AWS Organizations
AWS Organizations

This course explores the AWS Organizations service, and in particular how you can use Service Control Policies to help you centrally manage and control the highest level of security permissions within your AWS accounts in which they are associated to.

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Learning Objectives

  • To gain a high-level understanding of AWS Organizations
  • To understand how service control policies can play an integral part in your multi-account security strategy

Intended Audience

This course has been designed for those who are responsible for managing and maintaining the overall security of multiple AWS accounts.


This is an intermediate-level course on AWS Organizations and requires you to have some basic knowledge of IAM and JSON policies.  Any previous experience or exposure to AWS Organizations would also be advantageous, but not essential.


Hello and welcome to this lecture where I will start this course by providing an overview of AWS Organizations as a foundation before focusing on the service control policies.

As businesses expand their footprint on AWS and utilize more services to build and deploy their applications, it will soon become apparent that the need for multiple AWS accounts is required to manage the environment and infrastructure effectively.

This multi-account strategy is beneficial for a number of reasons as your organization scales, and for example, multi-account strategies include cost optimization and billing, security and governance, management and control of workloads, resource grouping, and helping to define business units.

As you begin to expand with multiple accounts, it will become increasingly more difficult to manage them as separate entities. The more accounts you have, the more distributed your environment becomes and the associated security risks and exposures increase and multiply.

However, with AWS Organizations, it can provide a means of centrally managing and categorizing multiple AWS accounts that you own, bringing them together into a single organization, which helps to maintain your AWS environment from a security, compliance, and account management perspective.

To understand how AWS Organizations operates, we first need to be aware of the hierarchy of the service’s components.

AWS Organizations uses the following components to help you manage your accounts: Organizations, Root, Organizational Units, Accounts, Service Control Policies.

An Organization is an element that serves to form a hierarchical structure of multiple AWS accounts. You could think of an organization as a family tree which provides a graphical view of your entire AWS account structure. At the very top of this Organization, there will be a Root container.

The Root object is simply a container that resides at the top of your Organization. All of your AWS accounts and Organizational units will then sit underneath this Root. Within any Organization, there will only be one single Root object.

Organizational Units (OUs) provide a means of categorizing your AWS Accounts. Again, like the Root, these are simply containers that allow you to group together specific AWS accounts. An organizational unit (or OU) can connect directly below the Root or even below another OU (which can be nested up to 5 times). This allows you to create a hierarchical structure as I mentioned previously.

Accounts. These are your AWS accounts that you use and create to be able to configure and provision AWS resources. Each of your AWS accounts has a 12 digit account number.

Service control policies, or SCPs, allow you to control what services and features are accessible from within an AWS account. These SCPs can either be associated with the Root, Organizational Units, or individual accounts. When an SCP is applied to any of these objects, its associated controls are fed down to all child objects. Think of it as a permission boundary that sets the maximum permission level for the objects that it is applied to.

Now we have an understanding of what AWS Organizations is exactly, what benefits can this bring to your AWS environment?

The primary benefit that this service brings is its ability to centrally manage multiple Accounts from a single AWS account, known as the master account. You can start by inviting your existing accounts to an Organization and then create new accounts directly from the Master Account.

Greater control of your AWS environment. Through the use of Service Control Policies attached to the Root, Organizational Units or individual accounts, administrators of the master account gain powerful control over which services and features—even down to specific API calls—that an IAM user within those accounts can use, regardless of the user’s identity-based or resource-based permissions. Consolidated Billing. The master account of your AWS Organization can be used to consolidate the billing and costs from all member AWS accounts. This allows for greater overall cost management across your individual AWS accounts. Categorization and grouping of accounts. By leveraging Organizational Units, you can segregate and group-specific AWS accounts together, applying different SCPs associated to each OU. For example, you may have a number of AWS accounts that must not have the ability to access any AWS Analytical services. In this case, you could place these accounts into a single OU and assign an SCP that denies this functionality.

About the Author
Learning Paths

Stuart has been working within the IT industry for two decades covering a huge range of topic areas and technologies, from data center and network infrastructure design, to cloud architecture and implementation.

To date, Stuart has created 150+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 180,000 students, mostly within the AWS category and with a heavy focus on security and compliance.

Stuart is a member of the AWS Community Builders Program for his contributions towards AWS.

He is AWS certified and accredited in addition to being a published author covering topics across the AWS landscape.

In January 2016 Stuart was awarded ‘Expert of the Year Award 2015’ from Experts Exchange for his knowledge share within cloud services to the community.

Stuart enjoys writing about cloud technologies and you will find many of his articles within our blog pages.