Build vs. Buy: How to approach SSO for your SaaS app

Satya Devarakonda

Every B2B organization developing new applications faces a pivotal decision: whether to build their Authentication systems from scratch or leverage a ready-to-use solution. This decision affects not only the infrastructure of your SaaS app but also the user experience, security, and scalability. One of the first Authentication requirements companies encounter is Single Sign-On (SSO). This blog explores the pros and cons of building vs. buying Enterprise-grade SSO solutions, helping you navigate this complex decision.

What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?

In today's digital landscape, managing access to numerous applications securely and efficiently is a formidable challenge for any large organization. Enterprise-grade Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions are crafted to meet this challenge head-on. These systems provide a robust, scalable, and secure authentication framework that allows users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials. 

Not only are SSO solutions tailored to handle the complex security demands of large enterprises and to integrate seamlessly with existing corporate infrastructures, but they also play a crucial role in enhancing user experience by reducing password fatigue.

The Case for Rolling Your Own Auth

1. Control and Customization

Without a doubt rolling your own SSO solution offers complete control over the Authentication process, allowing for customization that precisely fits your organization's specific needs. This is particularly important for unique or highly specialized use cases, where a custom SSO implementation might be the best approach.

2. Integration with Legacy Systems

For organizations with complex, legacy systems, a custom-built SSO might be necessary to ensure seamless integration that might not be possible with off-the-shelf solutions.

3. Long-term Cost Benefits

For large organizations with multiple product offerings, the initial high investment in rolling your own custom SSO might pay off over time. Depending on the size of your organization and the number of users, the cost of licensing third-party SSO solutions can be substantial depending on the vendor. Further, owning your infrastructure reduces dependency on a specific vendor’s technology, pricing changes, and terms of service. This can provide greater business continuity and stability.

The Case for Buying

1. Rapid Deployment and Expertise

Leveraging an SSO-as-a-service solution can significantly accelerate your time to market in two key ways: firstly, by enabling you to serve larger customers more swiftly, and secondly, by helping you launch new products more quickly. These solutions are typically ready for integration and are supported by professionals with deep expertise in authentication. Shipping SSO can be achieved within hours through just a few lines of code, rather than weeks. This efficiency stems from the complexity of building and implementing SSO, which requires understanding various protocols like SAML and OAuth, which are non-trivial. These protocols, along with other configuration needs like Identity Providers (IdPs), can distract your technical team from focusing on core products and services, unlike custom SSO implementations which require significant resources.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

While building Enterprise-grade SSO in-house might seem like a one-time cost, the long-term expenses of maintenance, updates, and security must be factored in. SSO-as-a-service solutions come with a subscription model that scales with your usage, offering predictability in expenses upfront costs and can dramatically reduce time spent on maintenance of a custom build. The costs associated with maintaining a custom SSO implementation can add up over time, making buying a more attractive option for some businesses.

3. Security

SSO-as-a-service solutions generally offer robust security measures that are continuously updated to respond to ongoing and emerging threats. This is critical in maintaining the integrity of your security infrastructure and protecting user data. Roll your own SSO and any errors in implementation can lead to vulnerabilities, potentially exposing user data and risking your organization's reputation. With a custom SSO implementation, the responsibility of staying updated with the latest security measures falls entirely on your team.

4. Ongoing Support and Compliance

SSO-as-a-service providers often comply with the latest regulations and standards, reducing your team's legal and compliance burdens. They also provide ongoing support and enhancements, which can be crucial for maintaining system stability and adding new features - helping you focus more on your product, and less on infrastructure. Custom SSO implementations, while offering flexibility, also require your team to stay on top of regulatory changes and support requirements.

A Faster Way to Build SSO 

When developing a B2B SaaS application, Single Sign-On (SSO) inevitably becomes a requirement for every customer. However, finding a solution that offers few compromises is challenging. You need a system that’s flexible, customizable, scalabile, and most importantly secure. That's where Scalekit comes in. Our Customer Identity and Access Management platform is specifically designed for B2B SaaS, streamlining Enterprise Authentication requirements, like SSO. With Scalekit your team can concentrate on building your core product and serving more customers, without the complexities of a custom SSO implementation.

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