Identity management is an important concept within the IT world. Essentially, it is the management of a group of individuals that exist within a network. Administrators identify these people and then manage their access to resources on the system by assigning them restrictions and permissions.

Think, for example, of the roster of a public university. Each student is given login credentials with which he or she can gain access to school servers and resources. Faculty members, on the other hand, get a different set of permissions and thus can access additional school files and applications.

This broad area of identity management has traditionally been housed in on-premises systems or in an owned data center environment. Now, though, IT administrators are thinking about taking their identity management systems to the cloud. A few specific benefits of cloud computing also translate to these kinds of tools, so it’s a scenario that will be interesting to watch play out in the coming years.

Security is paramount

The main point of implementing a comprehensive identity management system is to supplement security. Security Intelligence contributor Fran Howarth reported that security is one of the biggest things on the minds of companies considering a shift in their identity management systems to managed cloud infrastructure.

A 2013 study conducted by IT research firm Gartner found that by the end of 2020, around 80 percent of digital access will be made possible by mobile and non-PC architectures – and external identity providers will account for 60 percent of all digital entities connected to enterprise IT environments. This means the cloud will continue to play a bigger role in the implementation of these kinds of technologies.

Running identity management in the cloud can increase security.Running identity management in the cloud can increase security.

The argument for cloud-based tools

Despite the hesitance surrounding cloud-based identity management, many companies are considering the change. InfoWorld contributor and cloud expert David Linthicum noted that although much of the concern with moving identity management to the cloud has to do with security and with trust issues on the part of IT departments, the cloud offers too many benefits not to take advantage of this concept.

Centralizing administrative capabilities in one cloud environment, Linthicum said, enhances security. With one cloud system, enterprises can spend less on security by simply managing identities’ access across internal and external environments.

“The cloud offers important advantages that could streamline identity management.”

CloudTech contributor Robert Doswell noted that the idea of identity management in the cloud hasn’t quite caught on, yet. However, the cloud offers important advantages that could streamline the concept. In today’s IT environment, small and medium-sized businesses and educational institutions can take advantage of total identity management in the cloud, but larger enterprises can also implement tools on a more case-by-case basis in the cloud.

In addition, the benefits of cloud computing apply here. Greater flexibility and scalability, along with lower operational costs, are all important aspects of cloud infrastructure and, by proxy, cloud-based identity management.

“Complete cloud identity management offers many possibilities,” Doswell wrote. “For instance, it would be easier to offer users single sign-on. With a one-time registration, from any device they could gain access to thousands of cloud applications.”

In other words, employees can utilize cloud-based tools no matter where they’re working from. With identity management tools on the cloud, this translates to a better ability to protect their systems and neutralize possible security issues before they become problems for the enterprise.