Technology – Azured
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Azured makes it easy…To protect the home office.?

When we consider home office security, we’re talking identities, devices and data. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on around our kitchen tables at the moment that should probably be a bit more secure than it currently is…

You can imagine the challenges… Your Finance Director needs access to your accounting software – and that contains some supersensitive data. Your Sales Director has a client presentation and needs to access the client’s history. Your CEO doesn’t have the right permissions to see the data they need. And then there’s Geoff the admin assistant, who can log in – and access EVERYTHIING… And he hasn’t updated his anti-virus software since 2008. You get the picture…

We’ve put together a short video to explain how our smorgasbord of solutions provide enterprise grade security – within the budget of SMEs.

And that’s not all folks… we’re offering a free security assessment in February and March. No obligation, naturally. But if we can help, you can bet your meatballs we will.

PS. If you do like the sound of a free security assessment, drop us a message and we’ll be in touch.

CASE STUDY: Hyve Group?

No one works in isolation in any business, but in the aptly named Hyve Group plc, a FTSE 250 international trade show organiser, the need to join forces is intrinsic. The company operates a highly collaborative environment sharing ideas and opportunities between teams. With 1,200 workers in 13 countries focused on delivering innovative and dynamic events around the world, its need for a flexible, collaborative IT environment made it a strong candidate for digital transformation.

“Azured deliver more, for less. An environment that is more cost effective – and a service with greater security that is more reliable and easier to manage. Our global team, operating in 13 countries, went home Friday evening and came back Monday morning and everything was in place, ready for us to start working.”

Keith O’Hara, Group Technology and Information Director, Hyve

The challenges of multi-platform identity migration – with unreliable data…

As a consequence of growth through acquisition Hyve’s international footprint was made complex by different IT architectures. They naturally ran multiple applications – some shared, some not – and inevitably maintained multiple identity platforms, with all the complexity that implies for user, device and application identity management.

Hyve approached Azured to lead the project, knowing that it has specific and deep expertise in identity migration – one of the central challenges of the project. Acting as lead architect for the transformation, Azured assembled a team of project specialists whose knowledge and skills are not normally found in-house among client IT departments.

In crafting the solution, the core objective was that everyone on Hyve’s creative teams around the world should be able to use a single sign-on to virtually all the applications they need, from all the devices they use during the transition and after completion.

Given the complexity of the existing state, it would be a tall order for any specialist IT consultancy, but is firmly in the home territory of Azured. The confused state of the identity data made it unfeasible to consolidate into an existing directory services system.

Shaping a seamless single sign-on solution

Azured suggested it would be more favourable to migrate into a new hybrid identity platform (both on-premise and cloud-based). To do so would also be consistent with the planned move to cloud-based infrastructure for applications available across the enterprise.

To manage the migration, Azured would need to analyse the source platforms and remediate its data, removing duplicates (typically multiple identical objects in different identity platforms), cleaning up incorrect entries, deleting obsolete identity objects – for all its people and devices, current and past. It is a challenge that appears more straightforward in the description than in practice, when you bear in mind that each one of Hyve’s people might have more than fifty applications for which her log in needs to work, and consequently multiple objects relating to that identity must be migrated.

The Azured approach is marked by its attention to the device identities as well as the users of those devices. As an object of the user’s identity, everything she uses has identity data that must be recorded and moved into the new platform for it all to work as seamlessly as the brief required, namely, a single sign-on experience to everything: devices, networks, applications, permissions.

To guarantee all would be operating perfectly on the Monday morning after the migration, Azured created a simulated environment in a lab. The team focused on the critical applications first, analysing each device type (laptops and desktops) to understand the relationship between the user and the device, its operating system, and the applications the user needs to access.

Azured used a combination of scripts and software to iteratively interrogate the identity data, remediating it where it was inconsistent with the new platform in a lab simulation. The lab approach refines the migration process by continually analysing devices, applications and identities to arrive at a stable setup.

Streamlined. Secure. Cheaper? Sorry, did you just say, cheaper?

The migration was completed in a year, with the switch over achieving the Azured target of 72 hours downtime over one weekend, with critical systems such as mail and messaging only being off-line for a few hours overnight.

