The Cost of Not Disabling, Deleting, or Deprovisioning User Accounts Can Be Enormous


Stay On Top of Your Overhead by Managing Unused Accounts and Recycling Unused Licenses to Employees Who Need Them

We are all aware of the potential security risks organizations face when they don’t properly disable or delete network accounts when users leave an organization. If former users still have access to customer data and sensitive internal systems, then there is great potential for them to wreak havoc on the file systems.

Most businesses attempt to take immediate steps to prevent this type of action when an employee is terminated or leaves of their own volition, but some do not. However, even if security is not an issue or if there is no concern, there is one very important issue that is often overlooked: the costs associated with not disabling accounts, licensed applications, and cloud-based solutions.

Costs to Company

Take, for instance, Office 365, the increasingly popular solution from Microsoft for hosted email and the Office productivity suite. Costs typically range from $4-$20 per user per month for business clients. Another example is, another popular web-based CRM application, which ranges from $65-$250 per user per month. Still other applications, such as Sales Genie or Hoovers, have costs associated with downloading a record or creating an email address. All of this adds up to huge expenses for companies.

Next, if we take a look at a company with 1,000 employees (you can scale this example to your own business size) and assume an annual turnover rate of 10%, 100 employees leave on an annual basis. If that company has one cloud-based application averaging $30 per user per month and it takes three months to process all the terminated employees out of all systems, the cost to the company is $9,000.

Obviously, the more subscription-based applications, the longer it can take to deactivate accounts. The more employees and the higher the turnover rate, the greater the potential costs to the subscribing company. This can lead to a great amount of money lost over time. Over three years, this adds up to about $27,000, money that could have surely been used to help in other areas of the company.

In a 2010 study conducted by IDC, results showed that between 25% and 75% of licenses for enterprise applications are either unused or underused. A huge part of this is most likely due to employees who are no longer with the company but still have an active account.


Now, if the application in question has a cost associated with downloading records, the costs to an organization can be tremendous. A recent conversation with a sales manager brought this point into focus, stating that a recently terminated sales rep did not have his access to a lead-generation database revoked until nearly six months following termination. In that time, the one former employee was able to download nearly 15,000 records at a total cost of $7,500 to the company. In any organization with a high sales turnover, this cost can be astronomical.

Another area where licensing costs can come into play is with network-based applications that are licensed on a per-user basis. Very often, applications like Visio, Photoshop, and others are licensed for a large number of users and access rights to these applications are based on group memberships in an active directory. In a similar vein to cloud-based solutions, if a user is not removed from a group that allows access to one of these applications, it is possible that the company could run out of licenses and need to buy more.

This also is true when a current employee is transferred to a new role. As an example, a graphics designer accessing Photoshop is transferred to a managerial role. When the transfer occurs, the rights to the application remain intact because of a lack of communication between the human resources department and the IT group. The manager no longer needs access to Photoshop, but when a new designer is hired, a new license must be purchased.


In the above cases, proper controls via an automated identity management solution can easily solve these issues by revoking access rights for all employees within an organization, freeing up licenses and minimizing additional and unnecessary expenses. Many solutions are now commercially available to automate the life-cycle of user accounts by linking a human resource application to Active Directory, as well as handling the proper creation and deletion of accounts in network and cloud-based applications. This allows a manager or IT employee in charge of accounts, to easily remove an employee and revoke all access to each system and application with one click. Instead of employee’s accounts being left active, once they leave they will be easily removed, improving security and reducing costs for the organization.

With an automated identity management solution, there is no need to have a dedicated staff to handle accounts. A manager in charge or help desk employee can easily handle the changes, which is why it is beneficial to even small businesses with a limited staff.

Image: iStockphoto

About The Author

Dean Wiech is managing director at Tools4ever. Tools4ever supplies a variety of software products and integrated consultancy services involving identity management, such as user provisioning, role-based access control, password management, single sign-on and access management, serving more than five million user accounts worldwide.