Deep dive into the world of SSO

Date Created: 20 Feb 2023


Enterprises are nowadays using the services of third parties to make their organization efficient and productive. Work from offices is now passe’. Companies nowadays allow employees to work from home or are following hybrid culture. Employees can access multiple applications used by an enterprise from anywhere and on any device in order to make the business efficient and seamless. Accessing multiple applications from anywhere and any device can pose a threat to the company as unauthorized access can put the company at risk. The concept of SSO or single sign-on chips in here. Though SSO has been prevalent in lots of organizations for years it’s getting recognized more now as companies are now moving into cloud services

What is SSO and How Does it Work?

One set of credentials to access multiple applications or systems!! How does that sound? Interesting to a layman but those who are aware knows the concept of SSO or Single-Sign-On pretty well. SSO is nothing but an authentication process to validate the user to access multiple applications or data of an organization.

To understand SSO we need to understand the parties associated.

  • Identity Provider (IdP)
  • Service provider (SP)

IdP’s provides user authentication as a service, they can either directly authenticate the user or provide authentication services to third-party service providers. Indieauth identity providers, open Identity providers, and SAML identity providers are a few types of identity providers.

We will discuss identity providers in detail in our next blog.

Service providers are federation partners that provide services to the user. These are the service or the application the user wants to access.

In SSO there is a trust relationship between the IdPs and the SPs. The IdP passes an assertion often via an identity standard such as Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to authenticate the user for the service provider.

STEP 1. A user" A" wants to get access to an application or website of a service provider.

STEP 2. A Token is generated by the service provider and sent to the identity provider for authentication of the user.

STEP 3. Few credentials of User "A" like Username and password or an OTP is required by the IdPs for logging in

STEP 4. The IdP validates the user and a token confirming successful authentication is passed to the service

provider through the users browser.

STEP 5. The token received by the service provider is validated due to the trust relationship between SP and IdP

STEP 6. User “A” is granted access.

Once this validation process is completed, any other SPs the user wants to access will confirm the user’s previous authentication with the IdP and not require a username or password


A single set of credentials giving access to multiple applications and resources makes the life of the user easy and the business more secure. Users, need not have to remember multiple passwords. Businesses, feel secure that there is less room for the password to get stolen or misused.

SSO Benefits

Memorizing credentials for multiple applications is difficult for employees and customers both. The IT team too finds it difficult if the organization is using services of multiple applications, as setting and resetting passwords can reduce their productive hours which they can use for some other fruitful purpose. Let’s see why organizations are now a days prefer to use SSO in business.

1. Enhance Productivity.

Dealing with multiple passwords is difficult. One has to remember it or make note of it somewhere in order to recall it at the time of use. SSO reduces the time spent on signing on and passwords. As employees use many applications daily, they have to login into each of the apps with different passwords and in case it is forgotten one needs to reset the password which kills productive time. SSO increases the productivity of the employees with only one password for multi apps access.

2. Security enhancement

Employees resort to using passwords that are easy to use. They do it because they have to access multiple applications in a day and think easier passwords will be the solution. It’s a myth that SSO can compromise the security of the system i.e. if the main password is stolen all related accounts will be exposed to vulnerability.

One should remember that as only one password is the key to multiple access users generally create very strong passwords which make it difficult to hack.

SSO combined with Multi-factor authentication further reduces hacking vulnerability. The security team also uses risk-based authentication (RBA) in which they use tools to detect unusual login behavior by users and if they find something unusual the user may be blocked permanently.

3. Reduction in IT Costs.

Imagine a company’s help desk getting most of its call for password-related issues. This is not only irritating for them but it left them with little time for other important tasks. The more the number of passwords a user has the more the chance of forgetting it. SSO reduces the help desk costs as users call them for more grave issues than resetting passwords.

4. Increase Job Satisfaction of employees.

Employees working for big organizations use umpteen apps at the workplace to accomplish their work. All apps have a different passwords for access. It’s not only burdensome but frustrating too. SSO improves the productivity of the employees and also increases their job satisfaction as they can work uninterrupted, access apps quickly, and take the best use of the 3rd party apps. For employees who work from multiple devices, easy access is really valuable.

5. Boost Customer Experience

More than 15% of users abandon their carts due to forgotten passwords or password reset-related issues. If a company provide SSO feature to its customers, the customer will enjoy a smooth experience. Smooth customer experience entails increased conversion rates, customer loyalty, and brand visibility.

6. Enhanced Adoption rates.

Consider 2 apps both with the same features and benefits but one having a painful sign-on experience and the other providing seamless sign-on features. Which one will the user adopt? The answer is the one with the seamless sign-on features. SSO does the same and helps enhance the adoption rate.

7. Strong B2B Collaboration.

To make a B2B partnership works well SSO plays an integral part in it. Today’s business works due to the collaborative efforts between multiple enterprises. Collaboration means giving other companies’ employees access to digital tools, applications, and data. Such kind of collaboration can become efficient and effective by federated SSO by bridging identity systems.

As businesses nowadays collaborate to provide services to common customers, federated identity management can help provide customers access to services from a single account even if the services are provided by different companies.