The identities for all Hyve’s people and its devices are in the new identity management system giving them uninterrupted access to all the applications they need. While holding all identity information in the new system Azured was also able, during the transition, to make accessible legacy applications whose server identities still reside in the old system. Azured were able to demonstrate that it was more cost effective to leave some of the legacy applications in the old world – having remediated it, than to migrate them to the new environment, saving Hyve significant sums of money.

The success of the project can be in part attributed to the technical solution, but also to the management of the project team and the relationship between Azured and the Group IT Director at Hyve. Hyve kept Azured operating at arm’s length, allowing the team to analyse, test, simulate and craft the solution to the IT brief, free from outside influence.

The net result for Hyve is not only a more easily managed identity system within a cloud-based IT architecture, but greater flexibility, more security, and ease of use to enable its people to collaborate more effectively between teams and across borders. The control the organisation now has over access and permissions is far greater, giving them a stronger sense of security and reduced risk.

Microsoft’s security evolution?

Microsoft traditionally had left security to its partners and as someone who has been involved in the Microsoft stack for almost 20 years, I’ve been in an interesting position, watching their approach transform and change in line with business conditions.

But this isn’t the first time Microsoft has evolved their position…

When Hyper-V, Microsoft’s “free” enterprise grade hypervisor, was initially released, the product was only used by the most die hard of Microsoft organisations (read: bundled within their Enterprise Agreement) and cost-conscious of small businesses. It seemed to be years behind the clear market leader at the time, VMware.

At the time I knew of only a handful of big customers that had taken the plunge into Hyper-V (with its management friend, VMM) and I would only hear of problems emanating from their support teams, citing; a lack of functionality, “undocumented features” and an absence of those quality-of-life features we had taken for granted from VMWare. Simply stated, the early days of Hyper-V were troubled.

Yet, Hyper-V persevered, with Microsoft’s development team putting in the work over the years to overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenge that lay in front of them. Work that would later form the foundation for Azure’s hypervisor layer and a staple for businesses running on-premises virtualised workloads.

With an aggressive pricing strategy (free) and a slow but steady iterative cycle, the immature product eventually narrowed the gap between its market leading bigger brother. Today the differences between the big players have narrowed with Hyper-V providing the majority of what an average customer needs, minus the premium price of the market leader; a tough proposition to resist. 

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” – Nicholas Klein

Why do I tell this story? Because I see an all too familiar parallel with Microsoft’s security story. The quiet development of services (with a focus on identity and reporting), building upon Microsoft’s existing capability within Mobile Device Management (MDM) and recognising their position in most organisations as the binding glue between services (Azure AD and ADDS). A quiet development that would see Microsoft’s outward view of security evolve as it moved from security being an optional bolt-on (EM+S) to an intrinsic part of their service (Microsoft 365).


Coupled with the billions of investment they put into their ongoing security efforts, it became relatively easy to see why Microsoft had become an “overnight success” within the field and has the established security providers more than a little bit uncomfortable.

But here is why I think Microsoft’s security story is going to be successful for the average punter: Microsoft’s journey will mirror your own.

Microsoft has targeted the average organisation, not just the fortune 500 or the big 4 banks. It’s developed its offering for everyone, no matter how small, with a service that grows with you, allowing you to chose what works, discard what doesn’t and all the while providing bigger businesses with what they need. They did this by solving the problems you’re going to face, and doing it at a price that will get your attention. 
That’s why Microsoft’s Security offering not only will work, but why it IS working.

This article was written by Anthony Koochew, Founder & CEO of Azured in Australia. Anthony is an Architect with over 10 years of experience helping clients realise the most value from Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and EMS. View Anthony’s full profile. You can read the original post, and more from Anthony and the team over in Australia, here.

From traditional network security to SASE, and beyond…?

by Anthony Koochew, Founder & CEO, Azured Australia

In my early days in the industry, the only way I could access work resources was to be sitting at my desk, on my work supplied desktop using my internally delivered corporate services. When I left my desk I wasn’t notified on my phone of an incoming email or Teams meeting- I had to walk back to my machine to get access to such things.

The world was simpler then. Work resources were at work, often delivered from within that same office and accessed within that very same location. So wrap a firewall around it all, lock down the desktop (some people took that to hilarious degrees!) and ensure good hygiene with Anti-virus (AV) and systems updates.

Edge protected, job well done.

