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SolarWinds Access Rights Manager In-depth Review

SolarWinds needs no introduction when addressing network administrators. The company has been around for about twenty years and it is known for making some of the best network administration tools. One of its main products, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor consistently scores among the best network monitoring tools. The company is also famous for making some excellent free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administration. Among these tools, a free subnet calculator and a free TFTP server are some of the most used. But today, we’re having a look at the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager, one of the company’s newer additions.

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager - Risk Assessment Dashboard

Before we have a detailed look at the tool’s best and most useful features, we’ll briefly discuss the need for such a tool. We’ll explore why the management of access rights is such an important aspect of securing your data and what challenges are faced by network administrators. In this day and age, securing data is one of any administrator’s most important task. And part of securing data is ensuring access rights are correctly managed.

Access Rights Management

While it is common knowledge among the Information Technology community that data breaches have become a common—and almost unavoidable—occurrence, many think it is only done by malicious hackers and criminals or by intelligence agencies of shady countries who have access to some of the most sophisticated technologies needed to break into even the most secure networks. Unfortunately, this is far from true and while these outside attacks do exist, an important part of the risk comes from the inside.

The internal risk can take many forms. Some unscrupulous employees might be looking for a way to make some quick money by selling confidential data to competitors. But in addition to being the act of ill-intentioned individuals within a company, data breaches might also happen accidentally when, for example, employees are ignorant of security policies or when they have too much access to different system resources.

In its 2018 Insider Threat Report, software giant CA Technologies states that 90% of organizations feel vulnerable to insider attacks. Furthermore, the report also indicates that the main causes of insider attacks are excessive access privileges, the increasing number of devices with access to confidential data, and the overall growing complexity of information systems as a whole. These statistics clearly show the importance of access rights management. By giving users limited access to file shares, Active Directory and other resources within an organization are one of the best ways to reduce the possibility of both malicious and accidental attacks and thefts.

But this is easier said than done. When considering the wide geographical spread of today’s network and the thousands of devices that are a part of it, managing access rights can quickly turn into an immense task, one riddled with risks and pitfalls of all sorts. This is where automated access rights management tools such as the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager help.

REVIEW: SolarWinds Access Rights Manager

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (also referred to as ARM) was designed to help network administrators stay on top of user authorizations and access permissions. This tool, which only handles Active Directory-based networks, is aimed at making user provisioning and unprovisioning, tracking, and monitoring easy. And it can, of course, help minimize the chances for insider attacks by offering an easy way of managing and monitoring user permission and ensuring that no unnecessary permissions are granted.

Main Features

Feature-wise, the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager does not leave much to be desired. Here’s a rundown of the tool’s primary features.

Active Directory Monitoring

The SolarWinds Active Rights Manager can be used to monitor and audit changes to both the Active Directory and Group Policy. Using it, network administrators can easily see who has made what changes to the Group Policy or Active Directory settings, as well as the date and time of said changes. This information can make it easy to spot unauthorized users and both malicious or ignorant acts committed by any user. It is one of the first steps to ensure you keep the control over access rights and are kept aware of any potential issues before they have an adverse effect.

Window Servers Change Monitoring

Attacks can often happen when folders and their contents are accessed by users who are not—or should not be—authorized to access them. This kind of situation is common when users are granted wide-reaching access to folders and/or files. The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager can help you prevent these types of leaks and unauthorized changes to confidential data and files by giving you a visual depiction of permissions for multiple files servers. In a nutshell, it lets you see who as what permission on what file. Not only does it let you monitor what is happening but, at the same time, it lets you control access.

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager - Active Directory Graphical Analysis

User management

One thing that is bound to strike you as you use the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager is its intuitive user management dashboard where you can create, modify, delete, activate and deactivate user accesses to different files and folders. This tool also features role-specific templates that can easily give users access to specific resources on your network. The tool lets you easily create and delete users with just a few clicks.

Permission Analysis

Monitoring AD, GPO, files, and folders is one thing but the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager goes way further than that. Not only can you manage different users, but you can also analyze which users have accessed which services and file servers. This product gives you visibility into the group memberships within the Active Directory and file servers as well. It puts the administrator in on of the best position to prevent insider attacks.

Reporting

No tool is complete if it can’t report on what it does and what it finds. You need a tool that can generate evidence that can be used in case of future disputes or eventual litigation. You may also need detailed reports for auditing purposes and to comply with the specifications set by regulatory standards that apply to your business.

