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Managing the Cloud: How to Identify Users and Control Access

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Giving the right people the right amount of access at the right time

As companies evolve, the technology controlling access and users becomes quite complicated. With many companies looking to the cloud as a mechanism to host data as well as integral applications, controlling user access becomes important for cost savings, operational efficiency, management control and business growth.

Importance of Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Over the past few years, this management of users and access has come to be referred to as Identity and Access Management (IAM) and is used to help companies manage access to data and applications across both internal and external systems. This access can be granted to individuals both inside and outside the company, but must be done in a way to not sacrifice security.

IAM is typically made up of not only processes, but also people and products that are used to manage identities and access within an organization. IAM components are typically broken down into four distinct categories:

Authentication

The area of authentication management is the module through which a user enters the necessary credentials to gain access to a certain application or piece of data. Once a user has been properly authenticated as session is created, which is used to allow access to other applications or data that may be controlled by the same IAM Framework. This session will remain in existence until the user logs off or the session is terminated for some other reason.

Authorization

Authorization is the method of determining whether a user is permitted to access a certain resource or application. Authorization is typically performed by checking the access request against authorization policies located in an IAM policy store. This allows for an organization to perform complicated role-based access control using user roles or groups, user attributes, time, access channels, external data and even business rules.

User Management

User management typically encompasses all aspects of user management, role and group management, password management and the provisioning of users and groups.

To be effective, some organizations will choose to offload some of the user management from the IT level to end-users. This can allow companies to delegate some of the user administration functions to departmental management who often have a better grasp on certain individuals or issues.

User management also encompasses self-service where individuals are able to handle some functions without assistance from the IT or management staff. One self-service example of user management is the automatic password reset function, which frees up IT staff from having to manually reset a large number of passwords frequently.

Central User Repository

The central user repository within an organization is responsible for both the storing and delivery of identify information to other services and also verifying different credentials that may be submitted by different applications or clients.

IAM Requires Both Business and Technical Expertise

An IAM Framework allocates appropriate access across increasingly changing environments, where regulatory compliance is paramount. The process of effectively implementing an IAM Framework requires both a technical component to ensure the necessary technology is in place, but also a business component to ensure that the right people have the right amount of access at the right time.

IAM Critical in Today’s Cloud Based Enterprises

An effective IAM strategy is critical in today’s ever changing technological marketplace. If your company is working with a variety of internal and external cloud based solutions, you could greatly benefit from developing IAM policies to reduce costs and become more able to quickly shift within your market.