Remote access to business systems opens up huge potential in terms of efficiencies. With the ability to access a computer or network from a remote distance, many workers appreciate the flexibility that the modern workplace can offer. On the other hand, however, this immense flexibility can also bring with it new challenges in terms of identification, authentication, and access management.
According to Alan Ross, an IT support expert at Intel Corporation, "No longer is identity just associated with people; devices, applications, and services all need identities today." Ross speaks from experience; his specialty with the computer chip manufacturer is solving access management issues including questions of authenticating a user's identity.
The role of ‘Federated Identity Management’
New IT solutions have emerged in response to the challenges posed by remote access. Federated identity management is a new model that addresses some of the needs that can occur when users are dispersed, sometimes across the entire planet. For small and medium-sized businesses, of course, the dispersion of users is more likely to be on a smaller scale.
When businesses make the shift to cloud computing, sometimes their employees are put in the position of needing to know login information for several different services now based in the cloud. This will not only cause confusion and additional calls to the help desk, but it can actually slow down workflow as workers struggle to remember their credentials from site to site. In a federated system for identity management, individuals acquire a login, password, and other access codes that can be used in more than one context, therefore simplifying their lives.
Federated identity management provides workers with one single login that they use repeatedly to access a disparate range of cloud-based services. This approach does more, however, than contribute to increased IT efficiencies; it also improves IT risk management since with the new model, workers will have little reason to write down all their access codes, which is a persistent problem when employees are given more authorizations than they can reasonably keep track.
Internet users are probably already somewhat familiar with how federated identity management works. Too many logins, even for entertainment purposes, is a bar for many people who would otherwise be happy to sign up with the service. A number of sites have therefore agreed to work in cooperation in ‘open identification’ systems that permit a user to have a single username and password at various sites that are not otherwise affiliated with one another, however still maintain security.