It Just Works, Part 4: Industry-Standard Authentication Integrations With TalentLMS

Authentication Integrations With TalentLMS

One thing the Avengers movies taught us is that superheroes are much more awesome when they combine their unique talents. Well, the same goes for software. Whether you’re using your software stack to fight super-villains or do corporate IT, you get much more impressive results by connecting your Learning Management System and have it talk and exchange data and user information with your other systems. In the past three articles of this series we had a look at the various integration options offered by TalentLMS, from several native integrations (e.g. with commerce systems and teleconference platforms) to the Zapier meta-integration service. In today’s article we’ll have a look at a few more integration options that are based on industry standard protocols. Let us talk about industry-standard authentication integrations with TalentLMS.

Industry Standards Of Authentication Integrations

Everybody loves standards -- that’s why we have so many of them, often for the same thing.

Joking aside, an industry standard is just what the phrase implies: An agreed upon way to make things (e.g. standard sized bolts and screws in manufacturing) or to have things connect and talk to each other (in the case of software).

Most software comes with support for several industry standards by default. For example, TalentLMS supports the HTTP standard -- which is why you can see it in your browser. It also supports the DNS standard, which is why you can give it a custom domain name.

Of course, these kinds of standards are supported by default for any online service. TalentLMS takes it further by supporting a number of more specialized, enterprise-facing standards that let it integrate with your company’s infrastructure. The integrations can serve many different purposes - but for now, let’s focus on authentication integrations with TalentLMS.

LDAP

LDAP (short for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) is the most popular open standard for directory services. Directory services being, of course, the IT’s version of the Yellow Pages of yore -- a system that stores, manages, and shares information about the users, systems, networks, services, and applications in a company’s LAN or extended network.

LDAP is important for medium and larger businesses because it provides a centralized way to handle user information and Sign-On (login), which, being an industry standard, works across all of their systems and services. This, as you have already guessed, includes TalentLMS, which comes with native support for LDAP.

Provided you have a working LDAP identity provider (e.g. OpenLDAP), all you have to do to connect it to LDAP is to give TalentLMS its URL and Port, and tell it a few things about your LDAP schema (e.g. your DN pattern, the attribute you want to be used as the username, etc.), so that it can query it properly. In fact, there’s a guide just for this.

Active Directory

Active Directory (AD) is kind of like LDAP (or rather, it’s exactly that: Microsoft’s own take on LDAP, with some minor deviations from the official standard). We describe it a little differently to the generic LDAP option, because its configuration and specific differ.

Now, when it comes to LDAP implementations, some companies swear by Open Source (and tend to use OpenLDAP and the like) and others are mostly depending on Microsoft technologies, and tend to go for Active Directory.

Whatever option is fine, and both are quite popular, with AD having the edge in medium to large enterprises, and OpenLDAP being more popular with startups and Linux-based IT shops.

TalentLMS can use Microsoft’s identity provider service (known as ADFS) for Single Sign-On through their common support for the industry-standard SAML (Secure Assertion Markup Language). After hooking the two up, AD handles all user authentication and account management, while any user profile change gets synced to TalentLMS.

As with generic LDAP, there’s a handy guide for integrating Active Directory with TalentLMS through SAML 2.0. Plus, if you’re running part or all of your infrastructure on Microsoft’s popular Azure cloud, you can again use SAML to connect TalentLMS with Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (their Cloud-based identity provider).

OneLogin And Okta

Last, but not least, there are two more services that you can integrate to TalentLMS through the industry standard magic of SAML 2.0.

Keeping up with this post’s main theme, Okta and OneLogin are two of the biggest Cloud-based identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) platforms, and both work with multiple standards, devices and software stacks.

You might not have heard of them if you run a smaller business, but they’re both quite popular enterprise solutions with millions of customers each. OneLogin, for example, boasts over 1400 enterprise customers, including major names like AAA, Netflix, Pandora, and Pinterest.

There’s, as you’d expect, documentation for integrating TalentLMS with either of them can be found here and here.

Authentication Integrations With TalentLMS: Pick Your Favorite!

In this week’s article, we had a look at the various TalentLMS integration options related to authentication and user management (and we didn’t even exhaust those). Check back next week, for the next installment of the series, where we wear our pocket protectors and geeky glasses and get all technical on you.

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