Introducing the new Permissions Explorer from OpenText

With the recent release of OpenText Content Suite (EP6) the more astute amongst you might have noticed that buried away in the extension pack there is a new light-weight permissions tool that OpenText calls Permissions Explorer.

Before I continue, it’s important to make clear that Permissions Explorer is NOT the Fastman Permissions Manager product, but it does provide some similar functionality. In this post I want to take you on a quick run through those capabilities and outline what can and can’t be done using the Permissions Explorer and explain where Permissions Manager fills the voids for those that are serious about information security.

Who is Permissions Explorer for?

So let’s start at the beginning. Who would use the new Content Suite permissions management tools? OpenText positions the new Permissions Explorer as a tool for power-users and administrators that need to frequently review permissions, but not do anything too advanced with them.

At Fastman, we also these review groups with Permissions Manager. However, rather than just light-weight viewing and editing, our focus has always been on delivering a comprehensive set of tools designed to allow you to guarantee the complete security of your Content Suite information.

How do you access Permissions Explorer?

The new Permissions Explorer is accessed by going into the standard permissions editing screen of any object. Unlike Permissions Manager, it is worth noting that you must be using the SmartUI interface in order to use Permissions Explorer. At this time OpenText has no current plans to support Content Suite’s classic UI. I understand their logic of wanting to move us all to the new UI, but with so many customers still relying on classic I wonder how that will play-out.

Once in to the edit page, you will find a Permission Explorer button that will take you to the new interface. Similarly to Permissions Manager, this function is only to available to users/groups that have been granted the appropriate Object Privilege by a system administrator. So if you don’t see it, check with your administrator.

On the surface, the new Content Suite functionality largely mimics Permissions Manager with its dashboard style interface, something existing Fastman users will find very familiar. The explorer presents a list of the content within the selected container, and next to each item a detailed breakdown of the users and groups that have access.

To locate a subset of items, this list can be filtered based on the name or type of content, facets can also be used. In the Simplified Permissions View high-level permissions such as Read, Write or Full Control are displayed. This can be changed to a Custom Permissions View to show a detailed overview of all the individual access rights.

How do I modify permissions with Permissions Explorer?

Modifying permissions within Permission Explorer is as simple as just selecting the appropriate check boxes next to the item you wish to update, and then hitting the save button. Couldn’t be easier and is certainly something that users will find a great improvement over the old approach of having to open and review each individual document. Behind the scene’s explorer respects a user’s current access rights, so it is not possible for users to modify access controls on objects they would not otherwise be able to change.

As a note of caution, Permissions Explorer does not support the viewing or editing of extended permissions such as those added by Brava or the OpenText Engineering Document Management solution. It also does not support any access rights relating to Records Management. This is something that our own Permissions Manager has always supported out-of-the-box, so we find it a glaring omission given the importance of these to so many of you.

Another nice inclusion within the explorer is the ability to quickly identify whether the permissions on an object differ from those of their parent. Within the permission dashboard, explorer indicates this with an icon next to modified items. This is a nice teaser, but its highly simplistic approach only provides a comparison for the current folder and its children. For those of you wanting to be able to confirm that permissions comply throughout a whole hierarchy of content, the only way to do this in Permissions Explorer is to go into each folder and check them individually…

When should I use Permissions Manager?

As I noted at the start of this article, OpenText is positioning Permissions Explorer as an easy starting point for users that want to make simplistic comparisons and changes. If you’re looking for more then it doesn’t really touch the surface. For those of you that are looking for a solution to ensure the security and integrity of your content, Permissions Manager remains the only tried and tested solution.

Let’s take a look at a couple of common use-cases and see how easily they are addressed with Permissions Manager:

A User has changed department, how do I reassign access rights?

I’m sure you’ve had this before: a user has changed roles or moved from one department to another. You need a quick, easy way to scan through all the areas that they have access to and replace them with the new user that has taken over.

With core Content Suite it is possible to reassign all access rights globally or replace the user within a single hierarchy, but how often is the real world that simplistic? Using Permissions Manager you can quickly locate the objects your old user has access to and then intelligently reassign them to the new user either by updating group memberships or by replacing the individual user within more detailed permission assignments.

As Permissions Manager is able to work on search results, folder hierarchies, collections of content, or discreet objects it couldn’t be easier to quickly locate and exchange the users.

How do I quickly validate the security of my critical information?

Like it or not, but it is almost a given that somewhere in your Content Suite repository someone has overridden a folder permission and given a user access to content that they should not be able to see. This has most likely happened completely innocently, but you will never know as Content Suite provides no way to quickly spot this.

With explorer the inability to view all permissions throughout a complete hierarchy of items renders it useless. However, with Permissions Manager it is trivial to open up a folder and instantly spot content that has permission differences from their parent. It is even possible to make a comparison of permissions against a pre-approved permissions template.

How do I see what bulk changes have been made to permissions?

With Permissions Explorer making it easier than ever to change large numbers of object permissions, how do you monitor what is being updated and whether those changes meet your compliance and information security policies? Mmm, it’s not easy…

Permissions Manager however comes with a set of detailed reports that enable you to quickly audit what permissions have been changed, by whom, and when. Whether you want to know which objects had their permissions updated in the last week, or just what permissions John changed recently you can find out within a matter of seconds.

How do I roll-back accidental or incorrect changes to permissions?

Even with the addition of the new Permissions Explorer, Content Suite provides no way to roll permissions back to a previous state. This is not the case though with Permissions Manager. Any administrator or power-user is able to instantly review the permissions change history for any object and roll them back to a previous state with just a single click. Couldn’t be easier.

Permissions Manager is the only way to guarantee your information is secure

On the surface, the new Content Suite functionality may mimic Permissions Manager with its dashboard style interface. But in reality its functionality remains limited to basic permissions viewing, a more visual approach to bulk updates, and simple parent/child comparative checks. Whilst this is a step forward over Content Suite’s previous permissions editor, I believe Permissions Explorer largely falls short of what most Content Suite customers are looking for. Ultimately, Permissions Manager remains the only way to guarantee that your information is secure.

If you’re interested in a more detailed information on Permissions Explorer and Permissions Manager we have put together an FAQ and a detailed feature comparison. If your company is serious about content security, then let’s setup a personal demonstration of Permissions Manager and we can show you more. Or, if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to reach out to your Fastman Account Manager or contact us for more information.

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Permissions Manager recently went through a significant upgrade. The latest release, 16.10 (or 10.10 if you are still running Content Suite 10.5)  introduces many changes that have been requested by users. So, I thought I would take a few minutes to highlight some of the more important ones and illustrate how they simplify the life of the average Content Suite user or administrator.

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