What is the Difference Between IAM and CIAM?

What is the Difference Between IAM and CIAM?

Identity and access management (IAM) and customer identity access management (CIAM) are two common approaches to managing digital identities, authenticating users, ensuring secure transactions, and controlling user access.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between IAM and CIAM, and how each can contribute to strengthening e-commerce. We will also talk about business and customer IAM and CIAM.

1. What is IAM?

IAM is access management that ensures user identity and provides information on specific transactions. IAM also allows authentication of individuals and systems, entrains secure transaction protocols, and tracks usage data for each individual. This process ensures users can only access resources or applications appropriate to their role in the organization and to provide a comprehensive audit trail.

For example, IAM provides authorization to employees to access resources (such as specific data or systems) based on their job role within an organization. Authorization is controlled by security groups, which comprise users with similar needs and permissions.

IAM for the customer

As organizations operate more in a global economy, where customers, partners and competitors are located in multiple countries, the concept of Identity & Access Management (IAM) has expanded beyond traditional boundaries. Besides managing identities and providing access control for users within a company, IAM is now responsible for protecting resources wherever they may be—in private data centers, public clouds or partner environments.

2. What is CIAM?

CIAM is the ability to provision, manage and secure user access across cloud-based applications for business users.

Providing a single user experience for enterprise cloud applications is at the core of CIAM. The goal of CIAM is to provide authorized personnel with access to the resources virtually anytime, anywhere on any device.

The need for CIAM is growing. According to the recent Forrester Wave™: Customer Identity And Access Management, Q3 2015, “More than 60% of respondents are already investing in customer identity and access management (CIAM) solutions or plan to within 12 months.”

CIAM for the customer

CIAM for the customer is all about making things easier for them by making sure they have a single sign-on experience that allows them to quickly and easily do things like access email from devices anywhere, check order status, update account information, etc.

3. What CIAM is not?

CIAM isn’t just about managing identities of actual customers — it’s also about managing the identities of employees that act on behalf of the customer. For instance, when a customer calls into customer service and they need to create an account so they can access their records or place an order, CIAM is about making sure all the right information is gathered in one place.

4. The benefits of using CIAM

Using CIAM can lead to greater customer satisfaction, since customers can access their information when they want instead of having to wait until the company is ready.

5. The challenges of using CIAM

With so many people accessing data, it’s difficult to make sure all the information remains protected.

How can you overcome these challenges?

One way to protect your users’ information is by restricting access only to certain employees who need it for their job. This means that when someone leaves the company, all their data can be deleted. If employees may work from home or on any device, you should have remote wipe capability so that users’ information is erased if they lose their phone or tablet.

Another way to overcome these challenges is through the use of secure containers. Secure containers prevent people from accidentally seeing other peoples’ information or downloading it onto their home device. For example, when someone tries to attach a file to an email outside the company, they’ll be prompted with a message that asks them if they’re sure they want to do this.

6. Differences between IAM and CIAM?

The differences between IAM and CIAM is that IAM focuses on end-user authentication while CIAM focuses more on account creation and authorization. This means:

  • IAM can allow or deny access to specific resources based on the user’s identity.
  • CIAM can be used to automatically create accounts for end-users, assign predefined access rights and provide the users with an error message when they log in without having created an account on their own.


In both cases, identity is a core concept, but they focus on different aspects of user identification. It’s recommended to use both IAM and CIAM in order to guarantee a complete user management system. 

Written by Mia

Hey Everyone! This is Mia Shannon from Taxes. I'm 28 years old a professional blogger and writer. I've been blogging and writing for 10 years. Here I talk about various topics such as Fashion, Beauty, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, and Home Hacks, etc. Read my latest stories.

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