Identity Management vs. Access Management: The Difference

Identity Management vs. Access Management: The Difference

What is the difference between identity management and access management? Does identity and access management refer to a combination of the two, or is a separate branch altogether? 

At Solutions Review and elsewhere on the internet, it becomes all too easy to conflate identity management and access management. After all, this stems from a similarity in focus and goals in business cybersecurity. 

However, they are different, and that difference can matter during the solution selection process. Here’s what you need to know. 

Identity Management vs. Access Management 

Identity Management

Put simply, identity management manages digital identities. Identities combine digital attributes and entries in the database to create a unique designation for a user. Its management consists of creating, maintaining, monitoring, and deleting those identities as they operate in the enterprise network. Businesses need to make sure users have the permissions they need to perform their jobs, and limit other permissions. Also, it handles authentication. 

Access Management

Meanwhile, access management controls the yes/no decision to allow or block users from accessing a resource, database, etc. Additionally, it manages the access portals via login pages and protocols, while also ensuring that the user requesting access actually belongs at all. This actually differs from authentication, since authentication can determine the user but not whether they deserve access. Instead, it manages authorization. 

Authentication vs. Authorization

This is the heart and soul of this debate. Authentication does not equal authorization, and vice versa. The former, a province of identity management, determines who the user is, whether based on groups, role, or other qualities. Authorization evaluates the user to determine what the user can actually see and access after authentication. 

One opens the door and the other directs the user. Identity and access management provides the best of both worlds. 

Find out more in our IAM Buyer’s Guide

Ben Canner

Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ben Canner