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What is Federated SSO (Single Sign-On)?

With fed SSO, businesses can bridge the authentication gap between multiple platforms and enable users to access services without needing a separate login at the partner platform. This blog explains fed SSO and how businesses should leverage it.


In a world where digital experiences play a crucial role in the overall success of a business, federated SSO (single sign-on) helps brands deliver seamless authentication experiences across multiple platforms.

With fed SSO, businesses can bridge the authentication gap between multiple platforms and enable users with cloud identity services to access services offered by one or more partner businesses/media without needing a separate login at the partner platform.

Authentication plays an essential role in the overall success of a business both from an information security perspective and a user experience perspective.

Hence, neglecting its worth could cause brands to lose their potential clients, and their loyal customers may also switch.

Let’s understand the aspects of fed SSO and how businesses could leverage it to deliver the highest level of user experience reinforced by security.

But first: SSO!

Single sign-on provides a unified login experience to users that wish to switch platforms/applications of the same vendor. In a nutshell, SSO ensures smooth authentication and minimizes fatigue while users switch between different applications/media of the same vendor.
SSO is practiced within an organization to ensure users access inter-connected platforms without needing to re-enter credentials or re-authenticate themselves.

What is Fed SSO? How Does it Impact Businesses?

Federated single sign-on (SSO) establishes inter-organizational trust that helps seamless authorization and authentication of each others’ users.

Fed SSO generates an authentication URL, and when the user clicks on the URL, the cloud identity service makes a digitally signed token to verify the partner platform. And this token is further submitted by the web browser to the partner’s SSO during a new session.

The federated SSO works by offering a partnership role involving two parties, including the service provider (SP) and identity provider (IdP). The identity provider provides a digital token, and the service provider validates the digital token and creates a new session offering access to the program/application.

Benefits of Using Federated SSO for Businesses and End-Users

Federated Single Sign-On (SSO) offers numerous benefits for both businesses and end-users. Firstly, it enhances user experience by enabling seamless access to multiple applications and services with a single set of credentials.

End-users can conveniently log in once and gain access to various resources across different systems, eliminating the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords.

For businesses, Federated SSO simplifies user management and reduces the administrative burden.

Instead of creating and maintaining separate user accounts for each application, businesses can leverage existing identity providers (IdPs) to authenticate users. This streamlines user provisioning and deprovisioning processes, saving time and resources.

Another advantage of Federated SSO is improved security. By relying on established identity protocols such as SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) or OpenID Connect, the authentication process becomes more robust. Businesses can leverage the security measures implemented by the identity provider, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.

End-users can also benefit from enhanced security as they are less likely to fall victim to phishing attacks or password-related vulnerabilities.

Who Needs Federated SSO?

Businesses concerned regarding their brand reputation in delivering a rich consumer experience without compromising security shouldn’t ignore the true potential of federated SSO.

With federated SSO, businesses can overcome the hassle of resetting passwords and ensure their customers can flawlessly switch between applications/platforms of different service providers without worrying about their security.

Apart from this, businesses requiring higher peak load management and an identity management system to provide real-time load management should choose a reliable CIAM solution offering federated SSO capabilities.

Challenges and Limitations of Federated SSO

While Federated SSO brings numerous benefits, there are also challenges and limitations to consider. One significant challenge is the complexity of implementation. Setting up Federated SSO requires coordination between different parties, including the service provider, identity provider, and relying parties.

This complexity can pose difficulties, especially for smaller organizations with limited resources or technical expertise.

Interoperability is another challenge. Although Federated SSO protocols like SAML and OpenID Connect provide standardization, there may still be compatibility issues between different implementations.

These challenges can arise when integrating with legacy systems or when dealing with custom applications that do not fully adhere to the established protocols.

Furthermore, reliance on a single identity provider can become a limitation. If the chosen identity provider experiences downtime or disruptions, it can affect the availability of the federated SSO service for all relying parties.

Businesses should have contingency plans in place to mitigate such risks and ensure uninterrupted access for their users.

