SaaS Authentication

Written by Natalie Bluhm on November 16, 2017

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The worldwide cloud public services market is expected to be worth $246.8 billions by the end of 2017, with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications making up $46.3 billion (Gartner). The SaaS model is revolutionary because it typically leverages the browser as the container. This allows for faster and more frequent updates, easier scalability, and lower upfront costs. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many IT management categories are moving towards “as-a-service” models, hosted in the cloud. One area of interest for IT admins is SaaS authentication.

There are a number of different components to consider when it comes to authentication. One component is how internal users are authenticating to their everyday IT resources. Another component to consider is how customers are authenticating to online applications. IT admins and DevOps engineers are interested in moving both of these authentication components to the web. However, this post will focus on internal user authentication as we take a look at authentication in the past and why the modern era of IT needs SaaS authentication.

Authentication and Active Directory

SaaS Authentication in the past with Active Directory

The IT landscape is dramatically different than it was even a decade ago. Back then, IT admins were able to easily control access to resources because they were virtually all Windows-based and on-prem. Microsoft Active Directory® was the solution that was used to authenticate users to the Windows network. After logging into their Windows system and gaining access to the Windows network, users were able to access their suite of Microsoft resources like Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office – one set of credentials and one authentication process.

But that was for a homogenous, on-prem IT environment. The process is not nearly as simple or streamlined when you factor in additional operating systems or cloud-based apps and resources.

Active Directory Faces Authentication Challenges

Active Directory faces Authentication challenges

Over the last decade the network has moved away from Windows. Mac systems have taken over 20% of the market share and Linux systems are on the rise too. Cloud servers from AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and others are now replacing on-prem data centers. Web applications are replacing on-prem applications and WiFi is the standard for internet connectivity. As great as these significant changes have been, they have put IT admins in a bind. AD is wonderful for an all Windows network, but as soon as you start to include mixed platforms or move away from everything being on-prem, it struggles.

Brave, New IT World Needs SaaS Authentication

Brave new World needs SaaS Authentication

IT has had a couple of options for managing user authentication to these new modern, IT resources. One option has been to ignore integrating these new resources into their Microsoft ecosystem. However, if given a choice, 75% of end users would choose Mac over Windows systems, and when end users use the technology they like to use, they are 72% more productive (Jamf). So, not integrating these new resources is an option, but it does come with a cost.

Another option IT has been using are directory extensions. These sit on top of Active Directory and connect AD to non-Microsoft resources. The thing is these solutions are expensive, complicated, add one more thing for IT to manage, and they don’t do anything to address the actual problem. The problem is really the directory itself, Active Directory. So, IT admins are looking for an Active Directory alternative in the cloud or in short SaaS authentication.

SaaS Authentication with a SaaS Identity Provider

SaaS Authentication with a SaaS Identity Provider

The good news is that now is an ideal time to be looking for a cloud replacement to Active Directory. A new generation of cloud identity management platform is taking the mantle in authentication – to resources on-prem or SaaS-based, regardless of platform. Called Directory-as-a-Service®, this SaaS identity provider is enabling IT admins to securely connect their users to the IT resources they need. Our SaaS authentication platform leverages a myriad of protocols to enable a centralized, secure environment that offers users frictionless access to Mac, Linux, and Windows systems, on-prem and remote servers via our system agent, legacy and web-based applications through LDAP and SAML, wired and wireless networks with RADIUS, and physical and virtual storage via Samba.

For more information on SaaS authentication, please drop us a note. You are also invited to test user authentication against our full stack by signing up for a free account. Your first ten users are free forever.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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