Identity Continuity

Identity Continuity™: How to have to uninterrupted IDP access

Identity is at the core of everything in a modern enterprise today. To access any application, data, or system, you’ll need to do so through your user identity. So, any disruption in identity services can lead to significant operational setbacks and security vulnerabilities. 

Yet, IT and security teams are resolved that outages and interruptions are inevitable and that accepting a certain amount of risk is necessary. Threats can come in the form of a cybersecurity breach, a natural disaster, or any number of events. The focus has been on minimizing that risk and downtime and creating systems to recover as quickly as possible when they do. 

That’s where Identity Continuity changes how to plan for interruptions. Understanding the specifics of Identity Continuity and how it’s different from disaster recovery is crucial in appreciating its value. Let’s explore what Identity Continuity entails and how it solves the challenge of maintaining seamless identity management services.

What is Identity Continuity?

Identity Continuity is a new software solution that ensures continuous access to applications even when a primary identity provider (IDP) or other identity service is unavailable. By adding enhanced capabilities to an existing identity fabric, Identity Continuity allows for failover from one identity provider to another without interruption to access to the applications needed. 

It encompasses a comprehensive approach that integrates multiple identity providers (IDPs), both cloud-based and on-premises, to create a resilient identity infrastructure. 

Key aspects of Identity Continuity include:

  • Seamless failover: If a primary IDP fails or becomes unavailable due to an outage, the system can seamlessly switch to a backup IDP without disrupting user access or compromising security.
  • Consistent and reliable IAM: Designed to maintain consistent and reliable authentication, authorization, and access control, regardless of the circumstances.

The core objectives of Identity Continuity are to:

  • Prevent downtime: Avoid the significant operational setbacks that can arise from identity service disruptions.
  • Minimize security vulnerabilities: Protect against security vulnerabilities that could be exploited during service outages.

By leveraging advanced orchestration and automated failover strategies, Identity Continuity ensures that identity services act as a robust front door to an organization’s applications and data. 

This proactive approach provides several benefits:

  • Minimized risk of service outages: Reduces the likelihood and impact of service interruptions.
  • Enhanced security posture: Strengthens overall security measures and reduces vulnerability to attacks.
  • Regulatory compliance: Helps adherence to regulatory requirements through robust, auditable processes.

Ultimately, Identity Continuity is about maintaining a seamless, secure, and resilient identity management environment that supports the dynamic needs of modern enterprises.

Why is Identity Continuity needed?

Before the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS), achieving continuity in identity management was a significant challenge. Traditional on-premises IT infrastructures lacked the flexibility and scalability inherent to modern SaaS solutions. 

These systems were often siloed and hardware-dependent, making it difficult to implement the configurations required for effective failover strategies. Plus, the cost and complexity of maintaining multiple redundant systems on-premises were prohibitive for many organizations.

Identity Continuity is a sophisticated approach designed to ensure that identity and access management (IAM) services remain operational, regardless of disruptions that might affect primary systems. 

Why is Continuity so critical? These Cloud IDPs are essentially the “front door” to all of a company’s cloud applications. If the front door fails, it doesn’t matter if all those apps are alive and healthy; the user simply can’t access them when the primary cloud IDP is offline.

How does Identity Continuity work?  

Identity Continuity works by leveraging Identity Orchestration to monitor and report on the health of cloud identity services across different environments, including cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-on-premises, and multi-identity provider resilience. 

Continuity’s processes are crucial for modern hybrid architectures that rely heavily on both cloud and on-premises systems.

Here’s a closer look at the key mechanisms and strategies used to keep this level of continuity.

Multi-vendor IDP failover

In a multi-vendor IDP failover setup, organizations use multiple identity providers from different vendors. The diversity here mitigates the risk of any single vendor’s system failure. For example, if an organization’s primary IDP on AWS experiences an outage, the system can automatically switch to a secondary IDP hosted on Azure. 

