Identity Management (IAM): The Definitive Guide

By TechFunnel Contributors - Last Updated on July 10, 2020
Complete Guide on Identity Management

Identity management is a generic term used to describe an organization’s internal processes whose main  focus is managing user accounts and corporate network resources, including access rights for organizations, users, applications, and systems. It is also called Identity and Access Management (IAM).

It includes the functions of managing the identity of a user on the network and serves primarily to authenticate users, thus ensuring the rights requested by them. Identity management is a very large domain of administration related to the identification of the  individuals within a system (country, network and enterprise) and the control of their access to the resources available within that same system.

What is Identity Management

At the most basic stage, identity management involves exclaiming what users can do within the network, with what devices, and under what circumstances. In the digital world, our identities have already  taken the form of attributes and entries in a database. The growing trend of online services is to collect these attributes to give us a better service or create a unique user experience from the data collected in our static and dynamic attributes.

Your online identity becomes created when you sign up for a system. During your  registration, certain attributes are collected  such as your email, phone number, social security and others and stored in the database. The registration process is definitely, dependent upon the type of digital identity you submit.

While the procedure may be exhaustive for a government-issued electronic identity, registering on social networking sites can be done with completely fictitious and therefore unverified identity attributes.

Identity management is  an attribute management issue. Your line manager, your human resources manager, your IT administrator, the e-commerce site customer advisor, and many others may be responsible for creating, updating, or even removing the attributes that concern you.

The access management can now be carried out, once the user’s identity has been established. After authentication, a  crucial decision must be made at the access control level. The decision is always  based on the information available about the user. This is where the attributes come into play. If the authentication process has passed the necessary stage  of attributes to the access control decision point, the process can now evaluate the attributes and decide whether access shod allowed or not.

Authentication and user access rights on the network are key elements of identity and access management. The IAM software is equipped with features that allow the user to simplify all procedures related to these processes. Such features include:

  • The Automatic provisioning of user accounts
  • Smooth Workflow and self-service management
  • Management of password
  • The Single Sign-On (SSO)
  • The Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) / Access governance
  • Auditing and Compliance

Importance of Identity and Access Management

Identity access and management is very  useful in so  many ways such as it  ensures regulatory compliance, enables cost savings, and simplifies the lives of your customers by enhancing their experience.

These are the main importance of having an IAM solution:

  • Easily Accessible Anywhere

    These days, people need their identities all the time to use services and resources. In light of this, they require access to any platform without limits using their IDs, thus eliminating barriers for customers to enter the platform anytime, anywhere.

  • Can Encourage the Connection Between Different Parts

    The digital transformation that takes place among more and more organizations forces the need for people, applications, and devices to stay connected to each other. Also, as expected, all of these processes bring with them some security threats.

    However, IAM has become a solution that guarantees the correct administration with the best identity providers, such as Twitter and Google. Validation and security are two of the strengths of Identity and Access Management, as well as being extendable and ready for future advances.

  • Improved Productivity

    IAM has automated the entry of new personnel and facilitates access to all components of the system with which the company operates. This has given room for reducing times in the delivery of access so that they begin to produce immediately.

    For this particular reason, business agility has also been increased by using the advantages that technology makes available to meet the demands of today’s world. Thus, its application translates into greater business success.

  • Optimizes the User’s Experience

    It is so hard remembering so many usernames and passwords to access social networks, banks, and other services on the Internet. It is a challenge for people. Thanks to IAM now, people can get an identity that provides access to different systems.

    The Single sign-on (SSO) also allows customers and partners to access different internal and external applications with the same access method thereby making sure that the user experience will not be affected.

  • Helps You to Secure Your Brand At All Levels

    There can be no risk of a security breach, regardless of whether a connection is made from multiple identity providers. This Identity and Access Management enables strong authentication to keep your business and brand secure.

    There is always a detailed verification of all identities entering the system is performed in addition to allowing various licenses to limit access levels. At almost the same time, it monitors through analysis fraud detection and alert functions that indicate a real possible risk/threat.

    In essence, IAM is a truly reliable system that employs technology to support digital transformation. Brilliant software that provides agility, security, and satisfaction to the company’s customers. If you want to try it out, make sure you have consultants/specialists you can ask for advice and get started with your project.

    Any efficient IDM platform is aimed at reducing costs by providing a single foundation for all core identity services. With a singular view and point of management, any user can be handled across multiple systems even if those systems were historically disparate.

    Identity management has made security and compliance easier too because now you can enforce and track identities across the whole organization. Identity management systems have been designed to enable IT administrations to define and change an individual’s role as well as track their login details and all their IT activity. Administrators can also enforce ID management policies based on user roles and resource usage.

    Another very important part of modern identity management systems is to support Governance, Risk, and Compliance with regard to multiplying stringent regulatory requirements. While Identity management has been delivered and managed as part of an on-premises bundle collection of software and hardware, Identity as a Service solution that is offered through the cloud on a subscription basis has now become more prevalent in corporate environments for the management of ID recently as well.

How does Identity Management Work?

