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Identity Management: Low On Excitement, High On Payback

Effective identity and access management schemes could help enterprises save bucks in tough times, analysts say

It's about as much fun as watching paint dry. But identity and access management, done right, could save your company money during tough financial times, researchers said today.

In separate reports, Osterman Research and Forrester Research both urged enterprise IT organizations not to abandon their efforts to streamline and automate their identity and group management processes as business pressures squeeze their resources.

"User provisioning and multifactor authentication are two projects you should keep if you are thinking about cutting back," said Forrester Research's Andras Cser about identity management today. "These are areas where there's a real opportunity to increase efficiency and cost savings."

In a new report on group management sponsored by identity management vendor Imanami, Osterman Research acknowledged that managing Active Directory is a dull and thankless task. "Twenty-seven percent of respondents found managing Active Directory to be more boring than managing e-mail servers, 21 percent found it more boring than filling out expense reports, and 19 percent found it more boring than taking out the garbage," Osterman wrote.

The dull and repetitive nature of identity and group management makes it seem a low priority, but poor processes can cost the company dearly, while good processes could save the company money, the analysts said.

"In a 3,000-user company with a turnover of 10 percent per year, 300 people will leave the company," Osterman observed. "That means that at any given time, at least a few ex-employees will have access to e-mail and other network resources until IT can delete them from Active Directory or otherwise disable their access credentials. Forty-two percent of organizations report that someone has accessed information from Active Directory that they were not authorized to access."

This issue becomes even more acute during difficult financial times, when employees may become disgruntled following layoffs or pay disputes, experts noted. During such times, the ability to quickly provision and deprovision employees may play an important role in the enterprise's overall security, they said.

On the positive side, Cser observed that effective identity and access management can help companies monitor the usage of IT resources and possibly lead to recovery of underutilized equipment and software. "Access management can tell you who's really using those applications and servers," he said. "It could be that you are spending money on licenses and hardware that you don't need."

Many companies are taking a closer look at outsourcing some elements of identity and access management, Cser observed. "In our studies, 50 percent of the people we surveyed said they are interested in outsourcing IAM," he said. "The small businesses don't have the IT resources to do the work. But even in the large enterprises, it's becoming more difficult to justify a large IAM project. It's a lot easier to absorb the cost of an outsourcing service at $20,000 a month than it is to cost-justify a $1 million IAM project."

Despite the difficult financial times, Forrester is projecting rapid growth in the identity and access management market. Worldwide sales were about $2.6 billion in 2007, but the research firm expects that figure to grow to $12.3 billion by 2014.

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Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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