We support proxy, why do I need OpenAthens?

We have created this resource hub full of educational content and to raise awareness of the three key issues around IP-based access: security, poor user experience, and lack of personalization.

Laptop next to notepad

There are many issues surrounding the complex nature of accessing digital content and at OpenAthens we are often asked our view. We recognize the need to look at the topic of access from the users’ perspective in parallel with the librarian’s vital role in curating published works so they are readily available to those who need them.

The way we all use technology, both as consumers and in business, has dramatically evolved since the current access methods were designed.


It’s a poor experience – for everyone 

For users: personalization features can only be obtained via a separate log-in, requiring users to set up separate accounts with every publisher so they can access their search history, favorites and recommended content.  


For content providers: it’s not possible to recognize individual users. This means it’s difficult to investigate potential misuse  and usage reports have little meaningful information as IP addresses describe organizations, not users .

Watch our webinar with Sari Francis, director of content protection services at Elsevier, to learn about the link between user journey and piracy.

Group using laptops


Any access route which relies on IP recognition/proxy, referral URLs, or shared username/passwords is not secure – these methods can be exploited so publisher content can be made available on pirate sites. This could lead to publishers raising subscription prices to recover lost income.  

  • Read our guest blog: IP vs SAML in the battle of security to discover the differences between SAML and IP and insight into why IP is not the most secure method of authentication.

Enhanced privacy for users 

OpenAthens fully support the NISO-approved RA21 recommendations for improved institutional access to scholarly content and the overarching aims of Seamless Access which acknowledges that personalized access can be consistent with user privacy.  

For subscribing organizations: it’s not possible to proxy video and other non-text content, so you’ll end up paying for a workaround. With federated sign sign-on you will be able to differentiate between individual users along with details in regards to what sort of content users are accessing and how they are using it. 

The subject of privacy was explored during our Access Lab 2020 conference and we have a range of in-depth presentation recordings available on our youtube channel including:

Supporting your business needs

As a leading provider of single sign-on (SSO) software, we can help provide library users with secure, seamless access to your content wherever they are in the world.  

  • Our standards-based software gives you the flexibility to offer licenses based on organization, department or individual and the ability to scale up to a global customer-base. 
  • Library patrons can also benefit from personalization features such as favorites, saved searches and annotated content which is not possible with IP recognition. 
  • You can also discover more about how learners and researchers are using and engaging with your content so you can develop relevant services they’ll benefit from. 

Find out more about the services we provide to publishers and service providers.

Find out more