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AWS Cognito Guide: Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

AWS Cognito

AWS Cognito Guide: Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

AWS Cognito is Amazon’s answer to sign-on and identity access management. Much like similar services, such as Auth0 and Azure Active Directory, AWS Cognito helps you create a user management system. 

But that’s not all. Cognito also plays nicely with other AWS services, making it an even more valuable addition to your toolkit than competing alternatives. Imagine being able to authenticate users for your AWS AppSync GraphQL API or Amazon S3 bucket with ease and security. You can see how enterprise applications, in particular, benefit from AWS integration. 

In today’s article, we’re diving deep into AWS Cognito, exploring its features, benefits, and some handy tips to help you make the most of this incredible service.

AWS Cognito: Overview

So, what exactly is AWS Cognito? As a vital part of the AWS ecosystem, Cognito provides an onramp for you to create a sign-up and authentication system for your mobile or web app; without having to code a scalable platform from scratch.

Some of the most valuable tools include the AWS SDKs and Cognito API, which make it easy to integrate AWS Cognito into your app, and the Cognito Developer Guide, which provides detailed information on how to use Cognito, as well as best practices for user authentication and management.

AWS Cognito also allows you to customize the authentication process to meet the specific requirements of your app. For example, you can create a custom flow requiring users to provide additional information or pass additional security checks before accessing your app. This can be especially useful for apps that handle sensitive data or require a higher level of security.

AWS Cognito: Pricing

One of the key benefits of using Cognito is that it is pay-as-you-go, meaning that you only pay for what you use. In this section, we will take a closer look at Cognito pricing and provide a complete guide to understanding how much you can expect to pay for this service.

Cognito User Pools

Cognito User Pools is the core service of Cognito that allows you to create and manage users for your application. The pricing for this service is based on the number of monthly active users (MAUs) in your user pool. The pricing is as follows:

Monthly Active Users (MAUs)Price per MAU per month
1-50000$0.0055
50,001 – 100,000$0.0050
100,001 – 1,000,000$0.0045
1,000,001+$0.0040

AWS Cognito Identity Pools

Identity pools allow you to authenticate users through external identity providers such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and then provide them with temporary AWS credentials to access other AWS services. The pricing for this service is based on the number of monthly active users (MAUs) and the number of authentications. The pricing is as follows:

Monthly Active Users (MAUs)Price per MAU per month
1-50000$0.0055
50,001 – 100,000$0.0050
100,001 – 1,000,000$0.0045
1,000,001+$0.0040
Number of AuthenticationsPrice per 10000
1-1,000,000$0.00
1,000,001+$0.00

It’s worth noting that the pricing information provided in this article is sourced from the AWS website and is accurate as of January 2023. It’s always a good idea to check the AWS website for the most up-to-date pricing information.

AWS Cognito: Essential Features

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Amazon Cognito provides authentication, authorization, and user management for web and mobile apps.

Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at some of the essential features of AWS Cognito.

User Pools

Cognito User Pools function as a directory for users, enabling the creation and maintenance of a user directory, incorporation of registration and login into an app, as well as management of user accounts, including account creation and verification.

Identity Pools

Cognito Identity Pools, also known as federated identities, enable the creation of unique identities for users and authenticate them using identity providers like Facebook, Google, or Amazon, and also allows for unauthenticated identities.

Social Sign-In 

Cognito supports social sign-in with popular identity providers such as Facebook and Google, as well as log-in with Amazon. This allows users to sign in to your app using their existing social media accounts.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Cognito supports the use of MFA to provide an additional level of security for your users. You can do this using SMS text messages or time-based one-time passwords (TOTP).

Customizable User Sign-Up and Sign-In

Cognito allows you to customize the look and feel of the sign-up and sign-in pages to match your app’s branding.

User Data Synchronization

Cognito allows you to synchronize user data across multiple devices, allowing users to have a consistent experience across all their devices.

Customizable User Attributes 

Cognito allows you to add custom attributes to user profiles, such as preferred language or location, making it easy to personalize the user experience.

Push Notifications

Cognito can send push notifications to users, making it easy to keep them engaged and informed about new features or updates to your app.

Custom Authentication Flow

Cognito allows you to create custom authentication flows to suit the specific needs of your app, such as adding additional security measures or integrating with other services.

AWS Cognito Triggers

AWS Cognito Triggers can extend the functionality of user pools by allowing developers to run custom logic on specific events. These triggers are a vital function of AWS Cognito and perform actions such as sending an email or SMS message, updating user data, and more. 

Triggers available in AWS Cognito:

  • Pre-Sign-up: This trigger is invoked before a new user is registered in the user pool. It can be used to validate user input, customize the registration process, or add additional user data.
  • Custom Message: This trigger is invoked when a message is sent to a user, such as a confirmation code or password reset link. It can be used to customize the message content or add additional information to the message.
  • Post Confirmation: This trigger is invoked after a user has confirmed their registration. It can be used to send a welcome message, update user data, or perform other actions.
  • Pre-Authentication: This trigger is invoked before a user is authenticated. It can be used to validate user input, customize the authentication process, or perform other actions.
  • Post Authentication: This trigger is invoked after a user has been authenticated. It can be used to update user data, perform other actions, or redirect the user to a specific page.
  • User Migration: This trigger is invoked during the migration of user data from a previous user pool. It can be used to manipulate user data, perform data validation, or perform other actions.

