Business applications usage is on the rise, with no sign of slowing down.
If you run any type of business, you'll likely be aware that there are a number of applications that are required for business critical tasks. For starters, there are CRMs, which help you track leads and convert them to deals; collaboration solutions, to help you stay connected with your team; bookkeeping apps to help do your accounting; marketing apps to run your social media and email campaigns; analytics apps to help you collate and consume data from across multiple sources.
There are apps, apps, and more business apps.
It doesn't seem like this trend is ending anytime soon, because there has been a marked improvement in productivity since the advent of apps.
Although research in this field is limited, it is burgeoning. A common misconception is that this business app explosion is only prevalent in enterprise firms (which it is, with employees using over 129 apps on average), but the trend holds for small and medium businesses as well (whose employees use over 70 applications on average).
Don't believe us?
Then it's probably time for you take stock of all the applications used in your organization: you might discover that individual teams are using any number of different apps you may not be aware of. Yes, it's time for an organization-wide app audit.
As cloud app usage increases, it comes with benefits and challenges. The benefits are evident—the portability of cloud apps makes work possible from anywhere with an internet connection.
The challenges aren't so visible, though, like the swelling number of passwords used day to day, which have second order effects. Many employees are forced to remember multiple credentials to log in to different applications, and if they forget or misplace those credentials, it's going to hurt your organization's productivity and security.
So what's the solution? How do you manage an organization and employees whose app usage will only continue to grow?
The solution lies in enabling single sign-on (SSO) for your organization.
What is single-sign on (SSO), and how does it work?
Even if the term "single sign-on" feels alien to you, there are chances you've used SSO already. Remember the times when you logged in to your Gmail account, you were also able to get into your Google Docs without having to sign in? That's SSO right there.
While the type of SSO in our example is only between applications from the same developer, SSO can also be implemented to any application from any vendor.
For starters, SSO is an authentication technology which helps you access multiple applications while using a single set of credentials. It's an important aspect of identity and access management (IAM).
If you're new to SSO, here's a real-life analogy with the help of something that you do regularly—taking out a book from a library.
Imagine you visit a library, and when you borrow a book you're required to provide your name and contact details. Instead of doing this every single time you get a book, let's say you are given a membership card.
The membership card will hold all the required details for you to borrow a book. So the next time you visit the library, all that the librarian needs is your membership card to grant you approval.
Here, the membership card acts as the single source of truth to authenticate you.
Similarly, with SSO, when you log in to your applications, you don't need to enter your password for each application every single time. You only need to enter it once in the SSO provider, and all of your applications will trust the SSO provider and let you access them.
How SSO works
SSO works based on the mutual trust between applications (service providers) and SSO providers (identity providers).
Generally SSO has three main participants:
The user is the person who's trying to access the website/application. For example, if you are trying to log in to your LinkedIn account, you are the user.
The application that the user tries to log in to is called the service provider. In our example, LinkedIn is the service provider.
An identity provider is what helps the service provider corroborate the identity of the user. Generally IDPs use protocols such as OAuth or SAML to provide SSO.
So this is how the flow goes when we implement SSO:
Step 1: User tries to log in to the website/application.
Step 2: The website/application redirects the user to the SSO providers. Then the website/application asks the SSO provider to check if the user is authentic.
Step 3: The SSO provider validates the user's credentials and gives approval or rejection.
Step 4: If the SSO provider approves the credentials, it will redirect the user to the application, which will then let the user in.
The benefits of using single sign-on (SSO)
Cloud application usage is only growing, so employees will be required to deal with more and more passwords—unless you use SSO.
Straight of the box, SSO can make the whole process of using passwords more convenient and safe. Other than that, there are a whole lot more reasons why you need SSO for your business. Here's how SSO can change your organization for the better:
Benefit #1: SSO can enable a smooth user experience for your employees
Using SSO means you have fewer logins to deal with. Fewer logins make the whole experience of using multiple applications smoother.
SSO uses the single credential used by the SSO provider to access multiple applications. Meaning, the SSO provider handles the whole process of authentication by itself.
Which is always a win.
Benefit #2: SSO can help increase the productivity of your employees
Did you know that an average employee spends 10 hours per year entering and/or resetting passwords?
Saving time on entering credentials might not seem like a big deal, but on an aggregate, it can create time for employees, which can be used productively for your business growth.
Employees can also easily toggle between applications while doing their job. They can access everything they need from their applications, but with less frustration and more security.
Benefit #3: SSO can help reduce password fatigue
Too many passwords every single day is so overwhelming that there's an actual term called "password fatigue"
Users deal with a lot of applications that are both personal and professional. And the business-related ones alone average around 200 passwords per employee.
This is where password fatigue occurs, as most of them can’t memorize all of their passwords for work and home.
When employees feel overwhelmed with a lot of passwords, they're more likely to use weak passwords, reuse the same passwords, or write them down somewhere. All of these scenarios are security nightmares. 81% of all data breaches are caused by weak passwords being compromised.
Hackers are on the constant lookout for weak passwords, so they can steal your sensitive data—which they further put to use to carry out phishing scams, ransomware attacks, and identity theft.
SSO acts as a single ticket to access your applications, so all you need is a single set of strong credentials to access all your applications.
Benefit #4: SSO can help save on IT costs and reduce stress on IT support
As we all know, passwords are supposed to be changed every few months. But with this process comes a lot of complications, which often require help from the IT department. Doing this every once in a while is okay, but each person uses dozens of passwords, and there can be hundreds of people working at an organization. This exerts a lot of pressure on IT, and financial stress on the company.
Gartner Group estimates 20% to 50% of IT help desk calls are for password resets. And Forrester Research estimates, the average cost of one password reset by your IT department is approximately $70. SSO can relieve you from this stress, since all you need is a single set of credentials. The fewer the credentials, the less IT support you'll need.
As we use passwords almost everywhere, SSO is one of best things to do for your business' identity. SSO can overall reduce the security vulnerabilities that comes with password usage. Multiple number of passwords is reduced to a strong single set of credentials while using SSO. You save time, costs, and stay secure all the while.
It is also possible for you to couple your SSO with other stronger authorization tools like MFA and security policies. Which in turn can strengthen your company's security in multiple facets. Doesn't matter if it's remote or at the office, you are always set.
Convinced? Go here if you would like to implement SSO for your business.