Active Directory & Office 365 Reporting Tool

How to Implement Compliance and Governance Policies in Azure. Azure Compliance and Governance are vital for organizations adopting Microsoft Azure to ensure regulatory adherence and effective management of resources. Compliance involves meeting regulatory standards, while governance establishes policies and controls. Implementing these policies in Azure requires a systematic approach, leveraging native tools like Azure Policy.

This article covers the main facets of building compliance and governance. We examine the various legal frameworks and industry-specific standards, then offer ideas on how Azure services assist in fulfilling these demands. We  also review the crucial procedures for developing a strong governance structure, such as access management, data protection, monitoring, and incident response.

Shall we start with How to Implement Compliance and Governance Policies in Azure

How to Implement Azure Compliance and Governance Policies

Well, adopting cloud computing is becoming more widespread. But managing and controlling cloud resources takes time and effort. In this context, Microsoft’s Azure Policies represent a fundamental tool for cloud governance. Simply, it assists companies define, apply and enforce security and compliance policies in a consistent and automated manner.

Possible Approaches to Azure Governance

Here, the common requirement is to standardize and impose resources in the cloud environment. We accomplish these requirements to obtain specific environments. Those meet compliance regulations, monitor security, resource costs, and standardize the design of the different architectures.

What is more, this traditional approach provides a block of operators in direct access to cloud resources (through the GUI, API, or CLI):

However, the traditional approach could be more flexible. Why? It involves a loss of agility in controlling the deployment of resources. In this regard, we instead recommend using a mechanism that is provided natively by the Azure platform. Basically, it allows us to pilot governance processes to achieve the desired control without impacting the speed. That is a fundamental element in operations in modern IT with resources in the cloud:

Overview of Azure Policies

Moreover, Azure Policies provide a centralized, automated way to enforce compliance and governance rules across Azure subscriptions and resources. They define and implement specific practices and conditions for their Azure environment.

We base the Azure Policies on JSON files that contain policy definitions such as resource types allowed or disallowed, required tags, encryption requirements, network security rules, and more.

By implementing Azure Policies, organizations ensure that our Azure resources and deployments align with their desired configuration and compliance requirements. We apply these policies at the management group, subscription, or resource group level and evaluate them continuously to identify and remediate non-compliant resources.

Objectives of Azure Policies

In addition, Azure Policies help organizations achieve consistent resource configurations, maintain security standards, manage costs, and enforce regulatory requirements. They provide visibility into compliance status and help prevent the accidental or unauthorized creation of resources that violate policies.

Hence, Azure provides a range of built-in policies that cover common compliance and security scenarios. Also there is possibility to create custom policies tailored to their specific needs. Additionally, Azure Policy integrates with Azure DevOps and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates, and other deployment mechanisms to enforce compliance during resource provisioning.

By activating the Azure Policy, it is possible to:

  • activate and carry out a real-time evaluation of the criteria present in the policies;
  • evaluate policy compliance periodically or upon request;
  • start operations for real-time remediation and also for existing resources.

All this translates into the ability to apply and enforce policy compliance on a large scale and its remediation actions.

How the Azure Policy Mechanism Works

The working mechanism of the Azure Policy is simple and integrated into the platform. When a request is made for an Azure resource configuration using ARM, we intercept it by the layer containing the engine that evaluates policy. This engine assesses based on active Azure policies and establishes the request’s legitimacy.

 The same mechanism is then repeated periodically or upon specific request to evaluate the compliance status of existing resources.

Well, Azure already has many built-in policies ready to apply, or we configure them to suit our needs. The definition of the Azure Policy is made in JSON and follows a well-defined structure described in this Microsoft official documentation

With desired policy definition, we assign it to a Management Group, to a subscription, and, in a more limited way, to a specific Resource Group. The same goes for Initiatives. We also exclude certain resources from applying the policy if necessary.

Following the assignment, we evaluate the State of compliance in detail and, if necessary, apply remediation actions.

Importance of Azure Policies

 With a wide range of use cases, Azure Policies enable organizations to govern security, compliance, cost management, resource consistency, data protection, and more. By defining and implementing policy rules, organizations ensure regulatory adherence. In addition they enforce best practices, optimize costs, streamline resource management, and strengthen overall governance in Azure.

