Staffordshire University is located on two main campuses, in Stoke and Stafford, with a satellite campus in Lichfield. It has 22,000 students, of which 17,000 are undergraduates and 5,000 are overseas students.
The university required an identity management solution to automate and streamline the creation, management and removal of its staff and student accounts. It also wanted to reduce its helpdesk’s workload with a self-service function to enable users to reset their own passwords.
A solution based on Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager with an R2 upgrade
“We needed a way to automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of accounts, and streamline the processes, preventing any potential security breaches.” Principal IT Officer Staffordshire University
An internal security audit at Staffordshire University revealed that there were a large number of unused and unmanaged IT accounts that could pose a security risk. The university’s ISS department knew it needed more robust policies and procedures to manage its IT accounts, and that its current processes were inefficient. Automation and streamlining its identity management was required immediately.
The main challenge was that although the university had automated managing its student accounts, its 2,000 staff accounts were processed manually. Creating staff accounts, providing IT services and permissions, as well as removing accounts, relied on paper-based procedures. The manual effort required, placed a significant burden on the department’s resources and was highly inefficient.
Richard Rogers, Principal IT Officer, Staffordshire University explains: “Processing 2,000 staff accounts manually and via a paper trail meant there was often a delay in delivering IT services. At the same time, there was always the risk of manual error and forms going missing. The system’s lack of transparency made it very difficult to go back and establish who had requested specific access rights and who had authorised them.
“There were a lot of unmanaged accounts in the system; accounts for people who no longer worked at the university, but who had not been removed. We needed a way to automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of accounts, to streamline the process and prevent any potential security breaches.”
The university wanted to reduce the workload of its help-desk with a self-service system that would enable staff and students to reset their own passwords.
Richard said: “We knew of only two companies in the UK capable of delivering the identity management solution we required. After going to tender, we awarded ThirdSpace the contract based on their credentials, technical capability and cost.”
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As a Microsoft Gold Partner and eight-time winner of the Microsoft Partner of the Year Award (as of writing), ThirdSpace has undisputed expertise in the field of identity and access management. It provided an identity management solution, in this case, based on Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager 2010 (FIM); a powerful, self-service platform to automate the life-cycle of digital identities across heterogeneous platforms.
ThirdSpace’s experience of providing identity management solutions for higher educational establishments includes King’s College, Middlesex University, the University of the West of England and St Mary’s University College. Not only are the ThirdSpace consultants familiar with the identity challenges that universities and colleges face, but they can enhance and accelerate implementations using components and intellectual property that ThirdSpace has developed, along with ISV tools that complement FIM.
Staffordshire University wanted its new identity management system for staff and student accounts. Our ThirdSpace consultants worked closely with the ISS team and, having understood their problem, designed a solution that automatically provisioned Active Directory accounts and Exchange Mailboxes, as well as other business applications, based on information from two authoritative sources: the personnel database and the student database.
ThirdSpace upgraded the platform when Microsoft released FIM R2, which included additional self-service functionality. Users could then reset forgotten passwords themselves through an online portal without going to help desk.
ThirdSpace’s identity and access management solution for Staffordshire University is a robust and automated system for handling 22,000 staff and student accounts. It ensured account creation, deletion and entitlement changes across crucial business systems were traceable, and delivered far more efficiently.
Staffordshire University now has far greater control over its systems, databases and data. Security has been significantly improved as FIM allows for the automated disablement and deletion of accounts that are no longer required.
Richard explains: “The security gap identified by the audit was closed. Our personnel systems now identify a user’s end date. FIM automatically deactivates the account when they leave. The system exposed all unmanaged accounts, so we were able to remove them to ensure that nobody had unauthorised access to the university’s systems and data.”
The university is rolling out FIM’s self-service password reset (SSPR) facility. The university’s 22,000 staff and students can now reset their own passwords through the easy-to-use online interface. The helpdesk’s workload is reduced and services are significantly improved.
Richard explains: “We had quite a number of people who worked off-site and who may have required assistance to access their account out of hours. With SSPR in place, they no longer had to wait for the helpdesk to open. They simply logged-on to the portal and did it themselves. It saved everyone’s time and was much more efficient.”
For Staffordshire University, the ability to lead their own development was important. Richard explains: “We didn’t want to be completely reliant on a third party. ThirdSpace’s consultants worked closely with the ISS team to understand the solution’s architecture.
“Our technical team developed a very good relationship with ThirdSpace. We were able to sit side-by-side with them each day to understand the architecture and how it’s built. We were then in a position where we could cut the apron strings, which was great. The more we could do independently, the better it was for us.”
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