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Building App Authorization:
The 5 Keys for Scalability and Compliance

5 key factors for effective & scalable app authorization: simplicity, flexibility, compliance & more.

Daniel Bass

Feb 23 2023
Building App Authorization: The 5 Keys for Scalability and Compliance
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As a software product becomes more successful and expands to a global market, the issue of authorization becomes increasingly important. There are several key factors to consider when building an effective and scalable authorization system that meets the needs of your product and its users. First, let's do a quick recap of what authorization is.

What is Authorization (AuthZ)?

Authorization is the process of granting or denying access to specific resources based on a user's verified identity. Authorization is often done by assigning roles or permissions to specific users or user groups.

Authorization is managed through policies - sets of rules that determine what actions or resources a user or system is allowed to access. Common policy models include⁠ Role Based Access Control (RBAC), Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC), and Relationship-Based Access Control (ReBAC).

When building a scalable and compliant authorization system, there are five crucial points to consider. 

Simplicity is key

Simplicity and Maintenance are crucial to building an effective authorization system. Complex, inconsistent authorization logic spread across the codebase can and will be difficult to maintain and can potentially cause significant issues down the line. It is important to balance flexibility and simplicity to ensure the system is easy to maintain and update. One best practice that can help to achieve this is the decoupling policy and code.

Flexibility and Customization

As the product matures and the customer base becomes more diverse, the authorization system there may need more flexibility and customization. This could include:

  • Creating a user-friendly interface for managing authorization. It's important to remember that your fellow stakeholders (e.g., product managers, security teams, compliance, support, or sales) might need to create authorization policies. The better you can delegate this ability to them, the less of a bottleneck the developer becomes. 

  • Making permission decisions based on time context, such as a user's assigned package limits. This can be achieved by implementing attribute-based access control (ABAC) policies.

International Data Protection Regulations and Compliance

As the product expands to a global market, it is important to consider international data protection regulations and compliance issues. Different regions may have different requirements for data storage and access, and it is essential to ensure that the authorization system is compliant with these regulations. An excellent place to start is decoupling data from policy - decoupling the data plane from the control plane provides the best combination of security, scale, stability, and cost management.

External Partners and Integrations

As the product grows, there may be a need to support external partners and integrations. This may require providing access to certain resources and actions while still maintaining control over the data and the overall system. It’s crucial to maintain control over role creation, permissions, and conditions with ease - having the granular control needed for any integration. 

Scalability

As the user base grows, it is important to consider the scalability of your authorization system. The system should be able to handle a large volume of requests without failing, and it should be able to adapt to the changing requirements of the user needs.

Permit.io can help streamline the process of building an authorization system for your software product and provide a comprehensive, scalable, and compliant access control solution.

Daniel Bass

Application authorization enthusiast with years of experience as a customer engineer, technical writing, and open-source community advocacy. Comunity Manager, Dev. Convention Extrovert and Meme Enthusiast.

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