IAM vs. IDaaS: What’s the Difference?

Written by Molly Murphy on September 7, 2022

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The modern identity management space can be confusing, with a wide array of solutions available from a variety of different vendors. It doesn’t help that there are so many acronyms in use today, such as IAM, IdP, IDaaS, SaaS, PIM, PAM, MFA, 2FA, and many more to describe similar but distinct identity management concepts. 

While it would take far longer than one article to decode every identity management acronym, here, we’ll tackle two of the biggest ones: the difference between identity and access management (IAM), and identity as-a-service (IDaaS). 

IAM Defined

Identity and Access Management is the broad category of solutions that manage digital user identities and access to various IT resources. The IAM space includes the core identity provider (IdP), also known as directory services, and many subcategories such as directory extensions, web application single sign-on (SSO/IDaaS), privileged identity management and privileged access management (PIM/PAM), two-factor authentication (2FA), and more.

IAM has evolved greatly in the past few decades, and increased in complexity. Historically, IT networks were entirely on-prem, and revolved around the Microsoft Windows operating system. IT admins leveraged Microsoft’s traditional IAM platform, Active Directory (AD), to manage user identities and their access to IT resources. 

However, the IT landscape started to change around the turn of the century as a variety of new innovations came to market. Web applications such as Salesforce and Google Apps (now called Google Workspace) were at the tip of the spear.

Solutions such as these offered significant advantages over their legacy counterparts, like decreasing costs while increasing productivity. The challenge was that it was difficult to manage cloud-based resources such as these with traditional IAM infrastructure.

To mitigate this challenge, a number of cloud-native solutions emerged that could improve or replace legacy identity management. Thus, modern day identity and access management came to be. 

IDaaS Defined

Identity as-a-service is a subcategory of identity and access management. It’s focused on extending user identities to web applications, usually through single sign-on. 

Historically, IDaaS solutions have been layered on top of traditional IdPs, primarily Active Directory, to extend the functionality of legacy platforms to previously unsupported remote solutions. As a result, IT organizations could continue to leverage their legacy IdP, with added support for web applications such as Salesforce, Google Workspace, GitHub, Slack, and many more.

But while this solution works in a pinch, it’s not ideal for modern environments, especially with the growth of remote work, BYOD, and operating system diversification. 

Today’s modern IDaaS solutions provide IT teams with a cloud-based single pane of glass where they can authenticate user access to a variety of resources. These solutions can seamlessly connect users to their applications, regardless of working location or operating system. These IDaas options work to ensure that organizations improve their security posture by providing users with one authoritative, secure identity from which to access their resources. 

IAM vs IDaaS: Similarities and Differences

Both terms are about securing user identities, but IAM is broader, referring to all platforms, systems, and policies a business uses to verify identities and allow access to company resources. Should the company choose to implement SSO as part of their IAM strategy, that SSO would be referred to as IDaaS. 

JumpCloud: The Future of IDaaS and IAM

The IAM space has continued to evolve through the years as more of IT infrastructure moves to the cloud. Today, next generation IDaaS platforms are emerging that can consolidate what was once a patchwork of siloed identity management solutions into a comprehensive cloud IdP. 

The JumpCloud open directory platform is a great example. With JumpCloud, admins can securely manage and connect users to any IT resource from the cloud – with no on-prem applications and no third-party add-ons needed. IT organizations can leverage a single IAM solution to manage the complexity of modern networks – including IDaaS. 

If you’re ready to give a best-in-class open directory platform a try for all your IDaaS needs, JumpCloud’s your solution. Drop us a note, or sign up for a trial of JumpCloud and give it a try for yourself.

Molly Murphy

Molly Murphy is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud. A self-professed nerd, she loves working on the cutting edge of the latest IT tech. When she's not in the [remote] office, Molly loves traveling, rescuing animals, and growing her all together unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.

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