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager will easily let you generate perfect reports that directly address auditors’ concerns and regulatory standard compliance. These reports are quickly and easily created with just a few clicks. The reports can include all the information you can think of. For example, log activities in Active Directory and file server accesses can be included in a report. It is up to you to make them as detailed as you need.

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager - Report Configuration

Direct Access Management

The SolarWinds Active Rights Manager gives administrators the possibility to leave the access rights management for a given object in the hands of the person who created it. For instance, a user who created a file could determine who can access it. Such a self-permission system is instrumental in preventing unauthorized access to information. After all, who knows who should access a resource better than the one who creates it? This is done through a web-based self-permission portal that makes it easy for resource owners to handle access requests.

Risk Assessment

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager can be used to estimate, in real-time and at any point in time, the possibility of risk to your organization. The percentage of risk is computed for each user based on the level of access and permissions. This feature makes it convenient for network administrators and/ IT security team members to have complete control over user activity and the level of risk for each employee. It may be wise to keep a closer watch over those users with higher risk levels.

Exchange Access Rights Administration And Analysis

In addition to AD, the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager will also handle Microsoft Exchange rights. The tool will help you simplify your Exchange monitoring and auditing while helping you prevent data breaches. The system can track changes to mailboxes, mailbox folders, calendars, and public folders.

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager - Exchange Distribution Group Properties

SharePoint Access Rights Administration And Analysis

And just like you can use the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager with Exchange, you can also use it with SharePoint. The ARM user management system will display SharePoint permissions in a tree structure and let administrators quickly see who is authorized to access a given SharePoint resource

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager For Sharepoint

Event Alerting

Its one thing to have an automated system that monitors your environment but it is even better if it can notify you whenever something odd is detected. And this is precisely the purpose served by the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager’ alerting system. It can keep support staff informed of what is happening on the network by issuing alerts for predefined events. Among the types of events that can trigger alerts are file changes and permission changes. These alerts can help to mitigate and prevent data leaks.

System Requirements

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager installs on one of your Windows servers. It doesn’t necessarily need a dedicated server but it requires at least 4 GB of memory for up to a thousand users, 8 GB if you have between a thousand and four thousand users and 16 GB for more than four thousand users. Similarly, disk space requirements go from thirty to forty GB, depending on user count.

The ARM will run on any Windows server version from 2008 SP1 and it also requires a Microsoft SQL server version 2008 SP1 or newer. And like most Microsoft products, the .Net framework is also required.

In addition to the server, the SolarWinds Access Rights Manager requires a collector agent to be installed on your domain controllers. The operating system requirement is the same as the server’s and the installation will require four GB of RAM and five GB of disk space.

There is no real limit to the number of users the system can manage and it will scale well to environments with hundreds of thousands of users. Installation is easy and you could be up and running within just a few short minutes. The tool’s user interface is very intuitive and any seasoned Active Directory administrator should have no trouble finding its way around the tool.

Key Benefits

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager offers several benefits. Among the most important, it can help improve your security posture and mitigate insider threats. And if your enterprise is subjected to various regulatory compliance, this tool’s customizable reports can be used to help demonstrate such compliance.

But the most important benefits of the product, those that will become apparent very soon after one starts using the system is how it makes it much easier to manage user permissions and how much it can increase your administrator’s productivity.

Acquiring The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager

The SolarWinds Access Rights Manager is licensed based on the number of activated users within Active Directory. An activated user is either an active user account or a service account. Prices for the product start at $2 995 for up to 100 active users. For more users, the SolarWinds website provides a quote generator tool where you can select your number of users and enter your contact information to receive a formal quote from SolarWinds.

And if you’d rather try the tool before purchasing it, a free 30-day trial version can be downloaded. It will support an unlimited number of users during the trial period.

FREE TRIAL: SOLARWINDS ACCESS RIGHTS MANAGER

Wrapping Up

With insider attacks being so common and contributing to an important number of data breaches with their resulting financial loss, monitoring the user activity and controlling their access is essential to ensure that these attacks do not happen. unfortunately, it is far from easy to implement an elaborate enough monitoring system manually.

This is where a tool like the Solarwinds Access Rights Manager can help streamline and control access while also helping administrators stay on top of user activity. This is essential to reduce the possibility of insider attacks. Our testing has revealed that this tool is powerful, flexible and easy and quick to install. And with its publisher offering a no-strings-attached, full-featured, 30-day trial, there is really no reason why you wouldn’t give the tool a try.

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