7 Key Benefits of SSO Authentication:

  • Gives organizations centralized control over who has access to their systems. 
  • Enforces better password policies.
  • Eliminates password fatigue. 
  • Reduces the need for unsafe password management strategies.
  • Lowers password-related calls to IT which saves money on IT expenditures.
  • Boosts overall productivity due to faster log-ins and fewer lost passwords
  • Lowers the threat of data breaches by moving ID/authentication data off-premises.

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SSO (single sign-on) authentication is a password-authentication strategy that allows users to sign into multiple systems and websites with a single set of credentials. SSO authentication is especially useful for IT infrastructures that consist of many different business applications. 

The primary benefit of SSO is that it gives organizations centralized control of who has access to their systems – and the level of access each individual has. SSO also reduces password fatigue because team members only need to remember a single username/password that grants them access to multiple systems. This boosts security, lowers IT help desk burdens, increases organizational efficiency, and a great deal more. 

Below, we’ll explore these and other SSO benefits in-depth so you can determine if this authentication strategy is right for your use-case. But first, we’ll help you understand what single sign-on authentication is and how it works. 

Table of Contents

  1. What is SSO Authentication and How Does It Work?
  2. 7 Benefits of SSO
  3. Final Thoughts on SSO (Single Sign-On) Authentication
  4. SSO Authentication and Xplenty

What Is SSO Authentication and How Does It Work?

Single sign-on authentication strategies give organizations more centralized control to assign each team member with one set of credentials that logs them into multiple applications (or systems). The most popular SSO services include Okta and Active Directory. However, there are a number of other online services and social media platforms (like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that offer SSO authentication services as well.

Through a trusted relationship between the application and the SSO service, the application itself delegates user sign-in and authentication to the SSO service. The application redirects sign-in/auth to the SSO service, and after authenticating the user, the SSO service sends a security certificate to the app, which tells the app that the user is authenticated. The service can also tell the app what level of access and permissions the user receives. 

The SSO service notifies the application of the user’s authentication status by transmitting a “token” that contains different user-specific information. The transmitted information usually includes the user’s authentication status, username, email address, and other data. 

Here’s how the SSO authentication process happens:

  • Open application: The user opens or navigates to the website or app.
  • Application sends security/authentication token: The app requests the username or email address of the user. The app sends the username/email address to the SSO service in the form of a token with a request to authenticate the user. If the app already knows the username/email address information, it will automatically send the token and authentication request as soon as the user opens the app. 
  • SSO authentication: The SSO service checks whether the user is already authenticated. If yes, the SSO service skips to the next step. If the user is not authenticated, the SSO service prompts the user to authenticate, usually with a pop-up or a screen that requests username/password data. Authentication happens either by entering a username/password combination or through another authentication strategy like one-time passwords or two-factor (2FA) authentication.
  • SSO authentication confirmed: After confirming that the user is authenticated, the SSO service sends the security certificate token to the app so the app can grant the appropriate level of access. The SSO service passes the token to the app or web service via the user’s web browser. 
  • Access granted: By virtue of the trusted relationship that exists between the SSO service and the app, the app accepts the confirmed authentication status and grants the user access to its systems.

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*Image source: RenovoData

What Is SSO Like for Users

From the user’s perspective, the SSO authentication process is simple. Each time a user navigates to an app or website that integrates with the SSO service, the SSO service either confirms that the user is already authenticated or takes the user through the authentication steps. 

If the user recently authenticated, the token may still be valid, and no additional authentication steps are required. If re-authentication is required, the username/password combination is the same for all of the apps/services the user engages with. That means users only have to remember a single password, which they can usually keep track of in their memory.

7 Benefits of SSO

The benefits of SSO – such as easier authentication and fewer passwords to remember – are simple enough to understand. However, these benefits can boost operational efficiency across your entire organization. Let’s see how organizations and their employees benefit from SSO: 

1) Maintain Centralized Control of User Access 

SSO authentication gives companies centralized control of who has access to their systems. For example, you can use the control panel of your SSO service to immediately grant new employees specific levels of access to different systems – and give each employee a single username/password combination for all of these systems. Moreover, when someone leaves, you can immediately revoke access across all systems at once. 

2) Enforce Better Password Policies

SSO authentication also allows you to enforce a single password policy for all of your systems. This means that you can set rules that govern how often team members need to change their passwords, password length, and other standards that ensure team members use secure, quality passwords only.  

Here are some recommended password policies that you can enforce with an SSO solution: 

  • A password history policy ensures that old passwords cannot be reused.
  • A minimum password age policy prevents users from switching back to an old password immediately after changing it.
  • A maximum password age policy ensures that users change their passwords after a certain amount of time. 
  • A minimum password length policy enforces a specific length for the passwords. 
  • A password complexity requirement to ensure that passwords don’t contain the user’s name or username and/or contain a specific number of capital letters, symbols, or numbers.
  • Establish a password audit policy to monitor how often passwords are changed and how they are changed to identify potential safety risks. 

3) Eliminate Password Fatigue

As a result of juggling so many username/password combinations, you and everyone else at your organization are likely to suffer from password fatigue. A recent Ponemon Institute survey on password management behaviors showed that 51% of respondents are struggling to remember the different passwords they need for work and home. Additionally, a study from Ping Identity showed that 60% of respondents can’t memorize all of their passwords for work and home. 

