Identity and access management (IAM) software addresses a long-standing challenge businesses of all sizes have had to consider: how to ensure the right people have access to the right business tools. Without a solution like this in place, a business might fall victim to a hacking attempt, data breach, or worse.
It’s always better to proactively invest in prevention than pay the price of negligence when it comes to cybersecurity tools, and IAM software is no exception. Keep reading to learn more about what it is, what to look for, and the different solutions that might work for you.
- What is IAM software?
- Who needs IAM software?
- IAM software features
- Top IAM solutions comparison
- IAM software helps you manage access to your business software
IAM software is also often called identity management software. It’s responsible for verifying that the user accessing a variety of different business applications and systems is who they say they are. Typically, this process involves four components:
- User data, including passwords, biometrics, behavior patterns, and objective data like location and device type
- Integration tools, which connect all relevant systems under one management platform
- Access policies, which create specific rules for who can access what and under which conditions
- Enforcement and audit tools, which give administrators the ability to add, modify, delete, and review data on a user or system basis.
IAM software can be deployed on-premises, but the best solution for small and midsize businesses like yours will likely be a cloud-based approach. You may find the right fit in an identity-as-a-service (IDaaS) solution that offers a hands-off approach to identity management, or you may prefer to manage the details and enforcement of your company’s access policies yourself. In either case, IAM software works double-duty to streamline access to your business systems for authorized users while also preventing unauthorized users from being where they shouldn’t.
If you’re only using a few different applications for your business or have only a few users, you’ll probably get by with a simple password manager and a multi-factor authentication tool at the minimum. However, IAM software helps improve security posture for small businesses in a few specific use cases.
Businesses with numerous systems
If your business uses a wide variety of applications and platforms, you should use an IAM tool. It removes a lot of the headache and anxiety that often comes with wearing multiple hats — and by extension, using multiple systems — every day just to keep your business moving. IAM software integrates with just about every platform you use to run your business, so you can focus on the bigger picture with better productivity and security all around.
Businesses with many users
The exact threshold of users that warrants an IAM solution is subjective. However, if you look at your user base and feel inherent concern about the general security and integrity of your business systems, an IAM tool might ease your mind. It will help standardize the requirements for secure user credentials and limit the number of access-related issues your users may encounter. Plus, it enables you to specify just the right amount of access each user should have based on certain parameters — no more, no less.
Businesses with both numerous systems and many users
It might be obvious, but IAM technology is a no-brainer for businesses that check both of the boxes above. If you have a large pool of users and a lot of different business systems to manage, an IAM solution will preserve the user experience for your employees (and in some cases, your customers) while also fortifying your cybersecurity strategy.
Not all IAM solutions are built the same, and not all of them will perfectly align with your needs. Here are a few of the features that are standard across all IAM tools as well as a few that are unique.
IAM software is often offered as a full suite of tools that can sometimes be implemented as stand-alone products. Without most of these components, a single IAM platform will fall short of true identity and access management. These features include:
- Password management, or the storage and analysis of all of a user’s login credentials
- Single sign-on (SSO), or a single portal through which a user can access all business applications with one set of credentials
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA), or the verification of a person’s identity based on a combination of something they are, something they have, and something they know
- Monitoring dashboard, or a tool that tracks how each authorized user interacts with each platform
- Reporting, which gives a detailed record of vulnerabilities across all business systems.
Security is a 24/7 effort, so a successful IAM solution must have a mobile application that makes it possible to monitor activity while on-the-go. It should also support API access at a bare minimum so it can connect to all of your business systems. Ideally, though, the right IAM tool will offer seamless integrations with popular platforms you’re already using so you don’t have to waste time trying to manually configure those connections.
On top of the non-negotiable features an IAM product must have, there are a few distinguishing features that you might find beneficial in your current environment. This is where it’s easy to prioritize what’s most important to you in your search for the right tool and narrow your list of possible solutions.
