Active Directory® in the Cloud

By Rajat Bhargava Posted June 23, 2015

Conducting business in the cloud is just better. It allows everything to be connected and available from a wide variety of locations and devices.

This is why more and more software and services are moving to the cloud. We’ve seen it with core services like email, productivity applications, CRM, and many others. Cloud services are being offered by major players like Google and innovative startups alike.

How Email Moved to The Cloud

Google Apps in the Cloud

For many years, Microsoft® Exchange was the most common choice for on-premises email. Then Google introduced their corporate version of Gmail and completely changed the game. Gmail was much easier for IT admins to manage.

One of the keys to Gmail’s success was that it was similar enough to Microsoft Exchange that the transition to the cloud was relatively seamless. Don’t get me wrong, the two email clients had substantially different aesthetics and interfaces. But the server side of things was actually nearly equivalent (at least from what a customer might see effectively). It was this parity that allowed businesses to move email to the cloud without having to start over from square one.

IT admins have long wanted email that is easy to scale and manage, always available, and inexpensive. Thanks to services like Gmail that offered a seamless transition, IT admins now enjoy centralized control over their organization’s email from the cloud.

Moving Active Directory® in the Cloud

Active Directory in the Cloud

Directories are all about aggregating and managing information and resources from all across the office. That type of interconnected networking is exactly where the cloud excels. So naturally, lately there has been a great deal of discussion around moving directory services to the cloud.

For companies that don’t yet have a directory, starting out with a cloud directory service makes perfect sense. But what about those that already have a directory on-premises? They don’t want to have to completely overhaul their existing directory to get the benefits of the cloud. So IT departments in this position are wondering if a cloud-based service can offer the type of smooth transition to the cloud for directories like Google did for email.

The answer is yes. Services exist that can smoothly migrate Active Directory® to the cloud. But, interestingly enough, moving Active Directory (AD) to the cloud doesn’t necessarily help the core problems that IT admins are having with their directory services. There are inherent weaknesses to AD that are still present after a successful move to the cloud.

The Core Problem with Microsoft AD in the Cloud

Active Directory in the cloud fails

IT admins have always used their directories to connect their users to a variety of different types of IT resources. Microsoft AD did a fair job of this when almost all the resources were Microsoft-based, but that’s simply no longer the case.

Many employees are leveraging Mac® and Linux® devices. Departments all across an organization are using SaaS-based applications which are neither Windows-based nor housed internally. Data center infrastructure is moving from those controlled by IT to AWS® and Google Compute Engine. This is enabling IT to purchase only what they need and manage the server operating system and their application versus the entire infrastructure.

All of these changes are changing the face of directory services for IT organizations. Active Directory isn’t able to easily connect all of these disparate IT resources to users. So why look for the best way to move AD to the cloud, when it’s not able to do the job to begin with?

More organizations are asking, “What options exist for a directory that can actually connect our users securely to whatever IT resources they need, from whatever device they use?”

A Modern Approach to the Directory

Directory-as-a-Service® brings the directory to the cloud. It is a cross-platform, multi-protocol SaaS-based directory service.

Directory-as-a-Service enables IT admins to leverage whatever IT resources their need regardless of platform or location. Through one central user directory, IT admins can connect their users to multiple device types, SaaS-based applications (including G Suite™), Infrastructure-as-a-Service components, internal applications, and networks.  Finally, the IT department gets the directory control they deserve.

Rather than simply moving AD to the cloud, Directory-as-a-Service is reshaping the way that IT admins think about directory services. It’s a more modern approach that is actually able to manage cloud infrastructure and web-based applications.

As you think about moving AD to the cloud, expand your aperture and dive into Directory-as-a-Service. Let us know if we can help answer any questions. Start testing our cloud-based directory by signing up for a free account. Your first ten users are free forever.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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