What Does SSO Mean and Why Is It Important?

Nicholas Ayers

Nicholas Ayers

Better Agency Co-founder

SSOs are an incredibly useful tool that businesses and individuals from many different fields can benefit from. They simplify and secure authentications, make remembering passwords and usernames a breeze, and generally make life a lot easier for everyone all around.

Let’s look more closely at SSO, its features, and how it functions before delving into a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the system.

User login on screen.

What does SSO stand for?

SSO, or Single Sign-On, is a method by which users can access and authenticate multiple accounts with a single set of sign-on credentials. It is a technology that lets individuals combine their user names and passwords for various sites and applications so that they can access all connected accounts with a single sign-on.

Popular examples of this technology can be found in Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Each allows individuals to log into third-party applications once, verify their authentication credentials, and proceed to access any, or all, of their linked accounts without needing to repeat the process.

Single Sign-On (SSO) features

SSO offers users many advantageous features that can simplify authentication processes across numerous websites, saving them time and, potentially, money. Among these includes easy management, security, ease of use, and seamless integration.

  • Easy management: SSO allows information from multiple accounts to harmoniously synchronize with each other. It enables users to manage their access to several different platforms and linked resources much more quickly.
  • Security: While SSO may seem more unsafe due to the username and password simplification, it’s actually a very secure system. It is largely due to its intricate, encrypted authentication programs.
  • Easy to use: As previously stated, SSO systems greatly simplify the tedious task of signing into multiple different accounts all of the time when a single sign-in is much more convenient. With this technology, users can avoid that hassle altogether.
  • Seamless integration: SSO is one of the easier systems to integrate into eligible applications. The sign-on automation process grants users access to all of their linked accounts and resources in virtually the same amount of time it takes them to open the application in the first place.

Types of SSO authentication

There are a couple of different kinds of SSO authentication systems. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular: Enterprise SSO and Web SSO.

1. Enterprise SSO

Enterprise SSO, or E-SSO, is a version of SSO that functions as the primary authentication for applications, accounts, and sites accessed. It intercepts all login requests from linked applications and automates the login process with usernames and passwords. The E-SSO system also interacts with other systems that can disable the login screen.

2. Web SSO

While Enterprise SSO can be used for offline applications, Web SSO can only function with web-based applications. This system can identify users across several applications and spare them the time it takes to log in, but it cannot function independently from the internet.

With Web SSO, any access data is intercepted by a proxy server. The server then will process identified users and perform any necessary functions before completing the requested action. For unidentified users, they must run through additional authentication services before being allowed to complete a login.

How does SSO work?

Because it is based on the idea of federated identity, SSO users who are trusted in one system will be automatically granted access to others they’ve established similar relationships with.

When users log into accounts using SSO, their login is verified with an authentication tool that stores the information in their browser or the SSO’s servers. Then, the information can be accessed at any point in the future and used to confirm the individual’s identity across many different accounts.

Woman using SSO to login to her accounts.

Advantages

There are many advantages to using an SSO system, and these are not limited to user convenience. In fact, businesses can also benefit from the use of this technology.

User Benefits

  • Convenience: With SSO, users no longer have to try and remember as many passwords or usernames for all of their accounts. Instead, the system simplifies the many into a single username and password for all of your accounts.
  • Speed: When you no longer need to worry about remembering or inputting the account identification information for your individual logins, the process of accessing your accounts becomes much more speedy. The SSO system will automatically input your information for you, leaving you free to use that extra bit of time however you need to.
  • Security: SSOs come equipped with security features to help balance the inevitable password vulnerability that comes with this technology. These systems can be further bolstered through the use of two-step or multi-factor authentication methods.

Business benefits

  • More user sign-ups: When login processes are secured and simplified, businesses will see a marked increase in user sign-ups. This is because SSOs can combine several account logins into one easy-to-use system, making it easier for individuals to keep up with more accounts.
  • Less work on the back end: When users can access all of their accounts with the help of a simple SSO technology, businesses’ workloads can be reduced on the back end because they no longer need to work through the management of countless different usernames and passwords.
  • Data collection: SSOs can simplify login and authentication processes by gathering information about individuals and their accounts. This same system can be used to collect data on employees and other users for the benefit of the business.
  • Reduced risk: When user authentications are processed through SSO systems, there is a much smaller chance that those accounts can be accessed by unauthorized personnel.

Disadvantages

While there are many advantages to working with SSO systems, there are a few disadvantages you need to be aware of before using them.

  • Increased password vulnerability: Because its systems require a single password for all of your accounts, it’s made to be incredibly vulnerable. When you use SSOs, that one password will be able to access work accounts, social media accounts, and perhaps even banking information if it is revealed.
  • If SSO fails, you’re locked out of everything: Because all accounts within are linked, the system has one glaring weakness: when it fails, you’re locked out of every single account connected to the SSO.

Key takeaways

SSO is a valuable tool that any user or business would be happy to have. It comes with many benefits, including convenience, efficiency, ease of use, and accessibility of resources. However, it also features a few key disadvantages like increased password vulnerability and the potential for identity spoofing. Whether you chose to use SSOs as part of your business functions is a choice that shouldn’t be made lightly, so carefully consider each side before deciding.

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