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What is enterprise rights management?

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This is a technology that is all about enforcing rights management of data inside the enterprise and generally refers to the protection of documents. Encryption of data is the most common vehicle of data protection but it only controls access to a document rather than controlling usage. Enterprise rights management is a solution that not only controls who can use a document, but what they can do with it (print, modify, etc.) and often uses tracking and audit trails to ensure that any misuse of confidential information is easily traced.

The most commonly used security technologies do not address document security head-on. The usual approaches to document security are the same old technologies that companies have been using to defend their networks, computers and data from attack.  However, enterprise rights management software takes the same approach as digital rights management (DRM). This is by embedding rights management directly into a document, not simply on the folder it's sitting in, the computer it's stored on or the network it travels over.

Enterprise rights managementsoftware has had a slow but steady growth rate since it was introduced several years ago. Rights management ties security directly to data whether it is in form of Microsoft Office documents, PDF documents, or even e-mails. This is called persistent data protection and ensures controls are enforced no matter where documents are sent or stored.

Many companies are now using this technology with employees determining the documents to protect by easily attaching specific rights to them. Rights management definition is done on a dedicated policy server. This is then applied to documents individually by their authors, who usually select the appropriate permissions from a drop-down menu accessible using a piece of software running in the client machine. The authors of these documents have Discretionary Access Controls. For example, an author can reserve the strictest controls like read-only for confidential client information, or they can allow a bit more room (like read, print, forward) for less sensitive documents such as a memo that describes an administrative procedure.

Enterprise rights management software has enabled organizations to provide persistent protection for important business documents, thus transforming the traditional information control capabilities by using encryption to enforce usage rights. This method is theoretically a perfect security technology but is still in its early stages; however most managers have acknowledged a need for better document security and this seems to be the way to go. It is a really effective technology as it restricts and enables the sharing and protection of data among internal users in a secure manner.

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