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6 musts when selecting an A+ identity and access management solution

Here are some pointers to keep in mind while shopping for an IAM solution that’s a fit for students and schools.

Summer is over, and most schools and colleges are back in session. As with every year, the biggest challenge for IT departments presents itself during the lead-up to the first day of class and the first couple of weeks that follow. Unlike other industries, the education sector has specific identity and access management (IAM) needs. Provisioning accounts for new students and teachers, de-provisioning accounts of students and staff who have left, providing users secure access to the right resources, frequently changing users’ roles, and tracking changes to meet regulatory requirements are just the start.

With IT becoming an important part of the classroom, choosing an IAM solution that can meet all these demands is crucial for the day-to-day function of schools and colleges. Here are some pointers to keep in mind while shopping for an IAM solution that’s a fit for the education industry.

1. Dynamically Provision Accounts for Students 

User life cycle management in the education industry is complex due to the large number of students who come and go each year. Admins need to be able to deprovision and provision a bulk of users in a short period of time. An added complexity is that accounts must be provisioned for users across Active Directory, cloud applications, and e-learning programs.

When choosing an IAM solution, make sure it has bulk provisioning and deprovisioning capabilities. Some tools let admins dynamically provision users in bulk either by importing a CSV file containing student information or through templates specifically designed for user creation. Also, the solution must support provisioning across multiple platforms such as Active Directory, Exchange, G Suite, Office 365 and more.

2. Securely Control Who Has Access to What Applications

Another top priority should be ensuring that students and staff have access to applications — with just the right amount of privilege. Students change their schedule from time to time. Teachers could be reassigned to a different class. Capturing all these changes and making necessary adjustments in users’ group memberships within Active Directory is important.

To meet this requirement, the IAM solution should have granular group management capabilities in Active Directory. Automating or delegating group membership management through a predefined approval workflow feature will also help.

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3. Less Logging In, More Learning

Keeping track of passwords is a challenging task, even for adults. The problem is exacerbated in the education sector as younger students are tasked with remembering multiple passwords. As a result, teachers end up spending valuable class hours assisting students with their forgotten passwords and login issues.

The IAM solution should have single sign-on capabilities, allowing students to log in once with one username and one password and have access to multiple applications. If the solution uses Active Directory as its authentication source, then it becomes even easier to manage users’ identities and control access permissions to cloud apps through organizational units and group-based security policies.

(Next page: 3 more tips for choosing an identity and access management solution)

4. Let Teachers Take Control of Tech

Manually provisioning user accounts, making access modifications based on role changes and deprovisioning accounts after a certain retention period are time-consuming and error-prone activities.

Look for an IAM solution that can automate most of these tasks. And for critical tasks that require human intervention, delegating control to teachers and concerned staff to make the required changes or approve requests will add more bandwidth to your IT department.

5. Empower Students with Self-Service 

Most IT issues students face can be remediated by empowering them with self-service. If students forget their passwords, they cannot fully participate in class until their passwords are reset. Also, over time, student information stored in Active Directory could become outdated.

Your IAM solution should have sufficient self-service features to allow students and teachers to manage their passwords and accounts on their own. Self-service for password management, group management, profile updates, etc. can reduce calls to the help desk by a huge margin and ensure that this data is updated regularly. Additionally, the solution should automatically notify users about password expiration and provide options for secure self-reset of passwords from the Windows login screen, Mac login screen, web, or mobile devices.

6. Get a Bird’s-Eye View of All Activities and Maintain Compliance

Security breaches are on the rise. It’s crucial to track all admin and user activities with complete details on who did what and when. Moreover, regulatory authorities require the maintenance of audit records for various network activities.

Your IAM solution should have comprehensive, real-time auditing and alerting functions for Active Directory, Office 365 and other important applications. The IAM system should send real-time alerts for critical events to the concerned authorities. Prepackaged reports for compliance and security management are also a must.

It is important that schools and colleges deploy an IAM solution that has all the capabilities discussed above or upgrade their IAM tool if they already have one. An integrated identity and access management solution will reduce costs, save time and improve the experience of learning and teaching for users.

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