Alternatives to Azure Active Directory for Office 365

Written by Greg Keller on September 1, 2016

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Microsoft® Office 365™ is taking the IT world by storm. Organizations are moving to Office 365 in droves. Microsoft is accelerating that move by shifting even the on-premises software licensing model to be driven by the cloud with O365.

Microsoft has made the move to the cloud for their business – and they are enabling millions of organizations to do the same. Through O365, Microsoft has become a significant proponent of the cloud.

Three Categories of Alternatives to Azure AD

To that end, Microsoft has paired O365 with the Azure® Active Directory® solution. Azure AD is a mini-directory for user management on Azure and with other cloud services. Azure AD is helpful for some organizations. However, it is not a core directory service that can integrate all of your on-prem devices, cloud infrastructure, and other legacy applications. As such, IT organizations that move to the cloud O365 platform have a significant challenge: how to manage user access.


As a result, alternatives to Azure Active Directory for Office 365 are an important component to consider. There are really three categories of alternatives to Azure AD.

Compartmentalization and Manual Management

The first option is to manually manage everything and keep things compartmentalized. You can leverage Azure AD for only O365 and then manually manage your Mac®, Windows®, and Linux® systems. If you have other platforms or legacy applications, they can also be manually managed. We call this approach creating ‘mini-directories’. The downside, of course, is that there is no centralization. For some organizations, the positive is that you don’t need to commit to any one solution.

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Return to Active Directory®

The second approach is to actually go backward. That’s right, head straight back to Active Directory. While it is possible to use Azure Active Directory for just Azure, the intent of the cloud directory service was to be used in conjunction with Active Directory on-prem. The two would sync and as a result, you would get the benefits of the on-prem AD and the cloud-hosted Azure AD. It’s a nice vision for homogenous Microsoft shops that aren’t leveraging a great deal of other cloud platforms.

Active Directory Replacement

Move Forward with Directory-as-a-Service®

The third option to consider is to leverage an independent SaaS directory service called Directory-as-a-Service®. Not only does this platform give you a central directory service that provisions and syncs with Office 365, but it also provides centralized user management for systems, applications, and networks.

JumpCloud directory-as-a-service

While the AD and Azure AD variants are focused on Windows, this cloud-hosted directory service is platform agnostic and works well with Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. It also seamlessly integrates with O365 as well as Google Apps for Work. In addition, the multi-protocol platform supports LDAP, RADIUS, SAML, REST, SSH, and more. The benefit of an independent cloud directory is that you aren’t tied to a certain vendor or platform.

One solution that is platform agnostic, protocol agnostic, and location independent is a great benefit for IT organizations moving to the cloud.

Try Our Active Directory Alternative with Office 365 Integration

If you are leveraging O365 and are looking for an alternative to Azure Active Directory, take a look at Directory-as-a-Service from JumpCloud®. You might be surprised at how it could replace Azure AD, allowing you to migrate away from Active Directory. For many organizations, that’s a breath of fresh air and the freedom that they are looking for. Don’t just take our word for it; feel free to try JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform for yourself. The account is fully functional and free forever for 10 users. Finally, let us know if you have any questions.

Greg Keller

JumpCloud CTO, Greg Keller is a career product visionary and executive management leader. With over two decades of product management, product marketing, and operations experience ranging from startups to global organizations, Greg excels in successful go-to-market execution.

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