How to Use Cognito Triggers

  1. Create a Lambda function: The first step in using a Cognito trigger is to create a Lambda function that will be invoked when the trigger is activated. This function should contain the logic that will be executed when the trigger is invoked.
  1. Attach the trigger to the user pool: Once the Lambda function has been created, it needs to be associated with the trigger in the user pool. You can do this through the Cognito console or using the AWS CLI.
  1. Test the trigger: Before deploying the trigger in production, it’s important to test it to ensure that it’s working as expected. You can do this by invoking the trigger manually through the Cognito console or by signing up a new user in the user pool.
  1. Deploy the trigger: Once you test the trigger and see it is working as expected, you can deploy it to production.

AWS Cognito: Creating a User Pool

One of the core features of Cognito is the ability to create and manage user pools. These are the user directories that allow you to authenticate and authorize users in your application.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that creating a user pool in Cognito requires an AWS account. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for a free trial account on the AWS website.

Step by Step

  1. The first step in creating a user pool is to log in to the AWS Management Console. From there, navigate to the Cognito service by searching for “Cognito” in the AWS services search bar or by going to the Services menu and selecting Cognito. Once you’re in the Cognito dashboard, you’ll see the option to create a new user pool. Click on the “Create user pool” button to begin.
  1. On the next screen, you’ll give your user pool a name and choose a review and email verification settings. You can also enable or disable certain features like MFA, account recovery, and device tracking.
  1. Next, you’ll need to configure the Attributes of your user pool. This is where you’ll define which attributes, such as email, phone number, and name, your users will be required to provide when they sign up. You can also specify whether certain attributes will be required or optional.
  1. After configuring the attributes, you’ll need to set up the “Policies” for your user pool. This is where you’ll specify the password policies, such as minimum length and complexity, and the rules for account lockout and password recovery.
  1. The next step is to configure the App clients for your user pool. This is where you’ll specify the client ID and client secret for your application and configure settings such as callback and sign-out URLs.
  1. Finally, you’ll need to set up the “Triggers” for your user pool. This is where you’ll specify any Lambda functions triggered when certain events occur, such as when a user signs up or signs in.
  1. Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ll be able to create your user pool by clicking Create pool. Your new user pool will now be ready to use, and you’ll be able to start authenticating and authorizing users in your application.

AWS Cognito: Creating an Identity Pool

Another core feature of AWS Cognito is the ability to create and manage identity pools, which allow you to grant AWS credentials to authenticated users. This is a vital step in configuring access for your users. 

Let’s look at a breakdown of what you will need to do. If you want to explore further, check out the video or follow along with Amazon’s official tutorial.

Step by Step

  1. The first step in creating an identity pool is to log in to the AWS Management Console. From there, navigate to the Cognito service by searching for “Cognito” in the AWS services search bar or by going to the “Services” menu and selecting “Cognito.” Once you’re in the Cognito dashboard, you’ll see the option to create a new identity pool. Click on the “Create identity pool” button.
  1. On the next screen, you’ll give your identity pool a name and choose an authentication provider. You can choose to authenticate users through a user pool, a user directory you have created, or through social identity providers like Facebook, Google, or Amazon.
  1. Next, you’ll need to set up the “Authentication providers” for your identity pool. This is where you’ll specify the details for the authentication providers you have chosen, such as the client ID and client secret for your application.
  1. After you’ve set up the authentication providers, you’ll need to configure the “Role resolution” for your identity pool. This is where you’ll specify the roles that will be assigned to authenticated users and the policies that will be attached to those roles.
  1. Finally, you’ll need to set up the “Unauthenticated role” for your identity pool. This role will be assigned to users who are not authenticated. You can choose to allow unauthenticated users to access specific resources, or you can choose to deny them access altogether.
  1. Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ll be able to create your identity pool by clicking on the “Create identity pool” button. Your new identity pool will now be ready to use, and you’ll be able to start granting AWS credentials to authenticated users.

Pros of using AWS Cognito

So, what are some of the benefits of using AWS Cognito?

  1. Easy to Use. AWS Cognito is easy to set up and use, allowing developers to quickly add user authentication and identity management to their mobile and web apps.
  2. Scalable. AWS Cognito can handle millions of users and can easily scale to meet the needs of your app.
  3. Secure. AWS Cognito uses industry-standard protocols such as OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect to provide secure authentication and authorization for your users.
  4. Cost-Effective. Cognito is a pay-as-you-go service, so you only pay for what you use, making it a cost-effective solution for adding user authentication and identity management to your app.

Cons of using AWS Cognito

What are some of the downsides of using AWS Cognito?

  1. Complex setup and configuration process. Setting up and configuring AWS Cognito can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially for those unfamiliar with the service.
  2. Limited customization options. While Cognito provides a wide range of features and functionalities, it may not meet all users’ specific needs and requirements.
  3. Higher costs for larger user pools. As the number of users in a user pool increases, the cost of using Cognito also increases.
  4. Limited support for offline access to user data. Cognito primarily supports online access to user data and may not be able to provide offline access.
  5. Limited support for social identity providers. While Cognito supports social identity providers like Google and Facebook, it may not support the smaller third-party providers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is AWS Cognito used for?

Cognito is Amazon’s user sign-up and identity management solution. In other words, it lets you add login functionality to your mobile or web application.

What are the two main components of Amazon Cognito?

Cognito User Pools are used for user management and authentication, while Cognito Identity Pools are used for authorization and access to other AWS resources.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and why should I use it?

MFA is an added security measure that requires users to provide a second form of authentication, such as a code sent to their phone. It helps to protect against unauthorized access to user accounts.

Where can I store user profiles and other user-related data when using AWS Cognito?

Amazon DynamoDB is the ideal integration to store user profiles and other user-related data.

How can I serve user-uploaded files securely?

Use Amazon CloudFront and Amazon S3 to serve user-uploaded files securely.

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