Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

Self-Hosted Single Sign On: A Guide to Eireview

self hosted sso


In today’s digital landscape, Single Sign On (SSO) has become a crucial feature for enterprises. Managing multiple user identities and credentials for various online services can be complex and time-consuming. In this article, we will explore the evolution of SSO, focusing on the self-hosted solutions available in the market. Welcome to Eireview – Extractive Industries Review.

The Evolution of SSO

Legacy Protocols and Limitations

In the past, LDAP and Active Directory were commonly used to address SSO challenges. However, these protocols have their limitations and are not compatible with modern standards. Meanwhile, OAuth, created by major tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, introduced a mechanism to utilize social media identities for other services. Although OAuth had its drawbacks and lacked standardization, it paved the way for further advancements.

SAML: A Complex Enterprise Solution

Enterprises sought a more robust SSO solution that could support browser-based applications. As a result, they developed Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), which heavily relied on XML. While SAML improved SSO capabilities, it remained an enterprise-focused solution and was considered cumbersome. Companies like Okta emerged to address the deficiencies of SAML.

The Rise of OAuth2 and OpenID Connect

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OAuth evolved into OAuth2 and introduced OpenID Connect (OIDC), which quickly became the de facto standard for SSO. OpenID Connect built upon OAuth2 and gained popularity due to its compatibility with social networks like Sign In with Apple. Its widespread usage and familiarity among users contributed to its success.

Proxy Authentication: An Alternative Approach

Another lesser-known option for SSO is connecting an identity provider to a reverse proxy through Proxy Authentication. This approach involves redirecting users to an Identity Provider (IDP), where they sign in before being redirected back to the desired service. The consuming application then reads the header containing user information. While not widely discussed, this method can be effective in certain scenarios.

Self-Hosted SSO Solutions

Over the past five years, self-hosted services have gained traction, allowing individuals to build their own infrastructure. Let’s explore some of the popular self-hosted SSO solutions available today.

Keycloak: The Reliable Legacy

Supported by RedHat, Keycloak is one of the oldest and most feature-rich self-hosted SSO solutions. It supports various SSO protocols, including SAML, OAuth2, and OpenID Connect. However, Keycloak is considered less modern compared to other options.

Ory: Flexible and Customizable

Ory offers a suite of open-source SSO products. Their projects provide REST APIs that can be integrated with custom UIs, making them flexible and customizable. Ory’s Hydra project serves as a solid foundation for building an SSO solution, and their emphasis on alternative authentication methods is notable.

Authelia: Minimalist and Stateless

Authelia stands out for its minimalist approach and stateless functionality. It can operate without a database, making it easy to self-host and store user credentials in a YAML file. Authelia supports OIDC and Proxy Authentication, with support for multiple MFA devices.

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Authentik: Feature-Rich and Scalable

Authentik offers a feature-rich alternative to Authelia. While it requires a database for storing user information and integration settings, its extensive feature set justifies the trade-off. Authentik supports numerous protocols, including LDAP, OpenID Connect, Proxy Authentication, and SAML. It consistently delivers a flawless SSO experience and is recommended for those seeking maximum control.

Dex IDP: A Hub for SSO

Dex IDP functions as an SSO hub, relying on another service to authenticate users. It can integrate with third-party Identity Providers such as GitHub and Google. With user experience comparable to Authentik, Dex IDP stands out as a modern and lightweight solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is SSO?
    Single Sign On (SSO) is a technology that allows users to authenticate once and access multiple applications or services without the need for separate login credentials.

  • Why should I consider self-hosted SSO solutions?
    Self-hosted SSO solutions provide individuals and organizations with the ability to have complete control over their authentication systems, ensuring data privacy and security.

  • Which self-hosted SSO solution is best for me?
    The choice depends on your specific requirements and preferences. Keycloak, Ory, Authelia, Authentik, and Dex IDP are popular options worth exploring.


As the world of Single Sign On continues to evolve, it is essential to understand the standards and products that drive this domain. Self-hosted SSO solutions offer individuals and organizations the freedom to control their authentication processes. With options like Keycloak, Ory, Authelia, Authentik, and Dex IDP, you can find the right fit for your needs. Keep exploring and leveraging the power of SSO to simplify and secure your digital experiences.

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