While password managers are one solution to this problem, they are less than ideal. Employees still need to maintain the list of passwords in the manager, and they need to change all of the different passwords they use on a regular basis. Moreover, they have to ensure that no one gains access to the manager by mistake and prevent the manager from becoming a target for hackers. 

SSO authentication replaces the countless passwords employees are juggling with a single username/password combination. This does away with the need for a password manager, eliminates password fatigue, and employees gain access to all of the systems they need to interact with.

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4) Reduce Unsafe Password Saving Strategies

Without an SSO authentication strategy in place, employees will inevitably use a variety of strategies to overcome their symptoms of password fatigue, but none of them are entirely safe. According to the Ponemon Institute, these strategies include:

  • 53% of employees use their memory to save passwords: When you rely on your memory, you’ll often forget your passwords, use easier-to-remember, and less secure passwords, you might use the same passwords again and again.
  • 32% of employees save passwords in a browser-based password manager: A potential problem with a browser-based password manager is that anyone who gains access to your browser, can access all of your passwords and accounts at once.  
  • 26% of employees save passwords in a spreadsheet: A cybercriminal could access the spreadsheet, or you might inadvertently erase it. 
  • 26% of employees write passwords in a notebook or sticky note: Someone could enter your office and see or steal your notebook and sticky notes.

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Image source: 2019 State of Password and Authentication Security Behaviors Report (Ponemon Institute)

SSO authentication eliminates the need for these unsafe password management practices in one fell swoop.

5) Reduce IT Support Calls and Lower IT Costs

If you’ve ever worked in IT, you know that some days consist of wasting time and resources on mundane tasks that distract from more important, business-critical projects. Perhaps the biggest of these time-wasters is dealing with password problems. TechTarget cites the following statistics on this point: 

  • The average cost of one password reset by your IT department is approximately $70 (Forrester Research).
  • 20% to 50% of IT help desk calls are for password resets (Gartner).

SSO dramatically reduces these password-related IT help desk burdens because users are less likely to lose or forget their passwords. This means fewer password resets, and IT staff members will have more time to work on other tasks. 

6) Boost Overall Productivity

Password hassles interfere with productivity beyond the IT department. The extra step of needing to look up a password to log into an invoice/payment authorization system could cause an unwanted workflow delay. The extra hassle of logging into the system means that many managers wait to approve an expense until after they have completed other tasks; or, they wait until they have a free moment to do several expense authorizations at once. Similarly, if any employee or manager loses access credentials for an important system, vital work could be delayed until IT can resolve the password issue. 

Logging into a system with SSO is on average 5 to 15 seconds faster than using a traditional login strategy. As a result, managers and team members are more willing to enter a system to get a small task done rather than saving it for later. This means that expense requests get approved faster. Moreover, with fewer lost/forgotten passwords, you will eliminate delays caused by someone who can’t get into an important business application.  All of this means that SSO can improve user experiences, boost employee productivity, and improve operational efficiency. 

7) Mitigate On-Premises Security Risks

Most modern enterprises use a mix of on-premises and cloud-based applications to satisfy their business requirements. We already discussed how employees often adopt unsafe password management strategies to combat “password fatigue” associated with logging into so many different systems and how SSO resolves this problem. What we haven’t discussed are the risks associated with storing and managing user identity and login data for your on-premises systems.

Whether your on-prem systems store identification data for internal employees, customers, or vendors, maintaining this data on-site makes your organization a target for hackers. Even if you’ve never suffered from a data breach, the risks of becoming a victim grow with each passing year. In 2019 alone, there were over 1,473 reported data breaches with more than 164.68 million sensitive records exposed – and these are just the instances that got reported. 

By entrusting your authentication process to a third-party SSO provider, you can offload this sensitive user login and identification data to the third-party provider, which can offer a higher level of security. Hackers will then need to target the SSO provider, which safeguards sensitive data with the most cutting-edge security measures available. In other words, your on-premises systems and data will be substantially more secure. 

Final Thoughts on SSO (Single Sign-On) Authentication

As you’ve seen in this guide, the benefits of SSO authentication are clear – especially in an age where enterprise teams interact with countless different business systems throughout the day. In review, let’s look at the benefits we have discussed so far:

  • Centralized control of all passwords and access to all systems. 
  • The ability to enforce safer password policies. 
  • Fewer passwords to remember means less password fatigue for team members.
  • Team members are less likely to resort to unsafe password management strategies like using notebooks, sticky notes, simple passwords, or reusing old passwords.
  • Fewer calls to IT staff means you will save money on support instances and boost the productivity of your IT department. 
  • Easier and faster logins for team members translate into an overall boost in organizational efficiency. 
  • Moving user identification, password, and authentication data offsite to a third-party SSO service means that your on-premises systems face fewer data breach risks. 

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Xplenty Now Features SSO Authentication!

Xplenty is a powerful ETL-as-a-service platform that allows anyone in your organization – no matter how much data integration experience they have – to build sophisticated data integration workflows. Now, with Xplenty’s new single sign-on (SSO) authentication, the platform is not only easy to use; it’s also easy to log into. 

Xplenty’s new SSO feature means that you can use the same login credentials for Xplenty that you use for other enterprise accounts (like GSuite, Salesforce, etc.). Moreover, SSO gives system administrators improved transparency and greater control over who has access to the sensitive data in Xplenty.

If you’d like to learn more about Xplenty or try our platform out for yourself, contact Xplenty to schedule a free trial now!