Use Cases for Federated SSO

Federated SSO finds applications across various industries and scenarios. One example is in the education sector, where universities and educational institutions can implement Federated SSO to simplify access to learning resources and collaboration tools.

Students and faculty members can log in once using their institutional credentials and seamlessly access multiple systems, such as learning management platforms, research databases, and email services.

In the e-commerce industry, Federated SSO can enhance user convenience and trust. By integrating with popular social media platforms or widely used identity providers, online retailers can offer their customers the option to log in using their existing accounts. This reduces friction during the registration and login process, leading to improved conversion rates and user satisfaction.

Another use case is within the enterprise environment. Large organizations with numerous internal applications and systems can leverage Federated SSO to simplify user access management.

Employees can use their corporate credentials to access various resources, including intranet portals, customer relationship management tools, and project management platforms, without the need for separate usernames and passwords.

Best Practices for Implementing Federated SSO

Implementing Federated SSO effectively requires following certain best practices. Firstly, it is crucial to carefully choose reliable and secure identity providers. Conduct thorough evaluations of their security practices, uptime history, and support capabilities to ensure a smooth and secure authentication experience for end-users.

Additionally, businesses should strive for interoperability by selecting federated SSO protocols that are widely adopted and supported. SAML and OpenID Connect are commonly used standards and offer a good starting point for integration. When integrating with legacy systems or custom applications, it is essential to perform thorough testing and ensure compatibility.

Why Choose LoginRadius Federated SSO?

With LoginRadius federated SSO, you can accept tokens and identities issued by niche identity providers of your choice and allow your customers to authenticate on your website for seamless transactions.

Moreover, identity providers can be your organizational partners who already issue and hold digital identities/tokens/tickets. With LoginRadius Federated SSO, your business can leverage that identity and make authentication seamless for your customers.

LoginRadius guarantees unparalleled uptime of 99.99% every month. The cloud-based identity provider manages 180K logins per second, 20 times more than its major competitors!

Apart from delivering the industry's best consumer, the following are a few ways the platform excels compared to its competitors.

  • Scalability: LoginRadius ensures your consumer base accommodates your consumer base. It can autoscale and handle hundreds of applications. The LoginRadius Cloud Directory automatically scales to handle incremental data in real time.
  • Security Certifications: LoginRadius complies with international regulatory bodies like AICPA SOC 2, ISAE 3000, Cloud Security Alliance, Privacy Shield, and more.
  • Auto Scalable infrastructure: The platform offers an auto-scalable infrastructure to handle surges during daily and seasonal peak loads. It automatically accommodates data storage, account creation, consumer authentication, and new applications.
  • Globally compliant: The LoginRadius platform also complies with major global compliances like the GDPR, CCPA, etc. You can keep track of your consumers, manage preferences, and customize the kind of consent consumers want.

In Conclusion

With businesses swiftly adopting technology to embark on a digital transformation journey, federated SSO can help quickly navigate the journey.

Undoubtedly, brands not leveraging a reliable SSO partner to offer seamless cross-platform authentication and authorization will lag behind the competition.

Businesses can invoke the true potential of inter-business SSO through LoginRadius CIAM and offer a rich customer experience and enhanced security.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How does federated SSO differ from traditional SSO?

Traditional SSO works within a single organization, while Federated SSO extends the capability across multiple organizations.

2. Is Federated SSO secure?

Yes, Federated SSO is designed with security measures to ensure the secure exchange of authentication information.

3. What is the difference between SSO and Federated SSO?

SSO enables access to multiple applications within a single organization, while Federated SSO extends this capability across multiple organizations.

4. What is an example of a federated authentication?

An example of federated authentication is using your Google or Facebook credentials to log in to a third-party application or website.


Deepak Gupta

Written by Deepak Gupta

Deepak is the CTO and co-founder of LoginRadius, a rapidly-expanding Customer Identity Management provider. He's dedicated to innovating the LoginRadius platform. He loves foosball and winning poker games!

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