The right SSO could create a smoother workflow and more secure experience in your office.
Whether in the office or at a remote location, most modern employees need their computers and the internet to do their jobs. Offices utilize chat programs, content management systems, document management, cloud servers, time and attendance systems, and benefits sites, most of which are software as a service (SaaS), which is accessed through a browser. It’s tough to organize individual logins, usernames and passwords for these applications, as well as expect employees to keep all their login information secure. Single sign-on (SSO) applications help by providing a one-stop solution to employees’ logins so they only need to keep track of one username and password.
If you’ve ever used Google’s suite of applications such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Plus, you’ll have noticed that the dozens of applications use a SSO system, where one account allows you access to all of them. Another example you may see are websites that allow you to log in using credentials from popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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How does it work?
SSO applications are built to make the workflow experience more efficient, convenient and secure for you and your employees. The best applications allow you to use SSO with established third-party SaaS sites and your own custom applications.
When you log on to a website, typically your browser will store cookie information, particularly authentication information, to make it easier for you to log in to the website again and to let it know that it is you logging in again. Typically, SSO works by not only remembering your passwords, but by using an authentication domain, according to SSO provider Auth0. When you log in to a website, the SSO will tell the website to authenticate you through the provided domain, which in turn pulls info from your browser’s cookies. This allows for a seamless workflow experience, and your various applications treat the SSO as a singular session across domains.
Many SSO applications are compatible with hundreds of websites and services, making it easy to add them to your office ecosystem. However, if you use custom web applications, you can also make these compatible with your SSO by simply adding their domains to the program’s API.
The main benefits to SSO are all in the name – one login gives employees access to a smooth, uninterrupted interface where all their essential applications are ready and available. Several SSO applications have a web portal where all the company’s essential websites and services are available from one page. Others, like Okta, have plugins for browsers such as Google Chrome that give you quick access to your apps. These features are completely customizable by IT managers.
It saves time and headaches for not only employees, but IT departments as well. Without SSO, IT workers will inevitably need to waste time dealing with help tickets and changing forgotten passwords. Most SSOs come with a central authentication framework that allows them to manage logins from one place. They can easily add and remove employees from the system and customize privileges for individual accounts.
On the surface, SSO may seem less secure, because if the one password falls into the wrong hands, then the dozens of domains accessed by that user could potentially be compromised. But because employees only need to remember one password, you can require them to use a more complex and secure password, rather than several easy-to-remember passwords.
The top SSO providers take steps to ensure this kind of breach doesn’t happen and your company’s network is safe from outside parties. It accomplishes this in a few ways. The best SSO apps will let you customize the level of security you require for your business.
Login information for individual domains can be extra secure. Passwords can be as complex as necessary, and in some cases, the employee doesn’t even need to know them, since that registration can be managed by IT or other managers, minimizing the risk of phishing or deciphering by hackers.
Second, SSO uses vigorous authentication tactics to not only make sure your passwords are secure, but that it is your employees logging in with them. For example, if someone other than your employee tries to log in to a domain with sensitive information, it checks for the browser’s regular cookies and sometimes the IP address. If this authenticating information isn’t present or it’s not coming from an approved IP address, it denies access and can alert the proper people, depending on the level of security.
The SSO can also require multi-factor authentication. For example, OneLogin has a mobile app that can be used as a second credential for logging in to the SSO. When logging in on the computer, you are notified through the app and can complete login by accepting or denying access. This can also alert you when an unauthorized person is attempting to log in to your account.
More and more businesses are finding it more efficient to use an SSO solution for their offices. Keeping the dozens of services and applications handy is hard enough without having to remember several passwords, especially when security is a major concern. SSO features come with different levels of convenience and security, so if you’re not already using it, you could be creating a smoother workflow experience for your office.
Andreas Rivera graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Mass Communication and is now a B2B writer for Business.com, Business News Daily and Tom’s IT Pro. His background in journalism brings a critical eye to his reviews and features, helping business leaders make the best decisions for their companies.
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