Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, Buncombe County, North Carolina was established in 1792 and named after a Revolutionary War hero, Colonel Edward Buncombe. Over the years, Buncombe County has transformed itself from a rural farming area to a burgeoning metropolis with cities frequently listed as "Top Ten" places to live. The County has a population of over 250,000 and employs over 1,600 staff. A seven-member Board of County Commissioners governs Buncombe County today, and they appoint a County Manager who is the Chief Administrative Officer.
Buncombe County operates a public website at www.buncombecounty.org which offers a host of resources on County services to the general public. It also provides links to several secure sites that serve various audiences. Partner agencies can share information and submit data for analysis; board and committee members collaborate on their business; citizens can pay property taxes online and business owners can submit requests for business listing extensions. These secure sites were previously accessed by users through Google authentication. Logging in was a bit cumbersome for visitors accessing more than one secure site, as the login process for each was handled individually which means a single user could be responsible for managing multiple sets of credentials to login to these secure sites.
Following a successful trial installation, the decision was made to implement Extranet User Manager (EUM) to manage access to the County’s secure external sites. County employees who are Active Directory members are still presented with their familiar Windows Authentication when logging in. External users now self-register for Access Buncombe. This kicks off a workflow and sends an approval request to the appropriate group owners, depending on the site they are requesting access to. Once the new user has been approved and authenticated, they are presented with a customized welcome landing page that displays the sites they have access to.
The implementation process of Extranet User Manager was a relatively straightforward exercise for Buncombe County. Appropriate branding was applied to end user pages and emails, a new Contact Us page was added for any inquiries, and the welcome landing page was customized to be more user-friendly. Previously registered users were bulk uploaded into the system, and only needed to set a password to be able to login. The self-registration process has been going smoothly, and there are currently over 800 active users. For the 3 administrators who manage the platform, time saved in activating accounts and managing external user access is the most significant advantage. Administrators say they have probably spent no more than an hour in the past six months actually managing EUM, which has freed up their time to concentrate on other tasks appreciably.
Currently, Buncombe County is utilizing EUM as an identity provider against their SharePoint 2013 environment and have plans to migrate straight to SharePoint 2019 within a couple years. They’re eager to continue their use of EUM and potentially expand the single sign on extensibility of EUM to additional apps in the future.