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Amazon Cognito

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Amazon Cognito vs AWS IAM: What are the differences?

Developers describe Amazon Cognito as "Securely manage and synchronize app data for your users across their mobile devices". You can create unique identities for your users through a number of public login providers (Amazon, Facebook, and Google) and also support unauthenticated guests. You can save app data locally on users’ devices allowing your applications to work even when the devices are offline. On the other hand, AWS IAM is detailed as "Securely control access to AWS services and resources for your users". AWS Identity and Access Management.

Amazon Cognito and AWS IAM are primarily classified as "User Management and Authentication" and "Cloud Access Management" tools respectively.

Some of the features offered by Amazon Cognito are:

  • Manage Unique Identities
  • Work Offline
  • Store and Sync across Devices

On the other hand, AWS IAM provides the following key features:

  • Manage IAM users and their access - You can create users in IAM, assign them individual security credentials (i.e., access keys, passwords, and Multi-Factor Authentication devices) or request temporary security credentials to provide users access to AWS services and resources.
  • Manage IAM roles and their permissions - You can create roles in IAM, and manage permissions to control which operations can be performed by the entity, or AWS service, that assumes the role. You can also define which entity is allowed to assume the role.
  • Manage federated users and their permissions - You can enable identity federation to allow existing identities (e.g. users) from your corporate directory or from a 3rd party such as Login with Amazon, Facebook, and Google to access the AWS Management Console, to call AWS APIs, and to access resources, without the need to create an IAM user for each identity.

"Backed by Amazon" is the top reason why over 11 developers like Amazon Cognito, while over 21 developers mention "Centralized powerful permissions based access" as the leading cause for choosing AWS IAM.

According to the StackShare community, AWS IAM has a broader approval, being mentioned in 133 company stacks & 50 developers stacks; compared to Amazon Cognito, which is listed in 41 company stacks and 13 developer stacks.

Decisions about Amazon Cognito and AWS IAM
Brent Maxwell
Migrated
from
Amazon CognitoAmazon Cognito
to
Auth0Auth0

I started our team on Amazon Cognito because I was a Solutions Architect at AWS and found it really easy to follow the tutorials and get a basic app up and running with it.

When our team started working with it, they very quickly became frustrated because of the poor documentation. After 4 days of trying to get all the basic passwordless auth working, our lead engineer made the decision to abandon it and try Auth0... and managed to get everything implemented in 4 hours.

The consensus was that Cognito just isn't mature enough or well-documented, and that the implementation does not cater for real world use cases the way that it should. I believe Amplify has made some of this simpler, but I would still recommend Auth0 as it's been bulletproof for us, and is a sensible price.

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Pros of Amazon Cognito
Pros of AWS IAM
  • 14
    Backed by Amazon
  • 7
    Manage Unique Identities
  • 3
    Work Offline
  • 3
    MFA
  • 2
    Store and Sync
  • 1
    It works
  • 1
    Integrate with Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, SAML
  • 1
    SDKs and code samples
  • 1
    Free for first 50000 users
  • 23
    Centralized powerful permissions based access
  • 3
    Straightforward SSO integration

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Cons of Amazon Cognito
Cons of AWS IAM
  • 3
    Massive Pain to get working
  • 2
    Login-UI sparsely customizable (e.g. no translation)
  • 2
    Documentation often out of date
  • 1
    MFA: there is no "forget device" function
  • 1
    Hard to find expiration times for tokens/codes
  • 1
    Lacks many basic features
  • 1
    There is no "Logout" method in the API
  • 1
    No recovery codes for MFA
  • 1
    Difficult to customize (basic-pack is more than humble)
  • 1
    Only paid support
  • 1
    Docs are vast but mostly useless
  • 1
    Cloud auth limited to resources, no apps or services
  • 1
    No equivalent for on-premise networks, must adapt to AD

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What is Amazon Cognito?

You can create unique identities for your users through a number of public login providers (Amazon, Facebook, and Google) and also support unauthenticated guests. You can save app data locally on users’ devices allowing your applications to work even when the devices are offline.

What is AWS IAM?

It enables you to manage access to AWS services and resources securely. Using IAM, you can create and manage AWS users and groups, and use permissions to allow and deny their access to AWS resources.

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What companies use Amazon Cognito?
What companies use AWS IAM?
See which teams inside your own company are using Amazon Cognito or AWS IAM.
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What tools integrate with Amazon Cognito?
What tools integrate with AWS IAM?

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What are some alternatives to Amazon Cognito and AWS IAM?
Auth0
A set of unified APIs and tools that instantly enables Single Sign On and user management to all your applications.
Okta
Connect all your apps in days, not months, with instant access to thousands of pre-built integrations - even add apps to the network yourself. Integrations are easy to set up, constantly monitored, proactively repaired and handle authentication and provisioning.
Firebase
Firebase is a cloud service designed to power real-time, collaborative applications. Simply add the Firebase library to your application to gain access to a shared data structure; any changes you make to that data are automatically synchronized with the Firebase cloud and with other clients within milliseconds.
Keycloak
It is an Open Source Identity and Access Management For Modern Applications and Services. It adds authentication to applications and secure services with minimum fuss. No need to deal with storing users or authenticating users. It's all available out of the box.
JSON Web Token
JSON Web Token is an open standard that defines a compact and self-contained way for securely transmitting information between parties as a JSON object. This information can be verified and trusted because it is digitally signed.
See all alternatives