Gogo soars through industry contraction by switching to Azure AD
Published May 07 2021 09:00 AM 6,435 Views

Hello! In today’s “Voice of the Customer” blog, Chris Szorc, Director of IT Engineering for Gogo, explains how the company cut costs and streamlined their identity and access management as the pandemic was grounding their airline partners, drying up revenue, and forcing thousands of employees to work remotely. By leveraging their existing Azure subscription, Chris and her IT team were able to migrate thousands of internal and external users to Microsoft Azure Active Directory for simplified, secure access across their enterprise.


Editor’s Note:

This story began in May 2020 when Gogo served both Commercial Aviation and Business Aviation. In December 2020, Gogo’s Commercial Aviation business was sold to Intelsat. As a result, the structure and business model has changed drastically for Gogo, which now has approximately 350 employees and is solely focused on serving Business Aviation. 



How to cut costs and simplify IAM during hard times

By Chris Szorc, Director of IT Engineering for Gogo

In 2020, Gogo was a provider of in-flight broadband internet services for commercial and business aircraft. We were based in Chicago, Illinois with 1,100 employees, and at the time we equipped more than 2,500 commercial and 6,600 business aircraft with onboard Wi-Fi services, including 2Ku, our latest in-flight satellite-based Wi-Fi technology.


As we all know, 2020 wasn’t a great year for the airline industry. Last May, the pandemic had drastically shrunk our revenue, forcing the company to cut costs wherever possible. A looming three-year renewal contract with Okta prompted my IT team to consider bringing all our identity and access management (IAM) under the Microsoft umbrella to cut costs and simplify access.


Favor security and simplicity

Pulling off a major migration to Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD)—when the IT team is shorthanded and working remotely—would be a challenge for anyone. For my team, the first consideration was security. We had to protect our PCI (payment card industry) status, as well as the custom apps that we create with our airline partners. We certify ourselves with ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and we pass our SOX (Sarbanes Oxley Act) audits every year. As it happened, Deloitte was reviewing us, so the industry certifications for Azure AD and Microsoft 365 helped maintain our security standing as well. We made sure to get the most from our Microsoft agreement—including all the security tools in the Microsoft Azure tool set.


We were already using on-premises Active Directory, but we wanted a hybrid cloud identity model for the seamless single sign-on (SSO) experience for our users and applications. We collaborate with a lot of airlines and contractors; so hybrid access fits our model. Like us, you might see migration as an opportunity to reduce the number of redundant apps in your user base. At Gogo, we went app by app, figuring out how people were using each of them, and we saw that Microsoft could cover data analytics among other business functions, as well as IAM.


We were able to further consolidate and simplify by adopting the full Microsoft 365 suite of productivity tools. Microsoft Teams, in particular, was a hit with users. People were working from home because of the pandemic, and discovered they preferred Teams over Skype. Once our people started asking for it, that gave us the green light to roll out Teams companywide as a unified platform for online meetings, document sharing, and more.


Make use of vendor support

Times were tough enough already; we couldn’t allow migrating our multifactor authentication from Okta to Azure AD to disrupt workflow. We knew we couldn't overwhelm our help desk with calls and tickets; so, we chose to make the migration in waves of 100 users at a time.


My advice—take advantage of all the technical support that’s available. After all, it's not as if you’ll have a complete test environment to train yourself. You have your production identity, domain, and your services—multifactor authentication, conditional access, sign in—and if you don't do it right, you're severely impacting people.


No matter how qualified your IT team is, there’s a wealth of knowledge that a good vendor can provide. Microsoft FastTrack was included with our Azure AD subscription. We also used Netrix for guidance on bringing the migration in on time. FastTrack helped us know where to put people and how to organize—their entire mission is built around helping you complete a successful migration.


FastTrack also helped us untangle previous IAM implementations that were set up before my team was hired. They showed us where Okta Verify could be replaced with the latest best practices in multifactor authentication, enabling us to deliver simplified, up-to-date security with Azure AD. That’s the kind of issue you rarely anticipate during a migration, and it’s one where the right support proves invaluable.


Ensure maximum ROI

At Gogo, we’re already enjoying the advantages that come with unifying our IAM for simplicity and maximum return on investment (ROI). Since adopting Teams and other Microsoft 365 apps, we’ve been able to drop other services like Box and Okta—that saves the company money.


We’re doing federated sharing with Microsoft Exchange Online, sharing calendars with partner tenants, which has been great for planning meetings. We do entitlement management to set up catalog access packages with expiration policies, to stage workflow and access reviews for vendors and collaborators, rather than give them identities in our Gogo directory.


Our IT team seized on migration as an opportunity to implement Azure AD’s self-service password reset feature, which allows users to reset their password without involving the help desk. The decision to simplify your IAM solution will likely pay off in more ways than you can anticipate. We accomplished more than just a migration from Okta to Azure AD; Microsoft helped us streamline our IT services and provided us with direction for future improvements.


Learn more

I hope Gogo’s story of undertaking a daunting migration during tough times serves as inspiration for your organization. To learn more about our customers’ experiences, take a look at the other stories in the “Voice of the Customer” series.



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