Using Azure AD to Authenticate to Systems

Written by Kayla Coco-Stotts on June 10, 2020

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IT teams exploring the native capabilities of Azure® Active Directory® (Azure AD or AAD) may wonder if they can use Microsoft’s cloud-based identity management platform to authenticate users to their systems.

Below, we’ll outline Azure AD’s effectiveness in authenticating to the three major operating systems: Windows®, macOS®, and Linux®. We’ll also cover options for admins looking for a cloud identity provider that authenticates user credentials to the on- and off-premises resources they commonly employ.


Breaking Up with Active Directory

Don’t let your directory hold you back. Learn why it’s time to break up with AD.

Azure AD Methods for Authentication

Authentication is the process of making sure users are who they say they are, and it’s vital for protecting sensitive information.

Microsoft further developed this idea of authN through their on-prem directory service, Active Directory (AD), which is still widely used today. It provides administrators with a tool that protects their Windows-based systems, configures security settings, connects to file servers and printers, and more. AD works well for on-prem, Windows-centric environments since Microsoft’s system management capabilities (which include command scripts called group policy objects) effectively govern the entirety of an organization’s systems.

However, following the rise of macOS and Linux machines in the modern workplace, system management now needs to address cross-platform authentication, with group policies for those disparate machines. As a result, IT teams have been considering Azure AD to authenticate AD credentials to systems outside the Windows domain.

Unfortunately, Azure AD’s system authentication properties only apply to Windows 10 Pro. When paired with legacy directory service Active Directory, AAD can authenticate to a wider range of Windows systems, but it still doesn’t effectively manage macOS and Linux machines.

So, for organizations operating with a strictly Windows-based infrastructure, this type of Microsoft hybrid environment may be an ideal choice, but just keep in mind that this option can ultimately prove to be quite costly and difficult to maintain. Azure AD and AD require additional components to fully service an organization’s needs, and the maintenance of Microsoft’s identity providers may prove too costly for organizations with tight budgets. 

Ultimately, the allure of cloud infrastructure is that it removes the need for IT teams to implement and maintain on-prem hardware. For those looking to authenticate user credentials through a centralized identity provider, the ideal solution would be one that both authenticates to disparate systems and enacts group-level configuration policies across them from a single, entirely cloud-based console. That way IT admins can implement and maintain one solution for all their IT resources, preventing the work and insecurity involved in controlling a number of platforms for one environment. 

Authenticate to Heterogeneous Systems From the Cloud

The ideal identity provider for organizations concerned about managing their fleets of disparate systems may be JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. DaaS is the first cloud directory that authenticates user access to and enacts GPO-like Policies across all three major operating systems.
Interested in learning more about authenticating users to systems using a single cloud-based directory service? Feel free to reach out for a personalized demo to see DaaS’s Policies and authentication practices in action.

Kayla Coco-Stotts

Kayla is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in Print Journalism from the University of Kentucky. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and loves to eat good food and hike Boulder's beautiful trails when she is not writing.

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