Buyer's Guideby ,
You probably take a number of steps to protect your identity on a day-to-day basis. Your bank accounts, utilities accounts and even your social media accounts are all password-protected to make sure nobody but you can access them. You're wise to do this, because in today's world to have your identity stolen online means suffering a great deal of havoc that might take you months, if not years, to correct.
So why should you be any less careful when it comes to identity protection at your small-to-midsize business (SMB)? It can be just as dangerous and disastrous in your business life as in your personal life if an unauthorized person should gain access to your SMB's private information.
That's where identity management software comes in.
Identity management software manages who within your company can access information, keeping out unauthorized users as well as specifying levels of access for different individuals.
This guide will explain what you need to know about this software, and what you need to consider when choosing the right identity management system for your SMB.
Here's what we'll cover:
What is Identity Management Software?
Identity management software plays a massive role in the overall cyber-security of your SMB. It can be used to provide access to vital information, documents and other content for specific employees, while keeping others restricted to a lower level of access. In addition, it ensures that everyone granted any access is actually whomever they say they are.
More generally, identity management is the process of controlling information about users on computers, including the information that authenticates user identity and grants/limits authorization to each individual user.
Identity management software is particularly important in a business environment where so much important data and information can be accessed by a large variety of stakeholders independently.
In order to make sure that the people who need that information are able to get to it when they need to do so, while at the same time preventing outside forces from finding or accessing that information, identity management is a requirement of any modern business operation, including SMBs like yours.
Other terms that you may see used interchangeably for “identity management systems" include:
- Access governance systems
- Identity and access management systems
- Entitlement management systems
- User provisioning systems
Common Features of Identity Management Software
Below is a table listing some of the most common features of identity management software. Most of these features relate to how access is granted and/or restricted to certain users, and different vendors and systems may utilize different methods to this end:
|Access Control||Creates a gated wall that must be surpassed in order to access certain information. As a result, access can be authorized or restricted for certain persons across different locations and systems, allowing the right people to gain access to information and keeping the wrong people from getting their hands on that information. This is the core functionality of identity management software.|
|Single sign-on (SSO)||Allows users to log into a system just one time (rather than multiple times over the course of a session) using a single ID and password. The user may move between different connected systems once they have signed on, but they don't need to enter a new ID/password (or re-enter the same one) in order to do so.|
|Multi-factor authorization||Asks for multiple, independent data components from a user before they can gain access to the system. Typically this requires a user to both enter their password as well as an encrypted, randomly generated code, created on demand when they enter that password and sent to them via text message or email.|
|Password management||Assists users in generating complex passwords (either by storing them in an encrypted database or creating them on demand) and retrieving lost or forgotten passwords. This function will also typically provide self-help to users who are having trouble signing in.|
|Directory Services||Creates a central point from which access can be managed by administrators, granting certain users specific levels of access to data (and restricting all others from accessing that same data).|
Multi-factor authorization will frequently require users to provide an independent form of verification, such as a separate email address or a phone number. That text message authentication may look something like this:
Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best identity management software for your business include:
- Will my users require varying levels of access? At larger, enterprise-level companies, a key component of identity management software is the functionality that grants/restricts access to certain information for certain individuals. Your much smaller SMB may not have the same need to restrict information. If you only have a handful of employees who all have equal access to your data, for example, you may be able to purchase a simpler, cheaper identity management system that doesn't allow you to create restrictions.
- Do I want a single sign-on system? If you're more concerned with security than you are with ease of use for your employees, then you may not want to use an SSO system, thus requiring users to enter IDs and passwords at multiple times during their journey through the system. This can be a major annoyance, however; for this reason, most identity management software vendors provide SSO as their main offering.
- Do I want a multi-factor system? If you want to make sure your system is secure, you should look for a multi-factor system that will require users to have both their password and access to a backup form of identification (like a separate email address or a phone number to which an access code can be sent).
- Does this system integrate with my other software? Creating a gateway to your company's database/intranet/internal systems is only useful if that gateway can actually connect to the software that you're already utilizing. Many of these systems have their own forms of identity management already built in, so you'll want to have an in-depth discussion with your vendor about how their identity management product will fully integrate with all your other software systems.
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