Identity management software is an essential component of business security. These tools help IT administration and managers control who has access to applications, databases, and other IT assets. Some of these tools can be used to control who can access internal systems, while others help control customer access to public content.
Cloud identity and access management (IAM) software, as well as user provisioning solutions, help companies organize users and set permissions. Single sign-on (SSO) and password management solutions are used to securely simplify access to various IT systems and applications. Multi-factor authentication tools and risk-based authentication tools help add an extra step to the verification process to bolster security.
There are a number of different identity-related subcategories for additional assistance in access control and user governance. Still, each subgroup relates to securely controlling the content, data, and applications individuals have permission to access.
Key Benefits of Identity Management Software
There are a variety of reasons companies choose to adopt identity management software, though the majority relate to data security. They can also add structure to an organizational hierarchy and improve user experience.
Permissions and Management — One of the main features of identity and access management software is the ability to create user accounts and grant them customized access to the applications they need. Administrators can create databases, document user account histories, and view approved privileges.
This capability also simplifies the onboarding process. Administrators can quickly create new accounts and approve applications for new hires to access. Some products even offer templates to have ready when adding employees to specific roles. The same goes for those whose employment is terminated or who leave the company. Administrators can quickly restrict their privileges or delete their account.
Data Security — Since identity management software helps manage a company’s private data and passwords, it is important that identity management tools meet a company’s security requirements. Companies must also remain compliant with government regulations and ensure security and access standards are maintained.
These tools can help to prevent not just unauthorized access but also misuse. Many data breaches are the result of internal actors sharing sensitive data or leaving it out in the open. Many identity management tools can identify anomalies in user behavior to give an early indicator to administrators. From there, permissions can be altered or users can be locked out.
Productivity and Efficiency — Tools like SSO solutions are generally helpful to users who may forget passwords or frequently log into disparate applications. These products provide a centralized access point for users to log in once and access multiple tools. It takes the burden off the user who may have to visit multiple websites and log in every time.
Password managers are great for similar reasons. They can simplify logins by automatically filling forms and storing passwords for multiple accounts. Users can log in more easily and companies can require they maintain complex passwords and update them periodically.
Identity management software manages user access to information to increase security and efficiency. This software can be used to identify and restrict access to information by specific IP addresses and other identifying factors.
Customer Identity and Access Management Software — These tools are used for companies with multiple customer accounts. It helps the business create individual identities and set their permissions. Administrators can also monitor their activity and delete or investigate suspicious users.
Privileged Access Management Software — These tools are typically used for controlling employee access to sensitive information or systems. They operate in a similar fashion to IAM tools, but may not provide customer-facing access controls. One other use of these tools is controlling third-party access to systems such as cloud service providers, contractors, or business partners.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Software — Multi-factor authentication tools help businesses add more than one level of verification requirement for users hoping to access sensitive information. Some companies will allow users access to applications with a simple login or set of credentials. But users who desire more sophisticated authentication requirements should find a cloud IAM with multi-factor authentication capabilities. These products may enable access to low-level or publically accessible data, while allowing administrators the ability to require significantly more difficult or complex restrictions for highly sensitive information. These multi-factor authentication capabilities may include text validation, additional security questions, and biometric security.
Password Manager Software — Password manager software comes in the form of both business and personal software products. Both will help users remember passwords and simplify logins. But business and enterprise-grade solutions will add functionality to require updates, complex passwords, or multi-factor authentication, among other additional security precautions.
Risk-Based Authentication (RBA) Software — RBA software is an emerging market of multi-factor authentication tools powered by machine learning. These products constantly monitor user behavior and learn from their actions. Only when a user is behaving strangely or accessing systems from a new device will the system prompt additional verification. Users are required to answer a security question or confirm their identity through a separate medium.
Single Sign-On (SSO) Software — With SSO software, users log in with a single set of credentials or more, depending on requirements, and gain access to dashboards full of applications. While directories save time onboarding and documenting permissions, SSO portals save time for users. Users can access dozens of applications without multiple logins or application launches. These products will link IT systems specific to users or companies and present users with approved tools with vastly simplified navigation.
These are the common features of identity management software.
Authentication User Experience — The process of providing credentials and logging into multiple systems is easy and intuitive for users.
Local Access — Controls access to legacy applications, web-based applications, network resources, and servers.
Partner Access — Controls access to users that are not company employees that are either within the company’s local area network or outside the network.
Mobile Support — Provides a mobile application for various mobile operating systems and enables single sign-on for native and web-based business applications.
Breadth of Support for Target Systems — Standard integrations to most common cloud and on-premise applications.
Supports BYOD Users — Enables users to use their own device to access company applications.
Supports Required Access Types — Works with required networking products and applications out of the box, such as VPN, web, cloud applications, local/remote desktop.