Cloud IDP to on-premises IDP failover

Hybrid failover mechanisms are essential for organizations using cloud-based services and on-premises infrastructure. With this approach, if cloud services are disrupted, there is an immediate and automatic switchover to on-premises systems. 

For example, suppose a cloud-based IDP is unavailable due to an internet outage. In that case, the organization can automatically revert to its on-premises Active Directory or other identity systems to continue providing authentication and access control services.

What are the challenges solved by having continuous IDP access?

With the shift towards digital transformation, organizations face various operational, security, and compliance challenges that can disrupt essential services. Identity Continuity is designed to protect against these disruptions by ensuring uninterrupted identity and access management services.

Let’s explore the challenges that Identity Continuity addresses. 

Sophisticated cyber threats

The cyber threats landscape is skyrocketing, with attackers leveraging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to carry out complex and adaptive cyber attacks. These sophisticated methods are designed to bypass conventional security measures, posing a significant risk to systems and data.

High cost of downtime

Any downtime can be disastrous for finance, healthcare, and e-commerce industries. In many cases, downtime can be a case of life or death. Interruptions in service result in direct financial losses (sometimes in the millions or more) and erode customer trust, and damage the organization’s reputation. Maintaining continuous operations is crucial for all sectors today, where even minimal downtime can have significant impacts.

Regulatory compliance pressures

Regulatory frameworks such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), and various sector-specific regulations across the globe are ramping up the need for robust data privacy and security practices. These regulations require strict processes and controls to protect sensitive information and impose severe penalties for non-compliance. Navigating these compliance landscapes ramps up the complexity of already challenging operational environments.

Complex multi-cloud and hybrid environments

As organizations adopt more diversified IT infrastructures, integrating multiple cloud services with on-premises systems, managing identity and access consistently across these environments becomes increasingly complex. Ensuring cohesive security policies and access controls across such varied landscapes is a persistent challenge.

What are the benefits of Identity Continuity? 

Implementing Identity Continuity through Identity Orchestration offers numerous benefits that essentially outnumber the challenges. 

Here are the key issues that it solves. 

Proactive disruption management

By being proactive and defining continuity policies for each application, organizations can address potential disruptions before they happen. Each application is equipped with a designated backup IDP that can seamlessly take over if the primary IDP becomes unavailable. 

This strategy mitigates the impact of disruptions and ensures that user access and security are continuously maintained without frustration.

Let’s use a national retailer as an example. The retailer uses a cloud identity platform for point-of-sale operations. When a natural disaster disrupts internet access, Identity Orchestration enables the retailer to automatically switch to a local backup in Active Directory to ensure uninterrupted service during this critical time.

Reduced downtime, increased confidence

The robust failover mechanisms inherent in Identity Orchestration can significantly reduce downtime. Less downtime means less stress for IT teams and more stakeholder confidence, knowing that a well-tested backup plan is in place. Ultimately, this translates to trust and reliability in an organization’s digital services.

Continuous application availability

With Identity Continuity, applications remain available regardless of the status of the primary IDP. Continuous availability is critical to ensure business operations don’t grind to a halt, leading to more sales, improved productivity, and a superior user experience. 

Consistent accessibility is especially crucial in industries where real-time data access and transaction capabilities are non-negotiable. 

Enhanced security through a composable identity fabric

Identity Continuity boosts security by allowing organizations to quickly swap infrastructure components without disruption. This level of flexibility is a key component of a resilient security architecture and allows organizations to respond swiftly to threats and vulnerabilities as they arise.

Simplified compliance and reporting

Resilience in Identity Orchestration simplifies compliance with evolving regulations such as the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) and NIST Cybersecurity Framework by providing clear, audit-ready reports and logs. These documentation capabilities make it easier for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to regulatory standards and operational best practices.

