Active Directory Fix-It Guide

By Megan Anderson Posted November 7, 2019

IT admins have long been the unofficial repair technicians of the enterprise. However, instead of hammers and wrenches, the tool kit of the IT admin contains servers, cables, and software tools. Unfortunately, one of the most popular IT admin tools, Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD), isn’t working as well as it used to for many organizations. Here is the Active Directory Fix-It Guide.

Active Directory in Disrepair

Although it was the most powerful identity management tool of its day, AD hasn’t been able to keep up with all of the changes in the IT landscape. Mac® and Linux® systems, web applications, and other cloud-based services are all gaining in popularity. AD was not built with these systems in mind, so trying to manage them through it can prove troublesome.

Platform Breakout

AD was released when Microsoft had a monopoly over the enterprise computer market in the 1990s and 2000s. As such, the directory service was built for a homogenous Microsoft-centric environment and did not generally account for any third-party platforms, applications, or systems.

However, Apple’s macOS® has come into play as one of the top-competing operating systems in recent years, and with more companies putting bring your own device (BYOD) policies into place, there is a greater diversity of platforms in the workplace now than ever before. Linux has seen increased use as well due to its high stability, security, and ease of use. In fact, 23 of the top 25 websites (including Google, YouTube, and Facebook) are running Linux OS for those reasons.  

For enterprises that want to manage this mixed-platform environment, AD can be tricky to work with. Add-ons can make integrating non-Windows systems slightly easier, but most of these third-party solutions come with their own problems and risks — not to mention costs. 

Cloud-based Apps 

Where once nearly all enterprise software was built to be installed on a Windows machine, now cloud-based apps rule supreme. AD syncs with cloud applications like G Suite™ and Office 365, but only if it’s coupled with other tools to extend to the cloud.

For instance, in order to sync with G Suite, AD requires a GCDS (formerly known as GADS) server to be paired with it. As for Office 365, AD needs to be connected to Azure AD via Azure AD Connect, which can come at an added cost. For virtually any other cloud application, external single sign-on (SSO) tools are needed.

SSO helps manage and secure access to web applications, but does not go beyond that. Private applications still need separate credentials to access, leading to more identities users must memorize. More variables are harder to manage, so the work and responsibility placed on an IT admin’s desk increase when SSO is layered on top of AD.

More Becomes Less

There’s a mantra in some gaming communities that goes “mod it until it breaks,” meaning that if you can make modifications to a software product, you might as well continue to do so until it is no longer operational. Although modifying a video game to the point of breaking doesn’t present many real-life consequences, modifying AD to that degree can be a disaster for a company. 

The more add-ons you have, the greater the room for error. For example, single sign-on (SSO) add-ons for AD can malfunction and cause users to sporadically lose access to websites with no obvious way to fix it. Combine that with issues that may arise from add-ons for MFA, MDM, RADIUS, and many others, and it amounts to hours of extra digging — often led partially by guesswork — that IT admins must do to locate the source of their problems. 

It’s already a big enough headache to have such complications tacked on to a service that’s supposed to make work easier. Figuring out which add-on is at fault for the error escalates it to a migraine.

The Ultimate Active Directory Solution

AD was once the perfect tool for the job, but with today’s IT trends, it is in need of a good sharpening to say the least. Fortunately, there is a way to bring AD up to date in such a way that won’t bog it down with multiple add-ons or elevate the risk for error.

With JumpCloud®’s AD Integration, you can do everything various add-ons combined accomplish, but in one, easy-to-implement package. It extends AD identities to cloud applications and non-Windows resources, including G Suite and cloud infrastructures like AWS. Plus, it allows users with macOS and Linux systems to authenticate with the AD server just as easily as users with Windows.

Learn More

Ready to modernize Active Directory? Schedule a free demo to see what you could look forward to. Or, sign-up for a free account to try it for yourself. Please reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We’re ready to help!

Megan Anderson

Megan is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in English from MSU Denver. Colorado-born and raised, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and all manner of dogs.

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