What Is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?

BY IT GLUE | March 08, 2022

In an era where phishing attacks are not just prevalent but evolving in complexity, organizations across the globe are facing unprecedented challenges in protecting their data and systems. Against this backdrop, identity and access management (IAM) emerges as a crucial safeguard — a last line of defense that ensures only authenticated and authorized users can access sensitive systems and information.

In this blog, we’ll explore the essentials of IAM, including its key components, like authentication, authorization and single sign-on (SSO), along with its benefits, such as enhanced security and improved compliance. We’ll also share best practices for effective IAM implementation and discuss how IT Glue can fortify your cybersecurity measures. Dive into the details with us to understand why IAM plays a pivotal role in today’s digital ecosystem.

What is identity and access management (IAM)?

Identity and access management is a framework of business processes, policies and technologies that facilitates the management of electronic identities. By organizing user roles, data access permissions and the circumstances in which data or resources can be accessed, IAM systems ensure that the right individuals access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons.

Why is identity and access management important?

In today’s interconnected world, where data breaches are costly and damaging, IAM plays a pivotal role in protecting an organization’s digital assets. By ensuring that access is limited to authenticated and authorized users, IAM systems help prevent unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

Notably, the rise of phishing attacks and sophisticated models, like phishing-as-a-service, has prompted businesses to re-evaluate their cybersecurity strategies. Phishing, where attackers trick employees into giving up sensitive information, remains one of the most common and effective methods of cyberattacks. Identity and access management acts as a critical last line of defense against these threats, ensuring that even if credentials are compromised, the damage can be contained.

IAM is integral not just in defending against external threats but also in managing the internal complexities of corporate environments. As companies grow and adapt, they often find themselves managing an increasingly diverse set of users and devices accessing their systems. Here, IAM provides a structured way to manage identities, control access permissions and monitor activities across a wide range of scenarios.

Moreover, the significance of IAM extends beyond mere security. It is essential for ensuring regulatory compliance across various industries. Whether it’s the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or any other regulatory requirement, IAM helps enforce the policies that keep businesses on the right side of the law while securing sensitive data against unauthorized access.

What are the key components of IAM?

Identity and access management comprises several fundamental components that work together to secure digital identities and manage access within an organization. Let’s break down these core components and their roles in an IAM framework.


Authentication serves as the gateway to accessing any secure system. It verifies the identity of users attempting to gain access to an organization’s network or applications. This process requires users to present credentials, such as usernames and passwords, biometric data or security tokens. Modern IAM systems often employ multifactor authentication (MFA), which requires two or more verification factors, providing a higher level of security than simple password protection.


Once authentication is confirmed, the next step is authorization, which determines the resources a user is permitted to access. This process involves assigning and enforcing permissions based on predefined policies that consider the user’s role within the organization. The authorization ensures that users have appropriate access levels to perform their job functions without exposing unnecessary data or functions that could be exploited if compromised.


Administration involves the management of user identities, roles, access rights and security policies. This component of IAM includes tasks such as creating new user accounts, modifying or deleting old ones, setting up and enforcing security policies, and managing permissions across diverse systems. Effective administration not only helps in streamlining operational processes but also in maintaining compliance with legal and regulatory standards.

Single sign-on (SSO)

Single sign-on (SSO) is a user authentication service that allows a user to use one set of login credentials (e.g., name and password) to access multiple applications. The service benefits users by simplifying the management of multiple usernames and passwords, and it benefits enterprises by lowering the cost of IT support services related to password recovery. SSO is particularly useful in environments where users are required to access multiple applications during their workflow.

Identity governance

Identity governance encompasses the policies and technologies needed to ensure the right people have the right access to technology resources. It includes the management of digital identity and user rights, where the identities are stored and the policies that determine how access is granted. Effective identity governance helps organizations meet compliance challenges, manage risk more effectively, reduce IT costs and improve user productivity and satisfaction by streamlining and automating IAM processes.

What are the benefits of IAM?

Implementing access and identity management systems brings numerous benefits to an organization, some of which are:

  • Enhanced security: IAM provides a robust framework to protect against unauthorized access, identity theft and data breaches. By ensuring that access rights are appropriately managed, IAM helps in minimizing potential vulnerabilities within the system.
  • Improved compliance: With IAM, organizations can enforce strong access controls and maintain detailed audit trails, which are essential for meeting compliance requirements in many regulated industries.
  • Increased productivity: By streamlining access processes, IAM allows users to get their job done more efficiently while reducing the burden on IT staff by automating routine tasks such as password resets and account provisioning.
  • Cost savings: Effective IAM security reduces the risk of IT incidents and their associated costs. By preventing data breaches and other security events, organizations can avoid losses and penalties associated with these incidents.

