single sign on vs federated
federated - sso

Federated SSO vs SSO : Which one is best for your business

April 30, 2023
Read Time : 6.5 min

Easy access to business control is important in running a business these days. As businesses are integrating SaaS tools to increase operational efficiency, the need for secure management of these tools is very important. Now to manage all the SaaS tools, employees need to have access to them. However, every time when a SaaS tool gets integrated with the system, employees are compelled to generate a new set of passwords for access. Now this can be a big headache for employees and the organisation as a whole. To have a different set of credentials for every application of the system is too complex for any organisation. Owing to these factors, SSO and federated SSO have become very popular these days.

Organisations need to have a centralised approach when it comes to access control of the system. Otherwise, managing access control will become too complex. For instance, if the employees need to have individual credentials for all the applications in the system, it will become too difficult to manage. Consequently, it affects the management system of an organisation. It leads to inefficiency and lower productivity. So to get proper access control solutions, businesses are adopting SSO solutions to streamline their workflow.

SSO and federated SSO have become the best alternative option for businesses as opposed to traditional access control solutions. To increase efficiency and governance, businesses are integrating SSO and federated solutions into their system. Although both SSO and federate SSO are considered the best options for business, still there is an underlying question as if which is the best out of the two. In general terms, both SSO and federated SSO might sound synonymous. But some minor details set them apart.

So if you are wondering which is best for your business, you have landed at the right place. We will discuss non-federated SSO providers and federated identification management separately along with their benefits and examples. It will help you to get an idea of which might be best for your business. Let’s get started.

What is SSO or Single-sign-on?

In the traditional approach, users need to have separate individual credentials for different applications to get access. So to get access to each application, users will have to log in separately. For security reasons, this is considered very safe. But this method has some significant drawbacks. First, it becomes too complex for employees to remember so many identity credentials for access control in different applications. It leads to a loss of time and resources of businesses. Second, it becomes too complex for organisations to maintain multiple user accounts for all the applications in the system. As a result, it leads to broken access control, downtime errors and others.

So to simplify the entire process of access control, businesses are adopting SSO solutions. SSO or non-federated SSO is a cloud solution technology that allows users to get access to all the systems of an organisation with a single set of credentials. Unlike the traditional approach, SSO sets up a connection between all the applications of the system, that allows users to get access with a single password. In addition, SSO provides centralised governance of access control to businesses.

In SSO, a user can get access to all the applications in a system with a single password per session. SSO solutions set up a relationship between the vault storing the passwords and all the connected applications in the system. Thus it allows user to user to gain access to all the applications in the organisation through a single authentication window. When a user tries to log in to an SSO system, it creates a token or digital print of the user’s identification. If the token gets verified by the SSO database, it is passed to the applications in the system and the user gets access.

Benefits of SSO solution :

There are significant advantages to using SSO solutions for an organisation.

Single point entry- The user can log into multiple applications in the system with a single set of credentials.

Reduce time and resources- SSO helps to cut down on customer care services to recover passwords.Thus it saves time and resources for an organisation.

Increases productivity- Faster logins and access to multiple applications can save time and avoid disruptions in the workflow.

Better network control- With SSO solutions, organisations can sincerely consolidate network access. Thus admins can disable users if their network is not secure.

Centralised control- Admins can control the whole organisation from a single repository.

For instance, when you log into your bank account, it allows you to access your account balance, locker details, FDs, PPF and others. All these different services are connected through a single system. That’s why they don’t ask for credentials every time you open a different service on your bank account.

What is federated identification management or federated SSO?

When we talk about federated identification management or federated identity providers, it’s not entirely different from secure SSO. In a sense, we can say SSO is a subset of federated identity management. To put it simply, SSO provides access to users to all the systems in the organisation with a single set of credentials or tokens. In federated identity management, a user can get access to all applications and networks of multiple organisations with a single set of credentials. A cross-organisational collaboration is linked through an external identity provider that stores the password information. The external identity provider also offers the trust connections required for federated identity management (FIM). 

In FIM, a user login through the third-party service provider. The third-party service provider sends a request to the identity service provider to verify the credentials of the user. If the credentials of the user get verified by the identity provider, the user gets access to the system. Thus, it will allow the user to get access to all the systems and networks connected with the FIM system. The FIM system uses industry protocols like OAuth, OpenID Connect and SAML to establish a trust connection between a service provider and an identity service provider.

Benefits of federated identification management :

There are significant advantages to using SSO solutions for an organisation.

Enhance user experience - In federated SSO, users get access to multiple websites or domains at the same time, eliminating the need to remember multiple passwords for different systems.

Reduce Cost - Using FIM solutions can reduce the cost of an organisation. They don’t have to manage multiple accounts of users or build a separate SSO for their system.

Enhances security -   In the traditional approach, users have to log in separately for each system. Thus, it increases vulnerability and the chances of hacking. FIM allows users secure access to multiple domains or systems at the same time, thereby reducing the chance of data breaches.

Single Point Entry - FIM grants users access to multiple websites or domains at the same time through a single window of authentication.

A popular federated identity management example that most people use in daily life is Google. With the help of a Google account, a user can log into third-party websites including Youtube, Waze, Picasa, Blogger and Fitbit. Similarly, with a Facebook account, users can access Instagram, Netflix and Disney+.

Federated Identification Management v/s SSO: Which is best for business?

The underlying fundamentals of both SSO and federated identity are the same. The main difference between them is the scope of access. While in an SSO users get access to all the systems in a single organisation, in FIM users gain access to all federated domains and enterprises with a single set of credentials. Both SSO and federated SSO are best on their terms. Now you must choose one depending on the unique requirements of your business. SSO is best for a single organisation. On the other hand, FIM works best for multiple domains and cross-organisation collaborations.

Conclusion :

Both SSO and federated SSO helps to streamline access control and security operations. Improving these factors will help you to improve customer service and enhance employee support. So choosing the right solution depends on the need of your business.

Frequently Asked Questions...

1. Which organisations use federated identification management (FIM)?
Companies like cloud-based enterprises, B2B enterprises and cross-organisational collaborators use
federated SSO to streamline their access controls.

2. Which is best for my business- SSO or federated identification management(FIM)?
You must choose SSO and federated SSO depending on the unique requirements of your business.

3. What are the main components of federated identification management( FIM) or federated SSO?
The main components of FIM( federated identification management) are authorisation, service provider, IdPs, access controls, and authentication.

  • By The Invimatic Editorial Team
  • 30 April, 2023
  • Categories: federated - SSO