Springer Nature: The global team advancing scientific discovery, with secure access powered by Okta
minutes instead of one day for the technical integration of apps to SSO
per year password reset policy, instead of every 12 weeks
applications secured with SSO & MFA
- Advancing science with advanced technology
- Ease of integration sets Okta apart
- A holistic Single Sign-On experience that combines security and convenience
- A win-win-win of security, efficiency, and ease of use
- Enabling a hybrid cloud strategy
Springer Nature is one of the world’s largest publishers of research and science literature. To protect its valued assets in an increasingly cloud-based environment accessed by more than 11,000 employees, Springer Nature aimed to mature its approach to cybersecurity with new access management systems and adaptive multi-factor authentication.
Springer Nature has a truly hybrid cloud estate, with many remaining on-premise servers, but an increasingly large footprint in the cloud. Okta set itself apart from the competition due to its ease of integration with other applications, be it SaaS or legacy and homegrown software.
Springer Nature has connected more than 100 applications with Single Sign-On, and delivers more secure access to its apps with Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication. The result is a holistic access management solution that integrates all apps, providing the same user experience, and the same level of security, to every employee.
With Single Sign On and Multi-factor Authentication, Okta improves the day-to-day work experience of Springer Nature’s employees, giving them secure access to everything they need. Okta’s automation features reduce the burden on IT and save admin time better spent on value-generating tasks.
By protecting its assets on-premise and in the cloud, Okta helps to make Springer Nature’s move to the cloud more secure and seamless. The scientific publishing industry is going through a period of rapid digital disruption, and Okta supports Springer Nature in adapting to this new, digital reality.
"We used to require password changes every 12 weeks, which our employees strongly disliked. This also opens up security risks, because employees start choosing weaker passwords or writing them down. Now that we have Multi-Factor Authentication with Okta, we can extend this policy to a year. That means less work for us, a better experience for our users, and more security for Springer Nature."
Thomas Mager, VP for Special Projects and Operations, Springer Nature Group
- 100 applications integrated with Okta Single Sign-On
- 11,000 staff using Okta SSO and MFA
- Reducing the frequency of password resets from once every 12 weeks to once per year
- Improving the overall user experience for employees, giving them simple and secure access to all their apps
- Significant time saved due to Okta’s pre-integrations and automation features
Science is the “torch which illuminates the world,” stated Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and biologist known for his breakthroughs in vaccination. If science is the torch, scientific literature is the flame it carries: whether in journals, books, or magazines, scientific literature contains the written record of our most remarkable accomplishments. It’s also the principal medium for sharing research results on a scientific marketplace. This marketplace is hard to imagine without Springer Nature.
Springer Nature is one of the world’s leading research, educational, and professional publishers. Born in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education, and Springer Science+Business Media, Springer Nature advances discovery by publishing original research. It also gives researchers quick access to the peer-reviewed original content.
Because science – to stick with Pasteur – “knows no country”, anything but a global presence wouldn’t do for Springer Nature. With around 11,000 internal and external employees in roughly 200 locations, it’s a truly international business, and it’s not unusual for a single Springer Nature department to contain employees spread across 10 different time zones.
Strengthening cyber security with Multi-Factor Authentication
This global workforce, combined with the ongoing digitalization of the scientific publishing industry, brought new security challenges to Springer Nature. “We have a risk-driven security maturity program,” explains Thomas Mager, VP for Special Projects and Operations, Springer Nature Group. “Ransomware is one of our key risks, and identity theft is at the core of most attacks. We realised that multi-factor authentication could help us solve this issue, which is why we approached Okta.”
At the time, Springer Nature was using Active Directory, which was attached to a home-grown Identity Governance and Administration solution. These legacy elements made a holistic Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) implementation difficult, which is why the Springer Nature team decided to upgrade to Okta’s Universal Directory .
“When we compared Okta to the other identity solutions out there, the ease of integration with different applications was a big plus,” says Alexander Hannemann, Senior Programme Manager, Springer Nature Group. “That includes the ability to integrate legacy software we need for our production processes. Okta made the technical part of the integration really simple.”
