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Identity and access management (IAM) refers to the policies and tools used by IT departments to ensure that people and entities have the appropriate level of access to the organization’s technical resources. IAM systems are technology solutions to securely manage digital identities and their access to various applications and systems.
IAM systems manage people and also other kinds of identities, such as software (apps or programs), and hardware (such as IoT devices).
IAM systems perform two key tasks:
Authenticating that the entity is who it purports to be. When you enter a username and password into a website, the website authenticates you by checking its database to see if your username and password matches what is in the database. This is a form of authentication, albeit a less secure method than modern authentication.
Authorizing the entity for the appropriate level of access to resources. Authorization is the process of checking what access the authenticated user is allowed to have to technical resources and ensuring only that access. For example, if you log into a content management system as an editor you are allowed to make changes to content, but you are not allowed to make changes to the user accounts or add new users.
IAM systems are an important element of cybersecurity because they are designed to perform the key function of providing secure access to enterprise resources.
IAM systems provide this core functionality:
IAM systems can be cloud-based (often called IDaaS) or on-prem. The first IAM systems were on-prem, i.e. physically located within the organization’s firewall and managed by the organization. Today, more and more organizations are moving to cloud IAM systems, with McKinsey reporting that only 38 percent of the enterprises they interviewed expect to be on-prem in three years.1 In three years, 60 percent will rely on a third-party IAM service that supports multiple public-cloud environments and unifies access across on-prem and public-cloud resources.
The move to cloud IAM is being driven by cost savings and reliability. Using a third-party cloud IAM means savings in infrastructure and maintenance. It also reduces the risk of downtime as cloud vendors provide distributed and redundant systems with high up-time and short SLAs.
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Use this kit to improve your company’s identity and access management.
Learn the basics of identity and access management in this video of a recent webinar.
Learn what 451 Research had to say about the emergence of Unified Access Management.