Terms like Active Directory and Single Sign-On are commonly used in the context of business software, but there are often misconceptions about what they actually do and what they mean to how your business’s IT infrastructure operates.


So what is Active Directory?

Active Directory (AD) is common in on-premise networks in order to efficiently onboard new employees to give them all the necessary permissions to the systems applications and databases. 

AD is a protocol for accessing on-premise directory services, commonly used for onboarding users within a network, including granting authentications to programs and databases. It acts as a central repository for all user information and authentications for the entire internal system. AD is also used to retrieve information from different sources throughout a network. 

ADs work off of on-premise servers, but different versions can also be leveraged for cloud-based applications.

One of the main benefits of ADs is being able separate users into groups, giving them specified authentications to securely access applications and data. They sync user information across a system, allowing for the efficient management of authentications. 


What is Single Sign-On?

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a type of web-app identity service that grants users access to cloud-based applications and data. Businesses that use several SaaS solutions for operations, but need to uphold secure access often implement an SSO. 

On certain occasions, users can be trusted to create their own login credentials for applications. However, SSO creates secure access by centralizing access through the SAML 2.0 protocol. This allows users to need only one set of credentials to access their work applications. Most SSOs provide convenient portals to all applications and databases they’re authorized to access. 


What’s the Difference?

Active Directory and Single Sign-On serve similar purposes, but execute them differently. With most modern workplaces relying on more SaaS applications, SSO is becoming more commonplace while AD is reserved for strictly on-premise and IT-centric systems. 

When researching different software solutions, it’s important to know the distinction between the two and the needs of your business. For organizations that operate from an on-premise network, Active Directory is likely the main method your IT department uses to manage user groups. If that’s the case, it’s essential to find solutions that are compatible with modern AD protocols.

Single Sign-On is better suited for cloud-based applications for providing an added layer of security and convenience. The most common SSO protocol is SAML 2.0, so any application that is compatible with that protocol will work with most major SSO providers.


eFileCabinet is able to accommodate for both situations, whether you’re on-premise or cloud-based. Talk to a document management expert today to discuss what option works best for your business.