Learn more about what IAM is, why it matters and what the future of IAM looks like.




Learn more about what IAM is, why it matters and what the future of IAM looks like.
Learn more about what IAM is, why it matters and what the future of IAM looks like.

Identity and Access Management explained

When people find out that Identity and Access Management (IAM) is such a fundamental part of the way digital systems and security work, some of the first questions they have include “What is identity management?”, or “What does IAM mean?”. IAM refers to the security discipline that makes it possible for a digital system to only take in the right users. This includes tracking the data that a company takes in, the specific users and people logging in and keeping a thorough list of the people with permission to access specific software and file stores. Companies use the right resources and data through a series of proper checks and administration.

IAM provides support for individual devices and user verification, further limiting the risk of illegitimate access to an organization’s resources and information. The main intention of any IAM system is a greater degree of security throughout the company, so effective implementation is the difference between a more effective organization and one that struggles with implementing its policies thanks to gaps in security systems.

Why is IAM important?

If you’re setting up an organization’s security systems, you may ask yourself “Why is IAM important?”. After all, security systems worked reasonably effectively before the implementation of IAM. Several factors make IAM an important aspect of the way that companies and organizations protect themselves from third-party access, including:

Thorough monitoring

IAM allows for thorough monitoring of a series of different events and threads of data, including the dates of people logging into the system and how many times a person logs in. This means that organizations can keep track of the people on the system at any one time, monitoring their access to specific resources and understanding how many people are working at a given moment.

This is an especially important resource for a section of a company such as procurement. Understanding an organization’s specific needs in terms of software licensing and resource allocation is a necessity. Having effective IAM means tracking the access that individual users have to software and the company’s requirements for the foreseeable future.

Provide access to external partners

When learning about why IAM is important, many people exclusively consider the internal aspects of a company. However, the way that clients and vendors interact with a company is equally important. If a client or a vendor visits the premises and requires access to your software and services, IAM systems enable you to offer them an account. You tailor this account to the requirements of the visitor, providing access to whatever software they require.

An example of these systems at work is common in universities, in which universities take on visiting lecturers and professors that teach specific modules for a short period. In these instances, administrators generate an account for the academic in question, providing access to all the necessary systems and services. This enables plenty of flexibility for guest access and means there is no need for permanent account provision, keeping the organization more secure.

Limit compromises of user credentials

An effective IAM system offers protection beyond a standard username and password sign-on system. This includes the implementation of a single sign-on, reducing the requirement for users to have lots of passwords for different systems, and the use of multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor Authentication refers to the use of a phone or email confirmation of logins, with the user ensuring that the right person is signing in with their credentials.

This increases the levels of certainty that every login within a system is legitimate. Getting a password and a username is one thing, but gaining access to a user’s email address, mobile phone or even biometric information is a greater challenge. The use of MFA is a further level of protection for an organization’s systems, preventing the risk of cyberattacks or social engineering leading to malicious parties accessing important and valuable information.

Greater levels of productivity

Having access to organizational systems quickly and easily is a must in major companies. This allows a greater level of flexibility and is especially useful in a hotdesking environment when people work on devices all across the organization. By picking up devices and logging on with ease, companies increase the flexibility of their employees with people working wherever they are, whenever the organization needs.

This is also true for working at industry conferences. Attendees complete their work when on the road and attending talks. By using IAM, companies have the assurance that their employees are who they say they are. People work immediately on the information they learn at the conference, implementing new policies and changes as soon as they are at a capable device.

Enabling remote working

Using IAM makes working remotely simpler. Having a greater degree of system security means that employees make use of devices outside the workplace ecosystem, such as using personal mobile phones and laptops. Multi-factor authentication provides companies with the knowledge that there is security throughout the system regardless of where and when a person signs on.

As central management knows that the infrastructure is sound, there is an opportunity for a decentralisation of the rest of the employees in the company. Entry points are secure and employees have access to all of the right software and storage folders that they require for their work thanks to an accurate provision system. People working from home have a greater level of efficiency than those that have extended commutes, increasing both the morale of employees and the general productivity of the organization.

Effective licence allocation

Large companies and complex organizations use equally complex licensing agreements for their software and services. This includes having a licence that permits a certain number of installs on a limited number of devices, a limit on the number of people using the software simultaneously and, in some cases, licence limits depending on whether the use of the software is commercial, educational or personal.

Using IAM systems means that managing these licences effectively is a far simpler process. For example, a university with a significant commercial wing uses both commercial and academic licences, so IT management creates user groups for each of these purposes. This accurately keeps track of how many accounts the organization is using for each of the purposes, keeping costs down by paying the right amount for the services the institution receives.

Simplify user groups

Categorising users into specific groups is the process of separating the users in a system by their functions, such as an office employee being in a data entry group or an IT manager being a part of an administration group. These groups define the systems that a user has a