Scalability is something to consider if you’re starting small but have big plans to grow in the near future. The easier and more cost-effective it is to add more users to your IAM platform, the easier it will be to maintain a strong security posture as your business expands.
An intuitive user interface is subjective to your preferences, but it can make or break your experience with a piece of software. You can test a specific platform’s ease-of-use during a live demo or free trial.
Although it’s a relatively small feature, a browser extension will simplify your users’ experience interacting with the IAM tool on a day-to-day basis. It will also help ensure that all of the right credentials and other user information are being stored in the appropriate place.
Passwordless authentication is a rising trend that eliminates one of the biggest cybersecurity vulnerabilities: passwords. IAM tools that offer this feature use a combination of alternative means like email, location tokens, or biometrics to verify a person’s identity.
Related: Passwordless Authentication 101
|Vendor||LastPass||Auth0||OneLogin||Ping Identity||Okta||Google Cloud Identity|
LastPass: Best IAM for basic needs
LastPass is a big name in the password management sphere, but it has become an emerging vendor in the IAM market as well. Despite its lack of enterprise-grade features, LastPass is a very easy-to-use system that will suit basic IAM needs. You can store and share passwords securely, generate new passwords that are as strong as possible, and set up multi-factor authentication to create an extra layer of login security.
Many users love how user-friendly the platform is as well as how versatile it is to access. LastPass offers a desktop application for Mac, mobile applications for iOS and Android devices, as well as a wide range of browser extensions for the market’s leading web browsers. You can also connect your personal and business LastPass accounts so you can access all of your credentials from one central location.
LastPass doesn’t offer as many advanced features as some other solutions, like full support for LDAP directories or integration with mobile device management tools. The password vaulting approach might not be suitable for large organizations, but the simple configuration, flexibility, and ease of use make it a stellar option for businesses with lean teams and basic needs.
- LastPass MFA: $3/user/month
- LastPass Teams: $4/user/month
- LastPass Enterprise: $6/user/month
- LastPass Identity: $8/user/month
Auth0: Best IAM for external users
Although Auth0 was recently acquired by Okta, it’s expected to remain an independent business unit operating under the Okta brand. This is significant because Auth0 provides powerful tools for developers — and businesses — looking to add authentication and identity management features to the applications they build.
If you’re looking for a way to integrate an IAM tool for both your users and customers, Auth0 will give you the best of both worlds under one platform. It’s very scalable; in fact, Auth0 is available for free for up to 7,000 external users. If you’re looking for a solution that will work for both internal and external users, Auth0 offers one flat affordable rate for up to 500 employees and 7,000 external users. Plus, if you’re a startup or nonprofit organization that meets specific criteria, you might be eligible to receive a special Auth0 discount.
One of the biggest drawbacks to Auth0 compared to other IAM tools is the amount of technical expertise needed for implementation and ongoing maintenance. Auth0 was purpose-built for developers, so it won’t be a user-friendly solution if you don’t have any development experience. Additionally, there are limited support options for free users and many of the advanced features are reserved for the Enterprise edition of Auth0.
- Auth0 Free: $0
- Auth0 Developer: $23/month
- Auth0 Developer Pro: starting at $130/month
- Auth0 Enterprise: contact sales team
OneLogin: Best value IAM
One unique feature of OneLogin is how it handles groups of users. Unlike its competitors, OneLogin offers automation tools for managing groups according to their assigned roles and policies. It also has automation capabilities for configuring SAML-enabled applications. These automation features help save time with repetitive tasks.
Many users also love OneLogin’s flexible pricing structure. There are a couple of bundled options for MFA, SSO, and lifecycle management, but you can also pick and choose from the whole menu of IAM options. This helps ensure you’re only paying for the features you need.
Implementing OneLogin requires some degree of experience working with security standards like SAML. For prospective customers without this experience, OneLogin recommends using one of their managed service provider partners, so that’s something to consider if you’d prefer to manage your IAM solution in-house.