Azure Policy Use Cases

  • Financial: resources deployed in Azure for which a consistent metadata strategy needs to be applied to achieve effective cost mapping;
  • Data Location: sovereignty requirements that require data to reside in certain geographic locations;
  • Unnecessary Expenses: resources that we no longer use or that have not been properly disposed of, resulting in unnecessary expenses for the company;
  • Management Inefficiencies: an inconsistent resource naming and tagging strategy makes troubleshooting and routine maintenance demands of existing architectures difficult;
  • Business interruption: Service Level Agreements (SLA) are required to ensure that systems we built by business requirements. Therefore, we must design our architecture according to SLAs and investigate if they need to meet them.
  • Resource Lifecycle Management: Implement policies to enforce resource provisioning and de-provisioning processes. That ensures that resources are properly managed throughout their lifecycle and preventing orphaned or unused resources.
  • Network Security: Enforce policies to define network security controls. They are firewall rules, network access restrictions, or virtual network peering configurations to maintain a secure network environment.
  • Data Classification and Protection: Implement policies to classify sensitive data and enforce appropriate data protection measures. Such as encryption, data loss prevention (DLP) policies, or access controls based on data sensitivity levels.
  • Change Management: Enforce policies that require proper change management procedures for Azure resources. Here we mean change approvals, tracking configuration changes, and maintaining change logs for audit purposes.
  • Compliance Auditing and Reporting: Implement policies to generate compliance reports and audit logs for regulatory and internal compliance requirements. That gives visibility into the compliance status of Azure resources and actions taken.

Steps on Setting Up Azure Policies

 Configuring Azure Policies includes policy creation, assignment, evaluation, and remediation. This section provides a concise overview of the essential steps in configuring Azure Policies.

The Azure Policy Service Pane

Enter policy into the search field in the Azure portal and choose the top result.

This choice takes us to the Azure Policy service’s overview page. The page should resemble the one in the example below if no current policies have been implemented.

This page lets us know whether all of our resources are in compliance overall and whether any aren’t, allowing us to take the necessary corrective action.

Try our Active Directory & Office 365 Reporting & Auditing Tools

Try us out for Free.  100’s of report templates available. Easily customise your own reports on AD, Azure AD & Office 355.

Creating the Azure Policy Definition

To create or use an existing policy definition, select Authoring Definitions at the left-hand side of the pane.

View all of the previous policies and initiative definitions by selecting the definitions tab, which directs us to the policy definitions page.

To view only built-in or only custom policies under the type, utilize the filters on this page. Additionally, use the search field to look up a policy by entering its name. In this case, we use the search field to look for location-based regulations and enter the word location.

The policy we apply is called Allowed locations. Click on this policy to review it.

Here, we see the JSON file that contains the policy’s definition. The JSON data structure for Azure Policies defines the policy rules, conditions, and effects that govern resource compliance and adherence to governance standards.

Assign Azure Policy

Choose the policy’s scope after clicking the Assign button above the JSON policy specification. We have selected a resource group for our subscription.

From here, click Next. By choosing this option, we are taken to the permissible locations parameters area, where we must choose the locations we want to make resource integration possible.

For this case, we select Asia and Asia Pacific.

Now click Review and create, then click Create on the next page.

The policy assignment is created, and it may take up to 30 minutes for it to take effect.

Testing the New Azure Policy

We try to establish a virtual machine outside of one of the two permitted locations to test the policy. To fill out the subscription, resource group, name, and image, we quickly navigate to the Virtual Machine (VM) service window in Azure. We’ve designated the region as West US, which is not in the location scope of our previously created policy.

Click on review and create after we have input the parameters. The following error appears on the following page.

To view the error information, click the arrow in the red banner.

The following error message makes it plain that the reason the VM deployment failed was that we were attempting to construct a VM in a place that was not one of the permitted locations, proving that our Azure Policy had been successfully implemented.

Thank you for reading How to Implement Compliance and Governance Policies in Azure. We shall conclude the article. 

How to Implement Compliance and Governance Policies in Azure Conclusion

In the context of Cloud Technical Governance, it is essential to define and apply rules that make it possible to ensure that Azure resources always comply with the specified company standards.

Organizations may feel confident about utilizing the cloud’s advantages while adhering to regulatory requirements by creating strong compliance and governance rules in Azure. They boost stakeholder and customer trust while safeguarding the security and privacy of sensitive data, reducing the likelihood of breaches and penalties, and protecting it from harm.

Whether we are an Azure admin, a security professional, or a compliance officer, this guide provides valuable insights and best practices to help us navigate the complexities of Azure Compliance and Governance.


Try InfraSOS for FREE

Try InfraSOS Active Directory, Azure AD & Office 365 Reporting & Auditing Tool

Marion Mendoza

Marion Mendoza

Windows Server and VMware SME. Powershell Guru. Currently working with Fortune 500 companies responsible for participating in 3rd level systems support across the enterprise. Acting as a Windows Server engineer and VMware Specialist.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *