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Extend the Enterprise into the Cloud with Single Sign-On to Cloud-Based services

In this blog post we examine how Single Sign-On from the enterprise to Cloud-based services is enabled. Single Sign-On is a critical component for any organization wishing to leverage Cloud services. In fact, an organization accessing Cloud-based services without Single Sign-On risks increased exposure to security risks and the potential for increased IT Help Desk costs, as well the danger of “dangling” accounts from former employees which are open to rogue usage.

Let’s take a look at Google Apps and the concept of Single Sign-On. Organizations are increasingly using Cloud services such as Google Apps for email and document sharing. Google Apps, especially Gmail, are a popular option for organizations making their first foray into leveraging Cloud-based Services. While the cost advantages of this model are compelling, organizations do not want to create a whole new set of accounts for their employees in the Cloud, or force their employees to remember a new password.

The solution to this problem is to allow users to continue to use their own local accounts, logging into their computers as normal, but then seamlessly being logged into the Cloud services. In this way, the user experiences a continuous link from the corporate systems, such as their Windows login, into the Cloud services, such as email. This is known as Single Sign-On, and is enabled by technologies such as Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML).

This allows operations staff to manage their organization’s usage of the external Cloud services as if they were a part of their internal network, even without the same degree of physical control. As a result, the usual problems of password synchronization, user provisioning (adding users) and de-provisioning (removing users), and auditing are minimized. Continue reading…

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