement. But it didn’t have all of the security features that businesses need to protect their data.
But that is no longer the case.
Now, instead of using a local server to protect your network, you can use Microsoft’s cloud to authenticate your users—without compromising your data security.
What Are the Benefits of Serverless Networks?
Serverless networks provide a number of advantages that bring value to small- and medium-sized businesses. Let’s look at these below:
Make no mistake. When you move to the cloud, you’re still using a server. The difference is Azure Active Directory uses Microsoft’s server…which means the maintenance and replacement of any hardware fall on Microsoft’s shoulders.
Serverless networks allow employees to easily and securely access their networks—no matter their location. This is especially important for traveling employees or those who work from home.
Let’s say your employees want to use their laptops, iPads, and mobile devices for business tasks. Without the right data security measures, this can expose your sensitive business data to the bad guys. (Check out this article to see the connection between home-based employees and cybersecurity risk.)
In the past, data security measures were clunky. To retrieve data, employees needed to use remote desktop or a virtual private network (VPN) connection back to your corporate network.
But here was the problem: These solutions forced your employees to do something specific to access your data.
Serverless networking changes all of that.
With Azure Active Directory, it doesn’t matter what device an employee uses—your security policies are going to apply. Now, simply logging into Microsoft means your employees will have easy access to your data…all the time. And should your employees lose devices, Azure Active Directory allows your IT team to remotely wipe data off laptops and PCs.
Simplicity is another key benefit of Microsoft-based serverless networks.
For one, you’re dealing with a single vendor, instead of multiple ones. As Microsoft explains here, Office 365 “includes a free subscription to Azure AD.”
But the simplicity principle also encompasses how your users provide credentials.
In business technology, there’s a username and password for everything. There’s an email password, six application passwords, an intranet password…you get the point.
The beauty of Microsoft-based serverless networking is that you’ll give your employees the advantage of a single sign-on.
Here’s what this looks like on Monday morning.
Your employee turns his computer on. The PC then asks the employee to enter his username and password to log in. Azure Active Directory ensures these are the only credentials your employee will need to provide for Microsoft-based applications.
No more logging in for Outlook, OneDrive, Excel, and other Microsoft software. And that means a more streamlined workflow for your team.
In a nutshell, Microsoft-based serverless networking makes accessing protected data simple and easy for your employees.
The benefits of serverless networks are clear. But this solution isn’t for everyone.
Not all organizations will desire to transition to the cloud for their networking components. Nor should they.
At Proactive IT, we realize that serverless networking is not ideal for companies relying on specific, resource-intensive systems (for instance, manufacturers who draw heavily on CAD technology). And this leads us to our next question…
What Are the Drawbacks of Serverless Networks?
Despite the advantages of serverless networks, there are downsides and drawbacks that deserve your attention.
I wouldn’t say the issues listed below are deal-breakers. However, they are factors you should consider before making a decision.
Loss of Control
Loss of control is a big issue with cloud computing. But when I say loss of control here, I’m talking about losing access to the data itself.
Technically speaking, Microsoft can block you from your data. (If you’re unconvinced, check out our recent article about Salesforce.) That’s what happens when you trust another entity with your network or data.
Don’t ignore this reality when considering your options. In the case of Office 365, Proactive IT can help mitigate this risk with cloud backup technologies.
Let’s face it. Using Azure Active Directory means you’re placing even more responsibility into Microsoft’s hands. And entrusting your business operations to a single entity increases your exposure.
Ideally, you should back up your network with a third party. It isn’t likely that Microsoft will close its doors tomorrow. But should something catastrophic happen, you’ll still have access to your data.
Microsoft may be massive, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to a serious hack.
Should a cybersecurity attack occur, you can’t pull the plug on your server. This is an especially important consideration for companies that have tight restrictions and data security concerns.
Unless you have locally stored copies of cloud data, a defunct internet connection is a big deal. If a thunderstorm takes down your internet, you’ve essentially lost access to everything. (This is a huge concern for cloud-hosted applications.)
Azure Active Directory isn’t exempt from this risk.
Once again, my advice is this: Don’t rely on a single provider. It’s best to have a backup internet connection should something happen.
Are Serverless Networks the Wave of the Future?
Whether you decide to leverage serverless networks or determine they aren’t for you, either choice is a valid option.
But I will say this: Serverless networking isn’t just another technological option in IT.
It’s the wave of the future.