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Six problems solved by single sign-on in colleges and universities

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If your institution is considering the move to single sign-on (SSO) solutions, you might find colleagues asking; what does this mean? And what are the benefits?  

In short, an SSO authentication platform provides simple access control for authentication and authorisation for a whole organisation. In simple terms, this means users only need a single username and password to get access to multiple services. 

Better security is an obvious benefit of this but getting buy-in from colleagues isn’t always straightforward. To help, we’ve compiled a six-point case for communicating the benefits of SSOs with your wider organisation. 

  1. Lower operational costs

IT helpdesk and support teams spend a large amount of time solving access management issues. Whether it’s forgotten passwords or locked accounts, support staff have to interact with students to resolve these problems. Organisations providing multiple services, will require more resources at greater cost. An SSO solution provides a centralised way to maintain the authentication process and decreases wasted cost on supporting mundane authentication problems. 

  1. Improved user experience

Authentication portals are the first point of customer contact with your organisation, if it’s offline or buggy, it degrades the user experience significantly. An IT team should be able to leverage the expertise of an SSO service provider to find an access point solution that creates a more satisfactory user experience for your students. 

  1. Better security compliance

Security compliance is always a big concern for IT managers. The recent headlines of data breaches at big businesses are making consumers nervous about authentication processes. At the same time, enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has created challenges for compliance. A well-established SSO solution can take care of the different security compliance issues and lessen the burden on IT teams. 

  1. Stronger password policies

Today users are well aware of the importance of setting up strong passwords but if IT teams implement strong password policies, they often get push-back. It can become overwhelming for users of multiple systems to have complex passwords that they need to change regularly. With an SSO system, users are more willing to follow strong password policies because they have to deal with only one password. 

  1. Increased productivity 

Besides the students, IT groups also have to maintain access control for internal teams. Due to the various privilege levels and hierarchies of an organisation, identity and access management (IAM) for internal staff can be complicated. An SSO solution provides a single-point for IT groups to control the access privileges of the employees. For example, setting up a new employee can take a long time with a traditional authentication system where the employee needs access to resources from various departments. With an SSO, IT staff can provide the access privileges easily from a single point. At the same time, employees don’t have to waste time seeking access from multiple authorities and they don’t have to remember and type in multiple passwords. So an SSO implementation increases the productivity of both the IT staff and the employees. 

  1. Greater collaboration

It can take considerable time to set up secure IT solutions to external vendors and partners that provide the right level of access to selective internal data or applications. However, an SSO solution can help IT teams set up access points easily which improves the experiences for both the internal and external teams and simplifies collaboration. 

Consider how these points can help you to demonstrate why the project is needed and what the benefits of the project will be. Although the benefits may be obvious to you, it may not be so apparent to other stakeholders and decision makers. What are their drivers and motivations? And how can you use these points to make your case stand out amongst competing priorities, if this is key to winning approval?  

If you’re looking for ways to enable seamless and secure SSO solutions in your own institution, Jisc can support you with a range of options – from our contributions to free IdP software, to consultancy, to Jisc’s fully managed service – OpenAthens 

Visit the website or speak to your account manager for more information. 


One reply on “Six problems solved by single sign-on in colleges and universities”

Great entry!
I think another benefit would be increased agility to move towards new authentication schemes, such as passwordless (and/or others that might appear in the future). Having a single point of authentication implies that an organisation does not need to implement state-of-the-art authentication in all of their services, but leverage that into the single Identity Provider.

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