As businesses embrace more remote users and a hybrid work model, managing user identity and access is more important than ever. Add authentication for millions of third parties and non-employees, and thousands of applications and IoT devices to the mix and you start to understand how important identity and access management (IAM) is.

What Exactly Is IAM?

IAM is the process of securing access to resources, devices and systems by managing who can access what. It enables admins to control who has access to what information and systems, and prevent unauthorized users from gaining access. By restricting access to specific users or groups of users, admins can prevent malicious actions and protect digital resources.

IAM also helps enforce compliance with security policies. A central component of IAM is defining user roles and the rights required to perform specific tasks. A role defines the access level — or privilege — that a user has with respect to a particular resource.

IAM users can be sorted into roles, top-level categories of user access to a particular system or app.

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IAM Challenges

Today, employees and third parties alike access a seemingly endless stream of data, apps and resources. Access control methods like Zero Trust are critical for security, but with more access to manage, staying safe becomes more difficult.

Often, authentication services need to be modified. This means you need to consolidate infrastructure to deliver large-scale reliability and security. To achieve robust IAM, organizations must make a foundational change in capturing, engaging, managing and administering user identity and access across their users.

Capturing your identity and access requirements is not an easy task, but it’s an essential piece of the puzzle. Once complete, you can undertake a competitive analysis of the leading solution providers.

However, the hurdles don’t end when an IAM vendor is chosen. The strategy must include how you will handle replacing any previous IAM solutions. Finding the right balance between security and user-friendliness is key, but is often the most difficult IAM challenge.

The primary goal in most cases should be to leverage a standard, cloud-based authentication and identity services platform for employees and customers at scale.

Benefits of IAM

Outside of the numerous security benefits that a robust IAM solution provides, you can expect several other perks:

  • A transformed user experience without (or with many fewer) passwords
  • Enhanced protection for privileged users across multicloud environments
  • Flexible multi-factor authentication methods, improved password management and user ID self-care and life cycle management
  • Integration with devices and mobile device management solutions to support zero-trust strategies
  • Improved solution fault tolerance and scalability
  • Continued focus on the user and branding experience with a strengthened commitment to security and privacy

Approaching IAM: Best Practices and a Case Study

The best approach to putting a modern IAM solution in place is to perform an audit of existing and legacy systems. Identify gaps and opportunities, and work with stakeholders early and often. Map out all user types and access scenarios, and define a core set of objectives the IAM solution must meet. Put simply, planning time spent upfront should pay off a lot.

Now, imagine having to provide identity and access authentication services for over half a million employees around the world, with a highly customized, single-tenant, on-premises platform. And at the same time, having to provide similar identity and access services for over 26 million global external clients with a separate, antiquated first-generation identity as a service (IDaaS) solution. This case study shows how one company made it possible to modernize IAM even at this mega-scale and in a relatively short time.

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