ID management is designed to  work hand-in-hand with identity access management systems. Identity management is primarily focused on authentication, while access management is aimed at authorization. ID management will determine whether a user has access to systems, but it also sets the level of access and permissions a user has on a particular  system. For example, a user may be authorized to access a system but be restricted from some of its components. The main aim of identity management is to ensure that only authenticated users are granted access to the specific applications, systems or IT environments for which they are authorized.

(Download Whitepaper: 2-FA for Identity Management With SMS)

The Identity Management Lifecycle.

The identity lifecycle has four major steps:

  • The Onboarding Step

    This first step is the creation of the identity itself. In addition to creating the users’ account, the user must be connected to the IT resources they will need access to. These IT systems can also include their desktop or laptop, their email account, and any other applications they need to utilize. Account access may also extend to servers or other cloud applications as well. The on-boarding step  associates the new user with different groups or departments that the user is a part of. These various designations can help ensure the proper levels of access.

  • User Modification Step

    Over the years, user attributes within an organization may change. Individuals’ roles may change, necessitating an increase or decrease in their levels of access.  The users’ information or their address and location within the organization may change over time as well. There are  more routine updates, such as password resets, which end up draining valuable time from IT admins. Every of these user modifications are a core part of the identity lifecycle.

  • The IT Systems Modifications Step

    In addition to the IT  user modifications, changes in IT systems and resources routinely occur. Servers are included, laptops break, new applications are added to the network, and resources change. All your users still need access to those resources, so how your identity management strategy deals with those changes is critical. You will have more  changes with IT resources than with users. When these things are combined, the two can significantly impact the resources that you need to manage and how your users connect to those resources.

  • The Account Termination

    The very last step in the identity lifecycle is when you off-board a user. It is a very common scenario because when someone leaves the organization, all of their access needs to be discontinued. Several compliance requirements are focused on this critical step since dormant accounts can be a security risk. From the  IT perspective, removing access from various resources can be more difficult than simply deleting the user from the corporate directory. A catalog of access is needed to ensure that access has been completely terminated from all resources.

    Thinking of identities in the context of a lifecycle can be useful. IT administrators are better able to break apart the overall process into discrete areas and figure out how to automate them. In the middle of any identity lifecycle is a Directory as a Service platform. The DAAS platform is the core user store that houses your digital identities and is the heart of their lifecycle.

Identity Management Capabilities

  • The Multifactor Authentication

    Formerly, the editors of Solutions Review noted passwords carry with them several weaknesses. Importantly, these include being easy to guess, being easy to crack, being easy to phish, and being constantly repeated. In essence, the latter contributes to a cascading effect, as repeated passwords allow hackers into multiple servers, databases, and networks. Thus, building more authentication around passwords must become a key consideration.

    While enterprises will never truly rid themselves of passwords, they can supplement and strengthen them. Each and every authentication factor between the user and the database represents another hurdle to hackers making the power of multi-factor authentication (MFA). Of course, with time and resources, hackers can subvert or bypass any number of authentication factors.

    Note that, most hackers would prefer to target weaker enterprises for a faster profit. So, it can deter as many hackers as it deflects.  Multifactor authentication will include passwords, hard tokens, geofencing, time of access monitoring, and behavioral analysis.

  • The Privileged Session Management

    This Session management offers your IT security team the ability to monitor and record privileged sessions. Therefore, you give them a better window for auditing and investigating cybersecurity incidents. It helps you exhibit control over your privileged identities.

    The sophisticated, next-generation privileged session management should enable you to observe the date, time, and location of each session and make you have visibility over their very keystrokes to ensure the authenticity of each privileged user.

    This will prevent insider threats and hackers alike by making sure users use their permissions according to business processes.

  • The Privileged Identity Discovery

    A lot of privileged identities can vanish from your monitoring. This occurs due to scaling networks or poor offboarding. Again, temporary permission may not be revoked after a prompt timeline, leaving users with privileged identities but no oversight.

    All unmonitored privileged identities become orphaned accounts and thus security vulnerabilities. This is another side effect of manually managing privileged identities; trying to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet is doomed to failure.

Identity Management Framework

An identity management framework helps align identity management initiatives with the organization’s business goals and security strategy. It also focuses on issues related to:

  1. Delivering business value
  2. Data confidentiality and integrity
  3. Nonrepudiation
  4. Authentication and authorization
  5. Provisioning and deprovisioning
  6. Audit

The framework must outline a set of policies for identity management. These policies should cover a range of levels from organization wide to system-specific and even to issue-specific. The framework defines a set of standards to which identity management initiatives have to adhere.

Some examples include:

  • •Defining minimum authentication levels and methods, such as using two-factor authentication as a minimum requirement to perform administrative tasks
  • Defining acceptable levels of encryption
  • Defining directory standards and approaches, such as the role of a meta  directory or how to integrate existing directory servers into a common backbone
  • Defining data exchange formats and methods, such as SPML,SAML, XML and DSML

One of the key requirements of the standards section of the framework is to define an information management doctrine or terms of reference on how to deal with privacy, trust and regulatory requirements on audit and compliance. Identity management initiatives become part of common infrastructure.

