Single sign-on, or SSO, is one of those things that users love but developers hate. When it works correctly, SSO adds enormous usability to a company's suite of software. It also simplifies administration and account management for admins.
But for developers, SSO can be a pain. It's not the most exciting feature for programmers to write. It often feels tedious to implement and maintain as code changes.
The reality, however, is that SSO is a must-have feature for modern applications. It's something developers should add to applications early-on, because it's crucial for achieving long-term scalability of your codebase and user base.
The good news is that SSO can be easier to add to your apps than you may think. Keep reading for an overview of why you need SSO, and how to go about developing it in a way that won't make you hate your life.
Why SSO is essential
There is a relatively long list of reasons why you need SSO if you want your apps to be usable and successful in the long run. Here are the main ones:
- User experience: Most obvious; SSO enhances user experience by eliminating the need for users to log in every time they need to open a new app within an organization.
- Password management and security: The more apps that require users to log in separately, the greater the chance that they will forget some of their passwords, write the passwords down in unsecured locations or do other things that are bad from a security perspective. With SSO, you mitigate these risks.
- User management: A complete SSO solution not only simplifies the authentication process for users, but also makes it easier for admins to manage user accounts by using directory-based user management. In other words, they can add users, update users and configure roles from a central location. Then, they can enforce those configurations across all apps that support your SSO implementation.
- User support: SSO can save organizations time and money by reducing the number of help desk requests they receive from users who have forgotten their passwords, or are confused about which password to use for which app.
In short, without SSO, your users will be less happy, less secure and more difficult to manage.
Making SSO easy
Most developers know how important SSO is, of course. But they are often still wary of implementing it, simply because it's a lot of work.
Traditionally, SSO was not something that you could just drop into your applications and call it a day. There was no Docker container image that you can pull and magically add SSO. Nor was there an open-source tool that automatically adds SSO to everything you write. Developers had to add SSO functionality to each of their applications manually. That required a lot of custom coding. It also meant a lot of update work whenever your SSO service changed because you'd have to update each app separately.
SSO can be easier if all of your apps exist within a particular ecosystem. AWS, Azure and Google Cloud all offer cloud-based SSO services that make it relatively simple to enable SSO for apps of your choosing without a lot of custom coding – provided, of course, that those apps are hosted in their respective clouds. If you host your apps on-premises, or you use multiple clouds, SSO services running in public clouds don't work so well.
Fortunately, there are alternative cloud-based SSO services that let you implement SSO easily without becoming dependent on a specific cloud vendor. For example, Manifold provides an SSO solution that streamlines authentication and user management for any application or service running in the Manifold marketplace. By taking advantage of Manifold's SSO feature, developers can share authentications and user account information between as many applications as they want, with very little custom coding required.
If you're a developer, SSO may feel like a chore to implement, and not worth the effort it requires. But the fact is that SSO is critical for delivering a smooth end-user experience and managing users efficiently. And although SSO may have been difficult to build in the past, a new generation of streamlined SSO solutions are available that (despite what you may think) they don't all force you to lock yourself into a specific public cloud.
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