Role-Based Access (RBAC) to Documents in Azure Cognitive Search

While implementing the Azure Search service, ensuring that the right people have access to the right information is paramount. Recently, while working on a project, I encountered a similar challenge of implementing role-based access control for documents using Azure Cognitive Search. In this article, I will share my journey and provide a step-by-step guide on how to assign roles to documents in Azure Cognitive Search, enabling seamless access control and efficient information retrieval.

Prerequisite: Before diving into the implementation of assigning roles to documents in Azure Search, it is assumed that you have a basic understanding of Azure Search and familiarity with concepts such as indexes, documents, and search queries. Additionally, some knowledge of programming languages and Azure Search SDKs or APIs will be helpful for the code examples provided. If you are new to Azure Search, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the basics by referring to the Azure Search documentation and getting started guides.

By having a solid understanding of Azure Search fundamentals and programming concepts, you’ll be well-prepared to implement role-based access control for documents in Azure Search and make the most of the information shared in this article.

Step 1: Define a Field for Roles

When starting the implementation, the first step is to define a field in the Azure Cognitive Search index schema specifically for roles. This field will hold the roles associated with each document. To ensure flexibility, we will choose the "Collection(Edm.String)" field type, allowing multiple roles to be assigned to a document if necessary.

  "name": "roles",
  "type": "Collection(Edm.String)",
  "searchable": true,
  "filterable": true,
  "facetable": true

Step 2: Add Roles Information to Documents

With the roles field in place, we proceed to add the relevant role information to the documents. For each document, we include the appropriate roles in the roles field. This can be done using the Azure Search SDKs or APIs.

Here’s an example using the Azure Cognitive Search .NET SDK:

IndexDocumentsBatch<CustomDocument> batch = IndexDocumentsBatch<CustomDocument>.Create(
    IndexDocumentsAction.Upload(new CustomDocument
        Id = "1",
        Title = "Sample Document",
        Content = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.",
        Roles = new List<string> { "admin", "user" }

await searchClient.IndexDocumentsAsync(batch);

Step 3: Index the Documents

Once the roles information is integrated into the documents, it’s time to index them into the Azure Search index. We’ll use the Azure Cognitive Search SDK or API to push the documents into the index.

For example, using the Azure Cognitive Search .NET SDK:

SearchIndexClient indexClient = new SearchIndexClient(searchServiceName, 
                                                      new SearchCredentials(apiKey));
await indexClient.Documents.IndexAsync(IndexBatch.Upload(documents));

Step 4: Implement a Role-Based (RBAC) Search

Now comes the exciting part—leveraging the assigned roles to implement role-based search in Azure Cognitive Search. To retrieve documents based on role criteria, we incorporate the roles field into our search queries.

For example, if a user with the role “user” performs a search, we include the following role filter in the query:

string query = "myquery";
string userRole = "user";

SearchParameters parameters = new SearchParameters
    Filter = $"roles/any(r: r eq '{userRole}')"

SearchResults<CustomDocument> results = 
              await indexClient.Documents.SearchAsync<CustomDocument>(query, parameters);

If you have any questions or face any challenges while implementing role-based access control for documents in Azure Search, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m here to help and will gladly assist you in overcoming any hurdles you may encounter. So, don’t hesitate to ask questions, share your thoughts, or provide feedback.


  1. Can a document have multiple roles assigned to it?

    Yes, Azure Cognitive Search supports assigning multiple roles to a document. By utilizing the Collection(Edm.String) field type for roles, you can assign as many roles as needed to a document.

  2. How can I assign or update roles for existing documents in Azure Cognitive Search?

    To assign or update roles for existing documents, you can use the Azure Cognitive Search SDK or API to retrieve the document, update the roles field, and reindex the document into Azure Cognitive Search.

  3. Are there any limitations on the number of roles that can be assigned to documents?

    Azure Cognitive Search does not impose any specific limitations on the number of roles that can be assigned to documents. However, it's essential to consider the overall size and complexity of the index when handling a large number of roles.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Top 7 extensions for effective LeetCode Google is giving birth to a new AI product 2023’s Top tech in software industry