RBAC: What it is and Why it’s Crucial to Device Health and Security

Cam Summerson
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RBAC, or role-based access control, enables several meaningful benefits, from enhanced security to simpler account management. This is an approachable access control model for large and small organizations looking to optimize and improve role management.

What is RBAC, and how does it work? 

RBAC is generally composed of three key components: roles, permissions, and users. Users are assigned roles, and roles are given permissions. Most RBAC features offer pre-defined roles, but many also provide fully customizable ones. 

For example, an organization with 25 employees needs to allow three different levels of access. They could create three roles: 

  • Administrator: A user with complete control who can update and change user permissions. They have full access to the platform. 
  • User: This person can use the platform, interact with most elements, and change some settings to their liking. 
  • Viewer: This user is feature-limited, so they can only see things on the platform but can’t edit or change anything. 

With RBAC, you can assign each employee to a suitable role. IT would likely get Administrator access, while most other users would be given User access. Viewer access could be given to guests or employees who need to access the platform for reference purposes. 

The primary use of RBAC is to assign a specific permission set to roles instead of directly to employees. This makes it easier to granularly manage access according to job functions and avoid the need to define access on a per-user basis. 

How RBAC improves security

The primary benefit of RBAC is increased security. There’s no reason every employee who needs access to a specific tool should be allowed to make broad changes to the overall platform. Similarly, administrators or managers shouldn’t be so limited they can’t effectively manage the platform. 

RBAC strikes that balance by limiting user access where needed and allowing it elsewhere. This limited user access prevents users from making unauthorized changes and protects company assets in case of a data breach. If a limited role is breached, it’s much less likely that something catastrophic happens than if an admin account is breached. And the fewer admins you have, the lower the chance that an admin account gets breached. 

Limiting user access also helps cut down on human error and accidental changes. Giving all users blanket access to a platform’s full feature set is often asking for trouble because accidents happen. Most management features of any platform should be reserved for IT admins so Gary in accounting doesn’t accidentally erase an entire database because he was trying to edit one line. Ah, Gary. He’s a good guy, but he really should pay attention. 

RBAC's use in device management

Additional benefits of RBAC

Security isn’t the only benefit of adopting RBAC, either. There are several additional perks — especially for administration purposes. 

  • Simplified access control: With more granular control, RBAC simplifies user management. Instead of managing account access per user, you assign that access to a specific role. When onboarding new employees, assign them to the role that makes sense. And when an employee leaves, remove them from that role. Easy peasy. 
  • Improved visibility and accountability: RBAC enforces compliance at all levels, reducing the chance of mistakes. But if something happens, you’ll have visibility into account activity across roles. 
  • Easily scalable: Manual account control isn’t scalable. Changing employee access on a per-feature basis is time consuming for a single employee, so managing all access this way is highly inefficient as your company grows. RBAC fixes this. 
  • Highly flexible and customizable: Most RBAC options offer pre-defined roles, but there’s usually an option to create new, fully customizable roles as needed. Custom roles will help you better manage your team’s access as your organization grows. 

That isn’t an exhaustive list of RBAC’s features, as it can vary wildly between providers. But that’s a very general, high-level look at what you should expect to get out of RBAC. 

Esper and RBAC

Esper is proud to offer RBAC and all the excellent benefits you’ll get from defined roles. We currently default to four user roles — Enterprise Administrator, Enterprise Viewer, Group Administrator, and Group Viewer — with the option to request custom roles through the console. We have all the details on using RBAC and requesting custom roles on the Esper Help Center.

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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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