Given the amount of sensitive data that SaaS businesses are managing in the Cloud today, security has become more important than ever. The first — and, probably the most important — step for establishing security is the consolidation of data, under an intelligent centralized identity and access management (IAM) system. Such a system is a game-changer, not only from a security perspective, but also from a team-productivity one. However, it’s easier said than done.
In this article, we’re going to discuss what centralized IAM is all about; and why you need to implement this practice in your business, today.
What is a centralized identity and access management system?
A centralized identity and access management (IAM) system is a framework that unifies all processes, technologies and policies for managing cloud assets and resources, under a central point of action. This means that, as an IT manager, with an IAM framework in place, you can manage both users (identities), and their access authorization to critical data, within the company.
But, to gain a deeper understanding of IAM, first, we need to break it down. In other words, we need to answer these fundamental questions: What exactly does centralized identity management include? And, similarly, what does centralized access management include?
1. Centralized identity management
Centralized identity management means that user identification happens in a single environment; where users are assigned to one or multiple security identities (roles), with specific access rights to a specific set of resources.
2. Centralized access management
Centralized access management, on the other hand, means that users that have been assigned specific roles, can gain access to resources and applications — and other computing systems — with authorized credentials. In this context, with centralized access management, IT managers allow a user to perform a specific task. Every user’s role is defined according to their job and responsibilities within the company.
Why is Centralized IAM important for your business?
Nowadays, IT managers are under great pressure to protect sensitive corporate cloud data and assets. Thus, they can not rely on scattered, manual — and, often error-prone — processes and systems to assign roles and control user access. That’s why a Centralized Identity and Access Management approach is so important, as it aggregates these tools and processes; while enabling granular identity and access to all assets and resources.
Now, let’s see why the centralized IAM model is necessary, not only for the protection of your applications; but your team’s productivity, too.
As SaaS businesses grow in the digital reality, Centralized Identity and Access Management becomes crucial for the security of their applications. As mentioned, businesses today manage assets that contain sensitive information — which are critical for operations.
What’s more, controlling who has access to the company’s system — and, the degree of access a user has to the company’s assets and resources — is vital for application security; and, the security of the whole system, for that matter.
To that end, a Centralized Identity and Access Management solution helps everyone stay on par with the company’s standards and compliance policies; that is, by allowing you, as an IT manager, to:
- Verify the identity of a user (authentication)
- Verify the actions a user can perform, and the degree of access they have in the company’s resources (authorization)
- Manage the users who are accessing the company’s resources and applications
2. IT team
Did you know that a centralized IAM system can go a long way in ensuring team productivity, as well? Apart from the fact that it allows you, as an IT manager, to easily manage users, it also allows team members to use the same technology; and work under the same compliance policies. As a result, a Centralized Identity and Access Management system also helps:
- Eliminate silos
- Ensure smooth collaboration among employees
- Increase team productivity
How does Centralized Access and Identity Management work?
To ensure that threats are thwarted and human errors are avoided, a modern centralized IAM approach requires users to prove their identities — more than once — to gain access to a company’s system. That said, let’s have a look at the two basic steps of centralized IAM.
Basic steps of the Centralized Identity and Access Management approach
So, the centralized IAM approach, follows two basic steps:
The first step performed by a centralized Identity Management system — in order to give access to a company’s data — is, of course, authentication. That means the system provides a centralized directory, where you, the IT manager, can have visibility into the company’s user base — that includes all the registered identities. Something to note here, these identities are not just for humans. The IAM system can manage the identities of devices, and apps too, to help establish security.
So, in this first step, a user enters their credentials; and the IAM system scans the credentials stored in the database to verify the username and password. In order to gain access, though, a user might have to prove their identity more than once, and pass many authentication checks; for extra security.
Based on their authenticated identity, the centralized IAM system assigns the user with a set of ‘privileges’ that are required to perform a specific job. This is the second step: Authorization. For example, just to see how this works, let’s assume that the system has identified a user, and has given them access as an editor; say, according to their role within the company.
What does that mean? Simply that it will allow them to make certain changes to certain assets that pertain to their role; however, it will not grant them freedom to use other functionality, like adding or deleting other user accounts.
TL;DR — On the safe side, with a Centralized Identity and Access Management system
Within the increasingly complicated cloud computing landscape, an IT manager needs to keep unauthorized users out of a company’s sensitive information. And, at the same time, ensure that only their team — and, other authorized identities — have access to critical data, assets, and resources to execute their daily tasks; based on their roles within the company.
This dire need for a structured approach to managing users, and their permissions to access certain data, assets and resources, paved the way for the centralized Identity and Access Management (IAM) framework to evolve.
Such a framework, allows SaaS businesses to deploy applications across their technology stack, while enforcing security standards, at all times. What’s more, it keeps teams on the same page — regarding their roles and permissions. As a result, it streamlines collaboration, and, by extension, increases employee productivity.
On a fundamental level, IAM provides the stepping stone for a tech-driven company to stay on the safe side; that is, while also contributing to its smooth digital transformation.