Identity Access Management Essentials

As we reflect on another year of great change and unpredictability, one thing that’s certain is the continued shift to remote and flexible working - 50% of British workers are still working from home at least some of the time. 

The technological advances of society and businesses learning to adapt has provided options for employees to have the freedom to work wherever they choose. However, this has raised new challenges. 

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a critical element of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, and its importance is only growing for IT teams. But this change in working practice isn’t the only pressure being put on IAM frameworks.

Other growing challenges for IT security teams include the development and adoption of cloud technologies as well as the increase in the number and sophistication of cybersecurity attacks.

Modernising infrastructure isn’t a task that can be rushed and there are a number of factors organisations need to take into account when upgrading their IAM. These key considerations revolve around speed and scalability, integration and deployment options.

Speed and Scalability

When it comes to IAM infrastructure, speed is of the essence. The faster IT security teams can react to alerts, the better they can manage threats and minimise and mitigate their impact on the business. But it’s not just about thwarting malicious actors but supporting employees. Teams should be able to simply and easily access the networks and resources they need so they can spend their time completing tasks not grappling with slow or glitchy verification systems. In short, the ability of an organisation to quickly react to issues, adapt to changes and manage IAM infrastructure has a direct impact on their competitiveness and success. 

Another factor to consider, linking to speed, is scalability. Can your new IAM infrastructure be easily scaled as you hire new team members and your business grows? It’s crucial organisations are able to customise and configure their IAM platform, rather than writing code outside of it, to allow them to solve a broader range of use-cases as well as quickly scale it across the company.

A good identity system will be able to handle even the most intricate use-cases and scenarios and give organisations the ability to centralise identity management, provide common APIs and share security policies. These qualities will mean companies can more quickly and easily deliver new apps and services to their users. 

Integration

A modern Identity Management System needs to have complete architectural coverage of use-cases across large-scale mobile, web, and API-driven applications and should cover both external and internal use. 

The use of APIs has grown exponentially across recent years and this has created a new challenge for companies when it comes to IAM. Legacy IAMs are not able to solve the task of managing access to microservices and therefore a new IAM solution is needed. 

A large number of identity and API management systems on the market were originally conceived ten or twenty years ago, and created to cater to XML and SOA-oriented environments. This means that even with retroactively added OAuth capabilities, they struggle to provide the flexibility required by organisations to integrate with a large number of API- and cloud-based services

Therefore a modern IAM solution, with this level of flexibility embedded from the start, is needed to allow organisations to properly protect and manage their API integrations. App developers shouldn’t be blocked from building user-friendly apps by an outdated IAM system.

How To Deploy IAM

On-premise vs. cloud is the big question for many IT solutions and this includes IAM. There are benefits on both sides. On-premise may be preferable - or even non-negotiable - if an organisation requires tighter control of resiliency and it allows for better protection of data and some time savings.

However, deploying IAM infrastructure via a cloud environment allows for quick, often very economical, deployment which enhances the scalability of the solution.

There isn’t a ‘right’ option of the two: each business will need to weigh up the benefits and challenges of each approach and work out which deployment better suits their business. But whichever solution they choose, it’s imperative businesses have full control over the data of their users, employees, customers and partners. Fortunately, the sector has moved beyond the days where straightforward deployment was only possible through an SaaS-based approach to storing data and identities, where the provider chose the storage location.

Now, organisations are able to retain complete control over their data without sacrificing the freedom to easily set up, manage and dynamically scale their identity platform. 

Choosing Your IAM Partner 

Considering these three factors is crucial when businesses come to modernise their IAM infrastructure and they should be viewing them in light of their individual business goals and vision for their growth. Building an IAM infrastructure around these factors can help companies dramatically reduce maintenance costs, improve the quality and availability of their services and even speed up time-to-market. Organisations should look for a service that’s focused around user-friendly, modern IAM infrastructure that can adapt to developments in the IT sector and change as the industry evolves.

A modern IAM platform should also enable organisations to easily map requirements onto functions. This is achieved by applying separation of concerns design principles and splitting different aspects of identity into discrete logical components, allowing businesses to manage complex identity and access needs. 
Finally, it’s important that the IAM platform is fully compliant with industry regulations, including PSD2, GDPR, FAPI, Open Banking and more, as well as being able to accommodate new legal demands as they come into force.

As we focus on business processes becoming more seamless and adaptable, a modern IAM offers a multitude of benefits that have never been so important in this digital era. All organisations should understand the importance of IAM to ensure the objectives are achieved to become a future-proof business that has used IAM solutions to help build better services for the foreseeable future.

Stefan Nilsson is Chief Commercial Officer at Curity                   Image: Unsplash

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