- OneLogin Advanced: $4/user/month
- OneLogin Professional: $8/user/month
- Individual modules available ($2-5/user/month each) for customized package
- More flexible pricing options for small businesses with fewer than 50 users
Ping Identity: Best IAM for versatility
Ping Identity offers a range of flexible solutions to meet your IAM needs. It can be deployed in a cloud environment, on-premises, or in a hybrid cloud environment, and it can be integrated with any software, service, or device in your organization. Regardless of the type of IT environment or systems you have, it’s almost guaranteed that Ping Identity will be able to accommodate your needs.
The individual components of Ping Identity are easy to configure and tailor to your needs. Plus, you can leverage other tools in the Ping Identity suite like PingAccess for managing APIs, PingDirectory for managing user data, and PingOne for integrating applications. Countless customers have celebrated how easy Ping Identity is to configure and deploy. Many users have also reported excellent customer support.
The biggest area where Ping Identity comes up short against the competition is with policy enforcement and reporting. Especially if your organization is subject to strict regulations and compliance is a major concern for you, you might want to look for an alternative solution that’s more aligned with auditing and compliance needs.
- Workforce360: $5/user/month
- Separate add-ons available for adaptive access and risk management
Okta: Best IAM for advanced needs
Similar to other vendors on this list, Okta is a well-established leader in the single sign-on, authentication, and access management markets. It’s a very flexible solution for basic IAM functions, but it’s also branching into more future-focused cybersecurity tools like zero-trust policy enforcement, lifecycle management, and behavior monitoring.
This is ideal if you’re looking at the future of cybersecurity and want to implement a solution that will continue to meet your needs down the road. It’s not the most affordable IAM tool, but it’s relatively easy to implement and scale to meet your needs.
Although Okta’s customer base originally consisted of mostly small and midsize businesses, it’s become a popular choice for large enterprises like FedEx and T-Mobile as well. The pricing structure reflects this shift toward a larger pool of users. Depending on your needs, the à la carte menu of IAM modules and $1,500 minimum might be overwhelming or cost-prohibitive. Plus, the fact that you have to pay more for better customer support may be frustrating for some customers.
- No predefined packages, rather each module is priced individually
- $1,500 annual contract minimum
- Single sign-on: $2-5/user/month
- Multi-factor authentication: $3-6/user/month
- Universal directory: $2/user/month
- Lifecycle management: $2-6/user/month
- API access management: $2/user/month
- Advanced server access: $15/server/month
- Access gateway: $3/user/month
Google Cloud Identity: Best IAM for Google Workspace users
Google Cloud Identity is relatively bare-bones for an IAM tool, but it’s an ideal solution if you’re already using Google Workspace. It’s inherently connected to other Google products like Drive, Chrome, and Cloud. It also offers features that are centered around a “single pane of glass” philosophy: cybersecurity visibility across the entire business. As such, you can use Cloud Identity to manage your users, apps, access, and device policies from every angle.
When it comes to IAM, one of the most important goals is to limit the number of times a user needs to provide unique credentials to log in. This helps limit the number of opportunities there are for a hacker to gain unauthorized access to your business systems and data. With Cloud Identity, your employees are able to use credentials they already use on a daily basis for a price that’s affordable and scalable.
Some users have cited issues with Cloud Identity’s ability to integrate with Mac operating systems and others have expressed desire for more powerful reporting tools. Cloud Identity also does not offer any advanced features like behavioral analytics or passwordless authentication, but the variety of features it does offer are easy to implement and use.
- Free: $0 (up to 50 users)
- Premium: $6/user/month
Weak passwords and loose identity management policies can often lead to compromised user accounts. To avoid these vulnerabilities, consider implementing an IAM solution. Not only will it simplify access to business critical systems and data for you and your employees, but it will also prevent unauthorized users and malicious actors from getting their hands on something they shouldn’t.