This provides a consistent approach that is applied to all initiatives and can be leveraged for new identity management initiatives.

Challenges of Implementation.

  • Like any other concept, identity and access management also have its challenges. The Identity and access management challenges facing organizations and their staff are many and evolving which are partly introduced by changes in our technology and way of life such as The Internet of things (IoT), the distributed systems and workforce, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), cloud computing and storage, phishing and hacking scams, and various external requirements. These constant changes and demands are further complicating the way organizations and their experts are managing user identities in systems and protecting systems from threats which often target users and their access rights to gain access to systems.
  • While there is an ever-increasing number of identity and access management challenges worldwide, there is an increasing number of identity and access management tools and services that organizations rely on for responding to evolving challenges. In addition to this, while organizations take advantage of IAM tools to secure their systems and comply with regulations, they also improve upon other areas of their business. For instance, with the deployment of appropriate IAM solutions, user access administration becomes faster and less troublesome or burdensome for the IT staff who must often provide access for users who are always on the rush. However, the provision of  on-demand access to users also raises some security risks that management must accept in exchange for higher user satisfaction.
  • Considering the fact that most attacks rely on stolen user credentials to access systems, identity and access management problems also include reliance on the user community to protect their user ID and password. Most times, users are targeted with phishing, pretexting, spoofing, and other similar scams to steal their access information.
  • Often times the stolen information is used to access the user’s account which poses little risk to the organization and at other times the stolen information is used to access business systems which leads to the breach of database files containing a huge number of data. The most likely to be targeted  users have  access to business systems and databases and are employees who have administrative access to systems.
  • Administrative accounts that are used to manage user access in systems offer the best information that hackers need to access systems. But, not only identity and access management challenges include monitoring admin account activities to prevent and detect unauthorized access such as denying administrator access during off-business or irregular or unusual hours, but also tracking unused or orphan admin accounts is a challenge that security professionals must overcome with continuous monitoring and removal of such accounts.

These are most of the identity and access management challenges that can be tackled with a thoughtful identity and access management strategy. Identity management technologies include web services, access control, digital identities, password managers and so on.

Also Read: 5 Identity and Access Management (IAM) Tools to Improve Security

Business Benefits of IAM

  • It allows easy access anywhere

    People are increasingly using their social IDs to access services and resources. You need to be able to reach your users through any platform and allow them easy access to your services through their existing digital identities.
    Bring your own identity (BYOID) is a concept that allows users to access your system through their own identities. By implementing such a concept, you can remove all barriers to entry and let employees, customers and partners alike easily and securely access your business capabilities anywhere and at any time.

  • Connect everyone to everything

    Connecting with people, applications and devices is a key requirement of digital transformation. When doing so you also need to think of the increased security threats that this brings about. An IAM solution can manage the complexities of connecting with most popular identity providers such as Salesforce, Twitter, Google. It does this while enforcing strict security policies with multi-factor and strong authentication. You also need to be future proof so make sure you will be able to extend your solution and connect to any new identity providers that come up later on. Check out WSO2 Identity Server’s comprehensive list of connectors.

  • Improve employee productivity

    When you hire a new employee, they need to go through a certain process. They need to be given access to specific parts of your system, given a new device and provisioned into the enterprise. This process, if done manually, can take a long time, in turn reducing the employee’s ability to start work faster.

    Automated provisioning helps speed up the process of granting new employees’ access to the required parts of your system. With self-service provisioning, an existing employee can easily access different parts of the system without waiting to ask your IT team for permission.

Identity Management Types

  1. Access control.
  2. Cloud computing.
  3. Digital identity management.
  4. Password manager.
  5. Workflow automation.
  6. Provisioning.
  7. Single sign-on.
  8. Security Token Service.

Identity Management and Authentication Options

  1. Authentication User Experience.
  2. Local Access.
  3. Partner Access.
  4. Mobile Support.
  5. Breadth of Support for Target Systems.
  6. Supports BYOD Users.

Best Identity Management Software

  1. Microsoft Identity Manager
  2. Microsoft Azure Active Directory
  3. Oracle Identity Management
  4. Okta Identity Management
  5. Zoho Vault
  6. OneLogin
  7. LogMeIn Pro
  8. Auth0
  9. ExcelID
  10. ADManager Plus

Frequently Asked Questions about Identity Access Management

Q. What is the difference between identity and access management?

A. The difference between identity management and access management is as follows: Identity Management is about managing the attributes related to the user. Access Management is about evaluating the attributes based on policies and making Yes/No decisions

Q. Is active directory an identity management system?

A. According to Microsoft, Active Directory and Microsoft’s Identity Management Microsoft Active Directory, on the other hand, is a Microsoft Windows-centric identity provider for on-prem systems and application.


Thus, IAM is totally important for your small or large-scale business and it will really be good if you can employ its use.

TechFunnel Contributors | is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicated to sharing unbiased information, research, and expert commentary that helps executives and professionals stay on top of the rapidly evolving marketplace, leverage technology for productivity, and add value to their knowledge base.

TechFunnel Contributors | is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicate...

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