Prior to Okta, Springer was using MFA with just a small group of admins on Google and on one other standalone app, taking roughly 45 seconds for each challenge that occurred twice a day due to two separate authentications. If they had followed this approach for just the 20 birthright applications now on Okta that are a subset of all Okta apps, across all of Springer’s users, they knew they would have been spending 162,500 hours a year on prompts.
Springer was able to easily consolidate four domains with approximately 100 servers with Okta and gain one environment, to drive a single place to do things and have all users able to collaborate seamlessly. With this single environment in which to deploy MFA, leaders are able to use biometric factors with Okta that are so seamless they don't even notice the presence of any security.
Combining security and convenience with a holistic Single Sign-On experience
Springer Nature has connected more than 100 applications with Single Sign-On , and secured access to these apps with Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication . More applications are set to follow soon , including SAP and the company’s production systems. These were not part of Single Sign-On (SSO) in the past, resulting in more passwords and access procedures to remember for employees.
“In the past, we only had a few off-the-shelf MFA configurations for certain applications, but no overall solution,” says Hannemann. “With Okta, we’ve been able to create a holistic solution that we can plug each and every one of our apps into, giving the same user experience, and the same level of security, to everyone.”
Ease of use, security, and efficiency are the three core pillars of Springer Nature’s security maturity program. With Okta, the company found a way to bring together all three, reducing the burden on staff while strengthening Springer Nature’s security posture and reducing admin time.
Delighting employees with intuitive app access
Springer Nature’s password reset policy is a good example to showcase this win-win-win: “We used to require password changes every 12 weeks, much to the dislike of our employees,” says Mager. “This opens up security risks, because employees start choosing weaker passwords or writing them down. Thanks to MFA with Okta, we can extend this policy to a year. That means less work for us, a better experience for our users, and more security for Springer Nature.”
Employees have eagerly adopted the changes, says Mager: “The added security is built in, so nobody really notices it. But everyone is really happy with the new ease of access and the fact that there are fewer access varieties. No matter the application, it’s always the same, intuitive user experience. Our employees really appreciate that about Okta.”
Easy access, easily delivered
Okta had pre-built connectors to 80% of the 100 apps now onboarded for Springer. For apps with a connector in Okta’s Integration Network, Springer took only 5 minutes to enable SSO and for apps without, such as their custom home-built apps, Springer needed only 30 minutes using Okta’s connector wizard. Prior to Okta, it typically took 1.5 days per app, with activities such as talking to AD teams, design, and setting up groups. When Springer’s 100 apps are considered, they saved 148 days or 99% of connector build time for SSO.
While implementing Okta, helpdesk ticket numbers have not significantly increased allowing for a “zero noise” implementation. But for Thomas, it’s less about the ticket number itself, and more about the general ease of the transition to the new technology: “We’re not talking about a new tool that might affect a few people in our team. This is a new technology that touches every single worker in our company. Even the most minor problem could cause massive amounts of noise – and we haven’t had any at all, it’s all gone swimmingly.”
Safeguarding Springer Nature’s hybrid cloud future
Springer Nature’s move to Okta comes at a crucial time for the company, which is rapidly shifting into the cloud. This brings all kinds of new challenges, such as the need to secure access to cloud networks and data centres. “By deploying Advanced Server Access to 1,200 servers, we can secure access to these servers in a fully automated manner,” says Alexander. “The developers don’t need to do anything. It’s all preconfigured with the right technology and fully integrated in their workflow.”
Overall, Okta helps to make Springer Nature’s move to the cloud more seamless and secure. “We still have a large on-prem footprint, but we’re shifting more and more stuff over to the cloud,” says Thomas. “And besides SaaS, we also have a lot of our own, self-developed apps in the cloud. With Okta, we’ve found a way to protect everything in the same way, whether it’s on-prem or in the cloud.”
Automation is a key driver of digital transformation, and much like Springer Nature, the entire scientific publishing industry is going through a period of rapid digital disruption.
“These days, Springer Nature is fundamentally an IT-enabled company, producing a supply chain of scientific material that can be assessed digitally all around the world,” says Thomas. “Okta helps us adapt to this new, digital reality with our staff, and continue to play our part in advancing science.”