What is SSO 1
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What is SSO – A Free 2 Minute Guide to understanding Single-Sign-On.

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Introduction

When building technological solutions, it’s important to make sure that your app is fast, accessible, and easy to use for your intended user-base. One of the ways that we can improve all of these factors in our product is by using SSO. Let’s look at what is SSO, how to implement SSO it as well as the pros and cons involved.

what is sso
What is SSO - A Free 2 Minute Guide to understanding Single-Sign-On. 2

Intended audience

This article is aimed at developers, designers, and product managers who have a basic understanding of authentification concepts and identity verification work in web apps. If you know how to go about basic authentication procedures, this article should hopefully be understandable.

What is SSO?

Single Sign-On (abbreviated as SSO) is a concept of authentication that involves a central resource for identity verification which is then is made available to other applications for use. Companies often use SSO when there is a need to authenticate the same users across multiple applications.

One fine example of SSO being implemented is with the range of services the Google team provides. If you’re signed in to Gmail for example, you do not need to repeat the same sign-in process where you input your username and password in order to access Youtube, Analytics, Search console, Playstore, and most of the other services the Google team provides.

Should you implement SSO ?

Setting up SSO for your apps can be a pretty tasking thing to do if you do not carefully consider the aspects involved. Making the decision to implement SSO is a choice that can be made if the benefits involved outweigh the challenges you may encounter. Let’s look at some of the advantages as well as the challenges one may encounter when setting up SSO.

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Advantages of using SSO

If you’re thinking of implementing Single Sign-On in your apps, some of the advantages that lie in wait for you and your users are outlined below:

  • Reduces the need for multiple passwords: Having to remember different passwords for different services is a herculean task we all do not enjoy. Being able to have one password work across an array of services is one advantage to using a platform with Single Sign-On enabled.
  • Reduces Responsibilities: Companies with multiple apps do not have to worry about setting up authentication functions for each of their products anymore. They only need to build and maintain one authentication system and then focus on other important aspects of user growth.

Challenges involved in setting up SSO

Some of the major challenges involved in setting up Single Sign-On in your apps include:

  • Setting up SSO can be difficult: Even with the best developers in your development team, setting up Single Sign-on can be a very tedious task if not properly planned from the onset.
  • Extra Strong User security must be in place: The risky thing about SSO is that once a user account for a particular app is compromised, the attacker easily gets access to all other accounts tied to the network.
  • Privacy Concerns: A typical Single Sign-On implementation involves sharing user details across multiple services. What happens when one of these services leaks the data to a 3rd party?
  • Reliance on the Identity Provider: Most companies implementing Single Sign-On make use of identity providers in order to authenticate their users across multiple platforms (more on that below). The challenge this brings up is that there is bound to be some sort of over-reliance between the company and the identity provider as the company is bound to lose a lot of users and information should be Identity be compromised or forced to shut down.
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Now that you understand some of the reasons why you might want to either implement single sign-on in your web apps or consider dropping the entire idea, let’s proceed to see some of the ways to go about setting up SSO in your apps.

Ways to implement SSO

A quick way to implement Single Sign-On is in using an Identity management platform like Auth0 that provides an abstraction from all of the often tedious work involved in setting up a custom authentication system.

Conclusion

Hopefully, reading this article should have given you a brief overview of what SSO really is, how it can be implemented in your web apps, and the benefits attached to having a single resource for your users to authenticate themselves in order to access any of your apps.

For any of my mobile developer readers, I will be writing a new blog post in the coming days that will show you how to implement SSO in a React Native app If you’re interested in this, feel free to subscribe to the newsletter below so that you can get notified when I release it.

I’d love to hear in the comments if this article has helped with your understanding of SSO. Keep on building awesome stuff! 🚀

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About author
Oluwaseun Raphael Afolayan is an Established Software craftsman and Technical Writer with over 5 years of experience building and documenting tech solutions for startups. He enjoys running around sweaty PUBG-mobile lobbies in his spare time.
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