SharePoint RBAC (role based access control)

Posted by Edward Killeen on Tue, Oct 02, 2012

SharePoint RBACThe bane of every SharePoint project is permissions and rights.  Access is controlled via SharePoint groups, these quirky little groups that exist in the SharePoint vacuum and only in the SharePoint vacuum.  SharePoint 2010 introduced the ability to control access via Active Directory groups but gives no way to manage the membership of these groups.  So you end up with site admins managing permissions manually or just letting it die on the vine.

What if you could do true role based access control (RBAC) within SharePoint?  Have dynamic roles for your users that change as the user changes (new department, title, location, etc)?  And then manage site permissions with these roles?  Thanks to SharePoint 2010's claims provider functionality you can.

If you set EmpowerID as the claims provider for SharePoint, it exposes EmpowerID roles in the "People Picker", allowing the site administrator to pick a role (for example, HR managers in the investment banking division) to have access to that site.  These are the same roles that will be used for resource permissions or application access.  And it is possible to see who is a member (if you have permission to view membership of that role) from within SharePoint, making it possible to ensure that the right people have access to the right SharePoint resources.

The thing about roles is that they don't have some of the side effects that Active Directory groups do such as token bloat.  You can be a member of as many EmpowerID roles as you want without impacting your ability to log into the network.  On top of that, EmpowerID offers a polyarchical role structure so you can pick that HR manager role in investment banking from two trees, limiting the number of roles that you need to create.

Having a true SharePoint RBAC system also allows you to manage separation of duties since you can set an SOD rule that says a user cannot simultaneously be in two conflcting roles.  You don't have to worry about accidentally giving an investment banker access to the retail banking SharePoint site.

SharePoint RBAC is just a lot more flexible than managing permissions with groups (either AD or SP).  You get all the benefits of maintaining permissions dynamically without the overhead of managing a completely different set of access infrastructure.  This same claims provider functionality gives you SharePoint single sign on capabilities for your external partners for example without having to have AD accounts for them.


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Tags: Role Based Access Control (RBAC), SharePoint