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Issue of December 2004 

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Identity Management

Single sign-on spells savings

Hatim Matiwala

The challenge of managing secure access to diverse information and applications scattered across a wide range of internal and external computing systems coupled with managing multiple user identities has necessitated the need for Identity Management (IM) solutions.

Organizations, which do not possess strict IM processes could find themselves under attack from disgruntled ex-employees who could use their old passwords to get into the company's IT systems. Additionally, due to the lack of single sign-on solutions, the employee may even get access to confidential R&D files stored on the network. In some cases, the lack of a single sign-on solution for multiple IT systems in a company's IT architecture could prove to be its Achilles' heel.

Single sign-on

For organizations having multiple IT systems, a single sign-on solution is necessary as managing multiple versions of user identities across multiple applications and computing systems makes the task daunting.

Explained Hatim Matiwala, National Manager, Strategic Solutions Group, Onward Novell Software India, "Implementing a single sign-on solution gives enterprises the ability to manage user rights more effectively as it is easier for users to log in all applications using a single user-name and password. In the future, most organizations will have an identity-based IT infrastructure which will have applications which are aware of identity." To illustrate his point, Matiwala gave the example of ex-employees who continue to use the IT system even after they have resigned. During his employment, the ex-employee may have been given user-names and passwords to different IT systems, and which in most cases are not deleted. This creates a situation where ex-employees can penetrate internal networks.

The benefits of IM

While the term IM is still not very common, many progressive organisations have already implemented comprehensive IM solutions, or are in the midst of evaluating IM tools as strategic tools. Another key driver for IM is savings in terms of operational costs due to a spurt in efficiency levels in managing data. As IM tools or single sign-on tools can be used to provide access to applications, they save costs on management. Since a single sign-on solution enables access to many applications across the network, it saves the time of both the user and the administrator.

This translates into time savings that can be spent on managing user access and cutting technical help-desk queries. But Matiwala had a word of advice for those thinking of buying a single sign-on solution: "Before buying, organizations have to ensure that an identity infrastructure based on open standards is enabled across all the systems to be effective. A single sign-on solution has to tie together authentication, directory services, provisioning, user and access management." The track also showcased a live demonstration which explained the significance of IM solutions.

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