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The Difference Between Federated Identity Management And Single-sign-on

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By Author: Abdul Saleem
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For different accounts, approximately 40 percent of workers reuse the same two to four passwords, and 10 percent use only one password for all their applications. This example of poor password practice means that it is now easier than ever for hackers to access other sensitive data using compromised credentials, damaging individuals and companies alike. As it stands, by implementing tools like federated identity management (FIM) and SSO, companies can provide users with easy access to all of their applications.

But first, it is essential that we understand the complexities of these alternatives.
How is SSO different from FIM? For each strategy, what are the optimal use cases?

What Is Single-Sign-On?

As the name implies, SSO is a feature that enables users, using only one set of credentials, to access multiple web applications at once. An SSO solution allows workers to access each service with only one username for organizations that deploy multiple applications for HR, payroll, and communications. As they no longer have to recall several passwords, this makes it easier for users to do their job, which also decreases the amount of time IT takes on resetting passwords.

Companies may use SSO outside the workforce to help clients reach different parts of one account. For example, SSO can be used by retail networks with multiple brands to allow consumers to access their accounts from each store from one central dashboard, improving their user experience. The web re-authenticates users with the same credentials when moving between them.

Federated Identity Management (FIM)

SSO, as a method, fits into the broader FIM model. This model was built to overcome the shortcomings of early internet networks, where individuals in one domain were not able to access user information stored in other domains. This was especially troublesome for businesses that worked across multiple realms, as it made it difficult for staff and clients alike to create seamless experiences.

As a solution, FIM was created as a set of agreements and standards that help user identities to be shared by companies and applications. Essentially, it's an agreement that can be made between several organizations such that customers can access different software using the same identifiers.

Added to that, in Federated Single-Sign-On, the responsibility for checking and authenticating user credentials in a FIM environment is with an identity provider (IdP), not the apps themselves. The service provider (SP) then interacts with the IdP to authenticate the user when a user tries to log into a particular service provider (SP) or program. Via open-source Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), this user identity authorization is often performed.

The Difference

Although SSO is designed to authenticate a single credential across different systems within one company, the main distinction between SSO and FIM (Federated Single-Sign-On) is that federated identity management systems provide a single access to a variety of applications across different organizations.


So, although SSO is a FIM feature, having SSO in place would not necessarily allow for the management of federated identity. That said, both tools are essential for supporting organizations in both protecting their data and minimizing user experience barriers.

More About the Author

Appsian One of the leading ERP data security,compliance,implementation solutions provider that gives organizations to complete control and visibility over their ERP data.

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