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Form Based Authentication Implementation – SSO Alternatives


form based authenticationIt seems like you can’t get very far without seeing some article or some website touting the benefits of Single Sign-On these days. Of course, we are in no way innocent either. There is a reason for all of the fuss, however. Simply put: SSO provides simplicity in an authentication world that can be unnecessarily confusing.   However, where do administrators turn when standard SSO is not an option?  The easy answer is to use form based authentication – a bright successor in a long line of SSO alternatives.

Understanding Form Based Authentication – In Theory and Practice

Form Based Authentication is technically just a referential term for the act of using standard web- or internet-based login forms. These ‘forms’ are generally editable and easy to use, and classically require a fair amount of effort from the end-user before authentication is truly underway.

form based authentication

A Standard Login Form

However, with the evolution of SSO protocols and standardization of streamlining the authentication process, form based authentication has taken on another meaning entirely. Form based authentication is now a modern method for integrating applications into an existing IdP for Single Sign-On. Specifically, form based authentication integrates older legacy applications and other web-based applications that do not support standard SSO protocols such as SAML, Shibboleth, CAS, or Kerberos.

Instead of making users and organizations ‘bite the bullet,’ form based authentication provides a workable alternative when partnered with a flexible Identity Provider (IdP).

The Importance of SSO Alternatives

Flexibility is a key consideration when adopting an SSO solution or looking at any IdP for your environment. Unfortunately, SSO alternatives are often left on the cutting room floor. However, they should never be left out when looking to provide the best solution for your end-users and administrators. After all, SSO is the first step toward balancing usability and security. Applications that do not fit the mold will weaken the overall benefits of the solution in place. Form based authentication exists to modify the mold.

It is a simple fact that not every organization has fully migrated older applications over to their modern counterparts. While that may be the case, legacy applications do not often support modern SSO protocols. Furthermore, as seen in many educational institutions, not every modern application is built with SSO in mind. Form based authentication is the best sso alternative to retain the same level of convenience and security found in true SSO.

With PortalGuard, form based authentication is part and parcel to a thorough SSO solution.  Administrators need only configure a template to integrate with the IdP, which stores, hashes, and encrypts authentication data. This data is then used automatically in subsequent authentication attempts without prompting the end user. The implementation is only as complex as it needs to be, and typically requires no client-side software or implementation.

With form based authentication in place, there is no reason why security and usability are not within reach.

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Christopher Perry

Author: Christopher Perry

Christopher is a Technical Support Engineer and content generator here at PistolStar, Inc. He has a Master’s Degree in English from SUNY Albany, and enjoys reading and writing about all things: especially poetry, science fiction and fantasy. Christopher’s daily tasks see him using his customer service and IT experience to improve written content for PistolStar, Inc., while working with customers to provide the best experience possible.

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