Cool.

Contrast that to today. The expectation that has been set by consumer-level services (like Facebook, Gmail etc) is that it doesn’t matter where I am, I will have the same level of experience. Ultimately, it was the consumerisation of IT that drove people to ask why they could access Dropbox from home (or on their iPad) but were restricted to a server fileshare only accessible by VPN or at best, on their work supplied laptop.

Enter cloud, exit on-premises apps. Enter BYOD, exit corporate supplied and managed devices.

The concept of a perimeter network made no sense when there no longer is a perimeter. With data increasingly residing outside of the traditional confines of your offices the “edge” has become increasingly porous and largely irrelevant.

So, how do I deliver a consistent level of protection (and experience) to everyone, everywhere? AND not throw the baby out with the bath water – we had, after all, developed some really powerful security technologies during the intervening years…

Cue SASE or Secure Access Service Edge. SASE is really just a collection of security technologies and ideas (both old and new) built upon a central assumption – users will be disparate, services will be cloud delivered and identity is king.

Furthermore, SASE pushes you to answer additional questions such as:

SASE is ultimately the recognition that the times have changed, that attackers and attack vectors have become more sophisticated, driven by an insatiable appetite for cloud services, and our approach to security needs to recognise that.

Anthony is an Architect with over 10 years of experience helping clients realise the most value from Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and EMS. View Anthony’s full profile. You can read the original post, and more from Anthony and the team over in Australia, here.

UK cloud innovator awarded government grant?
Azured UK, a cloud network and security company, has been awarded a government grant for a share of a £10 million fund allocated to innovative research and development projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.

The six-month project will see the development of an affordable and flexible solution for SMEs to establish highly secure remote-working firewall technology. The objective of the solution is to help more SMEs survive during further COVID-19 outbreaks by increasing the productivity and security of home-workers. Helping small businesses survive and thrive and more people to keep their jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen unprecedented changes in the workplace, increasing the need for businesses of every size to accommodate remote-working. If you’re a massive enterprise this may not be so much of a problem. You’ll have IT and HR departments, access to resources and systems and processes robust enough to cope with such a dramatic change in work practices, not to mention the budget to implement quickly. Not necessarily so if you’re an SME. Access to affordable, flexible network security solutions is limited. The needs of the SME sector have been largely overlooked by the large security players, as it has been deemed as too costly to service.

But the need is urgent. There are 5.9 million small to medium sized enterprises in the UK, and with 60% of employees working from home during the lockdown earlier this year, that’s a lot of people exposed to ever increasing, ever more sophisticated cyberattacks. Your average home office just simply isn’t equipped to deal with these attacks and data, businesses and livelihoods are at risk.

“We had already launched a Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) solution back in 2017 but were aware that hosting a bespoke firewall is unaffordable to most but the larger enterprises. We wanted to bring the same level of enterprise grade security within the reach of any small business in the UK”, comments Andy Price, CEO at Azured. “Winning the bid for funding from Innovate UK means that we can exploit our expertise in Microsoft Azure to develop and deploy a virtual firewall at a fraction of the price, without compromising on security. We can make secure home-working a reality for everyone,” Andy continues.

Azured’s vision is shared by Innovate UK, the innovation agency responsible for issuing the grant. Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell states, “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.

“Azured UK, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is making an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”

An objective that Azured supports fully, as Andy explains, “With 99% of the business landscape in the UK being made up of SMEs and three fifths of all workers being employed in this sector, we felt it was crucial to develop a solution that could help more small businesses survive and more people to keep their jobs.”

Azured’s fully managed multi-tenanted FWaaS solution will be available early next year on a monthly subscription basis, with no minimum contract. Crucial for businesses having to micro-manage their cashflow through further crises. “We believe our development in firewall technology will revolutionise the market – this type of innovation has too long been the preserve of the big corporations. This solution brings to life our company’s mission, to make great cloud technology available to all.”

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Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. Innovate UK connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas in to commercially successful products and services and business growth.

Azured UK is a cloud network and security company, helping SMEs work safely from home. Our journey began on a beautiful night by the ocean near Melbourne. It was some time in 2015 – and we grew quickly to become #1 Microsoft Azure Partner in Aus. In 2019 we opened our UK business — in a nice office this time, not on the beach (brrrr…).