AWS Identity and Access Management
User Guide

IAM Groups

An IAM group is a collection of IAM users. Groups let you specify permissions for multiple users, which can make it easier to manage the permissions for those users. For example, you could have a group called Admins and give that group the types of permissions that administrators typically need. Any user in that group automatically has the permissions that are assigned to the group. If a new user joins your organization and needs administrator privileges, you can assign the appropriate permissions by adding the user to that group. Similarly, if a person changes jobs in your organization, instead of editing that user's permissions, you can remove him or her from the old groups and add him or her to the appropriate new groups.

Note that a group is not truly an "identity" in IAM because it cannot be identified as a Principal in a permission policy. It is simply a way to attach policies to multiple users at one time.

Following are some important characteristics of groups:

  • A group can contain many users, and a user can belong to multiple groups.

  • Groups can't be nested; they can contain only users, not other groups.

  • There's no default group that automatically includes all users in the AWS account. If you want to have a group like that, you need to create it and assign each new user to it.

  • There's a limit to the number of groups you can have, and a limit to how many groups a user can be in. For more information, see Limitations on IAM Entities and Objects.

The following diagram shows a simple example of a small company. The company owner creates an Admins group for users to create and manage other users as the company grows. The Admins group creates a Developers group and a Test group. Each of these groups consists of users (humans and applications) that interact with AWS (Jim, Brad, DevApp1, and so on). Each user has an individual set of security credentials. In this example, each user belongs to a single group. However, users can belong to multiple groups.

        Example of relationship between AWS accounts, users, and groups