Secure, Hassle-free Resource Access Results from AWS and Office 365 Integration

September 04 2019

Research shows that allowing employees to work remotely increases employee efficiency and morale while reducing overhead and real estate costs. For one company, however, it was also causing employee stress.

To increase productivity and draw from a larger talent pool, a consulting firm had expanded its remote workforce. The problem was that most of these employees required access to the company’s digital resources, primarily documents, but weren’t connected to the company’s on-premise network.

Further complicating matters was that access had to be available 24/7 to accommodate employees working in different time zones and at different hours. Due to security concerns about allowing unchecked access to company materials, remote staff members were required to go through a tedious authentication process every time they needed a document. The process was causing frustration for the remote staff and taking away time from performing revenue-generating work.

The company asked ClearScale to help develop an easy-to-implement solution that could make resource access easier for its remote staff while ensuring a high level of security.

The Solution

ClearScale proposed a solution entailing a process to sync the files needed by the remote employees with the consulting firm’s on-premise network using AWS Storage Gateway. The hybrid cloud storage service enables on-premises access to virtually unlimited cloud storage, simplifies storage management, and reduces costs for storage.

Architecture Diagram

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All files that the remote staff may need would be stored in cloud storage and could be accessed remotely or by on-premises users. The solution would incorporate a user authentication application that integrates with the customer’s Office 365 Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), a cloud-based user identity and an authentication service.

ClearScale developed an application written for AWS Lambda, an event-driven, serverless computing platform that allows for running code without provisioning or managing servers.

When a request for access to a file is requested by a remote employee, it’s routed to Azure AD to verify the user is currently logged in and has access privileges. If the user is logged in, the file opens in the appropriate viewer. A user that isn’t logged in is redirected to an Office 365 login page. The solution helps ensure that only staff members who are logged into the company’s Office 365 account can access files. Access is available via any internet connection.

The files were accessed from Amazon S3 using signed URLs which added a layer of security. You can prevent reusing the same URL by making the signature valid for a subscribed user and only for a short period of time. The signed URL itself does not give access to the object in the S3 bucket, but it sends the request as the signed user.

The Results

By integrating AWS with Office 365 and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), the ClearScale solution:

  • Controls who has access to the resources stored by the AWS service
  • Enables remote employees to access resources quickly without additional user authentication steps to slow them down
  • Allows for the customer to manage accounts from a central location

The firm’s remote staff can now easily access the necessary resources without spending time dealing with multiple authentication redirects. Access is available any time and from anywhere via an internet connection. 

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