Real-time monitoring of IDP performance

An integral part of Identity Orchestration is continuously monitoring an IDP’s performance and availability. With identity Orchestration, organizations have real-time insights into which IDPs are operational, experiencing issues, or offline, allowing immediate response and adjustment to ensure uninterrupted service.

How is Identity Continuity different from disaster recovery?

Identity Continuity and traditional disaster recovery (DR) solutions play critical roles in organizational resilience planning. However, it’s important to understand they each address different aspects of resilience and operational continuity. Understanding these distinctions is key to implementing effective security and continuity strategies.

The main difference is this: Identity Continuity fundamentally shifts focus from recovery to prevention, whereas traditional disaster recovery strategies typically kick in after an incident has already disrupted services. DR aims to restore systems and data to their pre-disruption state. DR often involves significant downtime, during which systems may be partially or completely unavailable. 

A good analogy: do you want a car with the best seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones so that you get hurt less (disaster recovery), or do you want one with accident avoidance software so you avoid the crash altogether (Identity Continuity)? Identity Continuity leverages real-time monitoring and automated failover mechanisms to prevent service disruption in the first place. 

By maintaining seamless operations—even when cloud identity providers are unavailable for whatever reason — identity Continuity eliminates the impact on users and business operations, effectively making recovery instantaneous and mostly imperceptible to the end user.

How is Identity Continuity different from “good enough” backup? 

The “good enough” approach generally meets minimum security and operational continuity standards, relying on basic redundancy and straightforward backup solutions. While this may be enough under normal circumstances, it leaves organizations vulnerable during sophisticated cyber attacks or complex technical failures. 

Identity Continuity goes above and beyond by integrating advanced identity management technologies and practices, such as multi-vendor and multi-region failovers, and sophisticated orchestration that can dynamically adapt to and mitigate unforeseen challenges.

Identity Continuity can also leverage region-to-region failover. Geographical diversification of IDP services ensures that regional issues—such as a data center outage or a localized natural disaster—do not impact the global availability of identity services. 

In multi-region IDP failover, identity services are duplicated across multiple data centers spread across different regions; if one region faces downtime, the system automatically routes authentication and authorization requests to the nearest operational region, maintaining service availability without user intervention.

In this regional failover scenario, say a company is using Okta. While they still want the ability to go from “Okta West” to “Okta East,” if Okta is having internal availability issues, what happens if Okta goes down altogether or if their network connection is cut and they can’t get to Okta? 

In both scenarios, single-vendor IDP regional availability isn’t good enough. You must be able to fail over to another vendor altogether or an on-prem identity backup.

How is Identity Continuity different from IAM resilience? 

IAM resilience focuses on enhancing the robustness of identity functions one at a time, such as strengthening authentication processes or authorization protocols. While important, this approach can be siloed, addressing components of IAM without a comprehensive strategy for operational continuity. 

What sets IAM resilience and IDP Continuity apart is that most identity resilience offerings provide backups of the policies and configuration settings of a single vendor IDP so that companies can rebuild things faster when they come back online. Resilience is not good enough here because, like the car crash analogy above, you simply minimize how badly you’ll get hurt vs. avoiding getting hurt altogether with Continuity.

Identity Continuity builds upon IAM Resilience by integrating these capabilities into a unified system that ensures the entire IAM landscape can sustain operations without interruption. Identity Continuity’s holistic approach provides security for individual identity functions while ensuring they collectively contribute to the continuous availability and security of the organization’s entire digital environment.

Resilience to future-proof your identity management

By implementing Identity Continuity and leveraging advanced failover mechanisms, organizations can protect themselves against the most challenging disruptions. This proactive approach ensures that essential services remain uninterrupted, compliance requirements are met confidently, and cybersecurity threats are managed proactively, preserving the trust and satisfaction of customers and stakeholders alike.

With Identity Continuity, you can prevent IDP inaccessibility and not just react to it. 

Use Strata’s Identity Continuity product to create your own ideal continuity system — built to support your processes your way.

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Heidi King

Content Marketing Manager