Dec 22, 2023

The Impossible Dream: IdP Migration without Downtime

Switching between IdPs has long been considered an impossible idea for most enterprise organizations. Previously known as a highly manual process, moving an entire organization’s application access – let alone customer access – could take years to accomplish, with disruptions to user experience considered an inevitable feature.

So why are so many tech leaders now asking about an IdP switch?

For many years now, Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions have been considered a gold standard in creating a secure digital environment for enterprise organizations. Because of the overall security benefits of an SSO platform, businesses will integrate their most important applications into their Identity and Access Management (IAM) environment. That may include CRM software, email service providers, finance and accounting software, and other critical operational tools. The use of Identity Providers (IdPs) to manage SSO functions has led to explosive growth for products like Okta, Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure AD), and others. As the gateway to all other system, IdP’s have become the most critical system to business operation for most organizations. 

Unfortunately, the incredible utility and mission-critical nature of these IAM solutions have made them a prime target for hackers – and a potential single point of failure for organizations.

Several high-profile hacks of IdPs have highlighted the critical nature of SSO solutions. The recent MGM/Okta hack took down the hospitality giant for over a week, impacting everything from the website booking engine and guest key card access to in-room TVs and casino slot machines. 

And as the hacks keep coming, we’ve noticed an uptick in clients asking, “What are my options?”

What are IdP customers looking for now?

While some customers are considering complete and permanent migrations from one IdP to another, others are flirting with the idea of a temporary switch as the dust settles on IdPs in the news. 

Until very recently, switching between IdPs was once considered prohibitively time-consuming, often taking multiple years to complete. Now, tools like Tevora partner, MightyID, can help streamline the process of migrating identity objects between tenants of the same IdP, or between entirely different IdPs, for example between Okta and Entra ID. 

So now that an IdP switch is possible, many tech leaders are considering: am I really happy with my IdP? And along with it, the subsequent section is inevitably: What do I need to do to successfully switch IdPs?

Here is our guide of the top 5 considerations when evaluating an IdP switch:

1. Properly Vet the New IdP:

– POC Process: Before committing to a new IdP, conduct a thorough Proof of Concept (POC) process. This ensures that the chosen solution aligns with your organization’s needs.

– Identify Representative Users: Include a diverse group of individuals in the POC, not just from the IT and Security departments. Ordinary users can provide valuable insights into the user experience and highlight potential challenges that tech users may not have foreseen.

– User Experience Evaluation: Solicit feedback on the user interface and experience. Focusing solely on security aspects may result in a solution that is technically robust but challenging for average users to navigate.

2. Account for All Applications and Integrations:

– App Inventory: Take stock of all your applications. The number of apps can significantly impact the migration roadmap and timeline. Understanding the scope of the task is crucial for effective planning.

– Identify App Owners: Know who owns each application in advance, and document it. You don’t want the unnecessary stress and delays involved in chasing down various owners as issues arise. 

3. Prioritize User Experience:

– User Satisfaction: The success of an IdP migration hinges on user satisfaction. Consider the transition from the user’s perspective and aim for a seamless experience.

– Minimize Inconveniences: Avoid inconveniences such as requiring users to switch between IdPs during the transition period. Wherever possible, provide integrations to the most commonly used apps so that users can switch to the destination IdP sooner, and leave the old one behind.

– MFA Experience: Clearly communicate changes in Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) requirements and provide instructions to users. A transparent MFA experience is vital for user cooperation.

4. A Strong Start Sets the Tone:

– Rigorous Planning: Thorough planning is essential to creating a strong start and setting the pace for the entirety of the project. A stumble early in the transition process – especially if it creates a poor user experience or disrupts operations – can cause irreparable damage to internal trust. Worse, it can be impossible to recover from, and can lengthen the process exponentially by adding new barriers.

5. Prioritize Executive Buy-In:

– Executive Sponsors: Secure support from the right executives up front to serve as your champions. Executive buy-in is crucial for overcoming obstacles and ensuring adequate resources. 

– Frequent Communication: Keep executives informed throughout the process. Regular updates foster a sense of involvement and commitment

Your IdP is Critical. Ensure Yours is Working for Your Business. 

An Identity Provider has the power to impact an entire business and provides critical functionality to most enterprises today. That is why it is so important to ensure you are working with the IdP that is best for your organization. If you require an evaluation or switch to a new IdP, you need to be confident that you’re moving in the right direction.

By prioritizing user experience, conducting thorough evaluations, and garnering executive support, organizations can navigate this complex process successfully. While the idea of changing IdPs was once deemed impossible, with the right partners and tools like MightyID‘s migration tool, organizations can now streamline the transition from years to months, ensuring a positive experience for all participants along the way.