In Active Directory, Blog

In an era of disparate IT resources and cross-platform system environments, both on-prem and in the cloud, IT admins are analyzing the pros and cons of Microsoft Active Directory® (AD). Why? AD is an on-prem directory services solution that was designed exclusively for on-prem networks of Windows® based IT resources. IT networks haven’t worked that way since the mid-2000s. Consequently, IT admins are wondering whether the aging AD platform is worth maintaining.

The good news is that a next generation AD replacement has emerged that was built for modern IT networks. In short, it’s called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, and it is effectively Active Directory and LDAP reimagined. But before we go there, we should discuss a few of the pros and cons of Active Directory.

Active Directory Primer

Active Directory is an on-prem directory services platform from Microsoft. It was released in 1999 to help manage on-prem networks of Windows® based IT resources. Back then, AD offered a number of advantages for IT organizations, especially prior to the rise of cloud computing. However, those same advantages are proving to be the Achilles heel of this tech titan in modern times. The following are a few examples of the more significant advantages of the AD platform in a historical sense, and how they compare to JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service in the modern era.

Centralized Identity and Access Management

Pro: Con:
One of the key advantages with AD is centralized identity and access management (IAM). Basically, IT admins can manage their entire Windows-based IT network from one central location, rather than locally on a per-system basis. End users also benefit from having a single source of truth (e.g., the AD domain controller) for verifying their identities. Once verified, these identities can be extended to virtually any Windows-based IT resource. The issue in the modern era is that centralized IAM with AD is only achievable in a Windows-centric environment. It also requires a significant amount of on-prem infrastructure to implement and maintain. Modern IT organizations have cross-platform system environments that include Windows, Mac, Linux, and more. They also want to eliminate the majority of their on-prem IT infrastructure in favor of cloud alternatives. So, legacy AD can be limiting.
The JumpCloud Approach:
JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service can also provide centralized IAM for modern networks. The key difference is that JumpCloud IAM lives in the cloud and requires almost no infrastructure on-prem. Further, the JumpCloud platform can provide centralized management over cross-platform system environments, web and on-prem applications, traditional and virtual storage solutions, and networks spanning multiple locations. The benefit of this approach is that IT admins manage a wider range of IT resources with the Directory-as-a-Service platform, while reducing costs and management overhead. Check out our Cloud IAM Protocols + Architecture Whiteboard Video to learn more.

Group Policy

Pro: Con:
Group Policy is one of the most highly sought after functionalities of the AD platform, even today. In essence, it enables IT admins to deploy templated commands and scripts that can help manage fleets of Windows-based systems. Microsoft refers to these commands and scripts as Group Policy Objects (GPOs). The key benefit is that GPOs enable IT admins to manage fleets of Windows systems remotely, and from one central management platform. The challenge with Group Policy is that GPOs only work for Windows systems, without the help of third-party tools. This means that IT admins will need a host of add-on solutions (e.g., directory extensions) on top of AD on-prem, if they wish to manage macOS® and Linux® devices with GPO-like capabilities. While this approach can be effective, having to implement and maintain multiple identity and system management solutions adds a lot of cost and complexity to the management puzzle.
The JumpCloud Approach:
JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service offers cross-platform GPO-like capabilities. These are called Policies in JumpCloud parlance. Similarly to AD GPOs, JumpCloud Policies are also templated commands and scripts that can help manage fleets of systems. What sets JumpCloud Policies apart is that they work for Windows, macOS, and Linux devices, rather than just Windows. Add to that the fact that JumpCloud Policies are deployed from a central management platform in the cloud, rather than on-prem with AD, and it is easy to see how group based policy management with JumpCloud can be advantageous. Check out our System Policies Whiteboard Video to learn more about JumpCloud Policies.

More Active Directory Pros and Cons

Of course, these are just a few of the key considerations on IT admins’ minds. Contact the JumpCloud team to learn more about the pros and cons of Active Directory in the modern era, and how they correlate to the Directory-as-a-Service platform. You can also sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account, or schedule a demo to see how easy JumpCloud can replace Active Directory today. You first ten users are free forever.

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