Supports Required Authentication Systems — Includes or supports required authentication technologies. Example systems: one-time passwords, biometrics, knowledge-based, key cards, mobile-phone-based tokens, etc.
On-Premise Identity Repositories Supported — Variety and quality of integrations (e.g., active directory, LDAP).
Application As Profile Master — Directory treats the user's profile in an application as the ongoing source of truth for that user's profile. Changes to a profile in the master application drive changes the profile in other applications.
Cloud Directory — Provides cloud-based directory option that contains all user names and attributes.
Self Service Access Requests — Users can request access to an application and be automatically provisioned if they meet policy requirements.
Smart/Automated Provisioning — Automates account/access rights creation, changes, and removals for on-premise and cloud apps.
Bidirectional Profile Synchronization — Keeps all profile attributes consistent across applications whether the change is made in the provisioning system or the application.
Profile Attribute Transformation — Transforms profile attributes to the required format for all of the systems being updated.
Role Management — Establish roles that create a set of authentication rights for each user in the role.
Policy Management — Enables administrators to create access policies and apply policy controls throughout request and provisioning processes.
Access Termination — Terminate access to multiple applications based on dates.
Approval Workflows — Allow business stakeholders/managers to approve or reject requested changes to access via a defined workflow.
Identifies and Alerts for Threats — Alerts administrators when inappropriate access occurs.
Compliance Audits — Proactively audits access rights against policies.
Administration Console — Provides administration tools/consoles that are easy to use and learn for routine maintenance tasks.
Ease of Setup for Target Systems — Support for wide variety of cloud and on-premise apps to automate provisioning for existing and new applications procured.
Bulk Changes — Change users and permissions in bulk.
Self-Service Password Administration — Users can set and change passwords without interaction from IT staff.
Customization — Supports customizable UI.
Reliability — Cloud based service has minimal downtime.
Performance/Scalability — Service performs well under significant use and can scale to support a large number of users.
Security — Vendor follows appropriate security protocols and has appropriate certifications to ensure no breach of confidential data occurs.
Logging and Reporting — Provides required reports to manage business. Provides adequate logging to troubleshoot and support auditing.
Federation/SAML Support — Can serve as the identity provider to external service providers so that when the user logs into a service, instead of providing credentials to the service provider, the service provider trusts the identity provider to validate the credentials.
Cross-Browser Support — Support access to browser-based applications across required browser types.
Reporting — Contains prebuilt and custom reporting tools required to manage business.
APIs — Provides appropriate application interfaces to enable custom integrations for unique business requirements.
Zero Trust Security — The zero trust model is a trending formula for security architecture. Access is restricted until a user has been thoroughly verified. This moves away from the traditional approach of setting a security wall and allowing users to move freely behind it. New users or new devices will be restricted from a network and required to complete the necessary authentication measures to gain access.
Disparate networks and a globalized workplace have prompted businesses to develop a modern approach to network security. This solution tackles the obstacle of large-scale remote workforces by simply saying no until proper verification is completed.
GDPR Compliance — Increasing compliance regulations over personal information have forced businesses to step up security regarding sensitive data. Not only can businesses lose significant revenue after a data breach, but they can also lose public trust. Compliance regulations like GDPR have become a part of life for companies doing business in Europe or with European businesses, but new regulations are popping up all over the globe.
Many identity management products have addressed this issue to simplify a business’ ability to guarantee they remain compliant. Some tools specifically provide GDPR compliance, while others ensure compliance for specific industries or countries. More and more, we're seeing tools that promise strict, broad compliance to be sure standards are met regardless of geographic location.
Security — Cloud security is both praised and feared. While the industry is evolving as fast as any other in the tech world, many people remain highly concerned with the security of cloud-based products. But cloud IAM tools centralize the storage credentials and administration of access. Without IAM tools, this data can be more vulnerable to threats if it is not properly safeguarded. IAM tools are fortified with authentication features to limit viewing to only those users with granted access. These tools will also provide alerts for potential threats or users who have accessed sensitive data without permission.
Cloud Application Integration — Many cloud applications have the ability to connect dozens of applications, user credentials, and access privileges. Large, enterprise-sized companies will benefit greatly from having a cloud-based database that securely contains this sensitive data. Many products come with hundreds of pre-integrated applications, while others may require customization or simply provide a limited variety of applications. Either way, potential buyers should consider the specific applications they need their IAM system to connect with and understand the range of functionality once integrated.
Mobile Compatibility — Some identity management tools only work with web applications, while others offer compatibility with mobile applications. Those that offer mobile compatibility can work with either Android or iOS applications, or they can integrate across platforms. Having an identity management tool that fits your mobile needs will increase the value you get.
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