What are some IAM best practices?

Adopting best practices in identity and access management is essential for organizations seeking to enhance their security posture, improve operational efficiency and ensure regulatory compliance. Let’s explore some critical best practices that can make IAM implementations more effective.

Implementing strong authentication mechanisms

Strong authentication mechanisms are the cornerstone of effective IAM. Utilizing MFA bolsters security significantly. MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access, which dramatically reduces the risk of unauthorized access due to compromised credentials. This can include something the user knows (password), something the user has (security token) and something the user is (biometric verification). Organizations should consider context-based authentication, which adjusts the required level of authentication based on the user’s location, time of access and other contextual factors.

Enforcing the principle of least privilege

The principle of least privilege (PoLP) involves restricting user access rights to only those necessary to perform their job. This minimizes the risk of accidental or malicious breaches from within the organization. Regular audits and reviews should be conducted to ensure that access rights are appropriate, with adjustments made as user roles change or as they leave the organization. Enforcing PoLP not only secures sensitive information but also helps control system configurations and operational complexities.

Regularly reviewing and updating access policies

In dynamic business environments, access requirements can change frequently as new roles are created and organizational goals evolve. Regular reviews and updates of access policies ensure that security measures are aligned with current business needs and compliance requirements. This includes updating permissions, removing redundant user accounts and adjusting roles to accommodate changes in the workforce or business processes.

Monitoring user activity

Continuous monitoring of user activity is vital to detect and respond to potential security incidents promptly. This includes tracking login attempts, access to sensitive data and changes to user permissions. Implementing automated alerts for unusual behavior, such as accessing systems at odd hours or downloading large volumes of data, can help identify potential security breaches early. Monitoring tools should be integrated with other security systems to provide comprehensive oversight and facilitate rapid response to incidents.

How IT Glue can help you with identity and access management

Implementing an efficient and secure identity and access management strategy is crucial for any organization looking to protect its digital assets and streamline its IT operations. IT Glue is a leading IT documentation platform that offers robust features that can not only enhance your IAM processes but also take your IT documentation to the next level. Here’s how IT Glue can support your organization in implementing an effective IAM framework:

  • Streamlined documentation and centralized information: One of the fundamental ways IT Glue aids in IAM is through its comprehensive documentation capabilities. IT Glue provides a centralized repository for all IT documentation, which is essential for managing user identities and access controls. By having all critical information stored in one place, IT administrators can quickly and accurately manage user access settings, track changes and audit permissions. This centralization reduces errors and discrepancies in user data, which is crucial for effective identity management.
  • Enhanced security with controlled access: Security is a prime concern in IAM, and IT Glue addresses this by offering controlled access to documentation. Access to sensitive information can be finely tuned to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to critical data. IT Glue allows for role-based access controls, ensuring that users only see what they need to see to perform their tasks. This not only tightens security but also supports the enforcement of the principle of least privilege — a best practice in IAM.
  • Automated workflows to improve efficiency: Automation is the key to increasing efficiency in IAM processes. IT Glue automates routine IAM tasks, such as user provisioning and deprovisioning, password management and security policy enforcement. This automation reduces the administrative burden on IT staff, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks while ensuring that IAM tasks are performed accurately and consistently. Automation also helps in maintaining compliance with security policies and regulations by enforcing consistent application across the board.
  • Robust integration capabilities: IT Glue’s strength also lies in its ability to integrate seamlessly with other tools and platforms that organizations use for IAM, such as active directory services and single sign-on solutions. This integration capability ensures that changes in IT Glue are reflected across all systems, maintaining consistency and reducing the risk of security gaps. By integrating with a wide range of IAM-related tools, IT Glue helps create a unified security environment that is easier to manage and monitor.

By leveraging IT Glue, organizations benefit from efficient IT documentation, improved security, enhanced compliance, reduced IT overhead and increased operational efficiency. To explore how IT Glue can transform your IAM strategies and fortify your organization against cyberthreats, get a free demo today.

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