As the world continues to shift to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model of application delivery, developers are starting to find ways to make their processes more manageable. One such avenue is the use of customer identity and access management (IAM) solutions to offload the chore of managing end user databases. Auth0 and Microsoft Azure AD are two commonly compared solutions for this use case. More specifically, Auth0 is often compared against Azure AD’s B2C solution. AAD B2C is designed to manage customer access to applications rather than internal users’ access to resources, which makes it a closer match to Auth0.
This blog will explore Auth0 and Azure AD, their benefits and drawbacks, and how they compare to one another.
What Is Azure AD?
Azure AD is an identity management platform, and its core offering is a B2B solution for managing internal identities. However, it also has a B2C offering, as noted above, which is the solution we’ll focus on in this blog. That’s because Auth0 vs. Azure AD comparisons are usually looking at Auth0 and Azure AD B2C, which is an identity management platform designed to manage customer identities for web and mobile applications.
Unlike the legacy Microsoft Active Directory (AD) platform, Azure AD is cloud-based. Its legacy counterpart, Microsoft Active Directory, is a long-standing and well-known directory solution. It’s particularly popular among Microsoft users.
When companies began moving to the cloud, Microsoft introduced Azure AD as a cloud-based solution to on-premises AD. However, Azure AD is not simply a cloud copy of, nor a replacement for, AD. It’s an entirely different tool: AD and Azure AD’s architecture, security policies, and functionality are different, and they function independently from one another. Learn more about Azure Active Directory.
What Is Auth0?
Auth0 is a user authentication solution for mobile and web applications. Generally, companies use Auth0 to authenticate external identities rather than internal ones. This involves user identity management to an extent, but it’s more of a customer identity database than an internal IAM platform.
Auth0 is a bit younger (founded in 2013) than Azure AD, but it’s growing fast — it was purchased in 2022 by Okta. Over the last decade, it has become another popular solution for managing end user application access.
Comparing Azure AD and Auth0
Compatibility and Integrations
Both Azure AD B2C and Auth0 offer a wide variety of integrations with different solutions and platforms. However, as a Microsoft product, Azure AD is designed to work within the Microsoft ecosystem. It can work with external identities, but this often comes at a price — either via cost, complexity, or both.
Working within a Microsoft environment often calls for roundabout custom configurations, confusing licensing, and third-party add-ons. Over time, these make the environment brittle, expensive, and difficult to manage. They also make it harder to pry different elements apart should your organization want to move away from Azure AD or Microsoft in the future.
This problem of Microsoft lock-in is becoming more widespread as heterogeneity in organizations grows. For example, businesses are introducing more SaaS applications into their environments and employees are using different types of devices, including varied operating systems and mobile devices. In fact, about three-quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reported that at least some of their employees use their personal devices for work purposes.
Microsoft has historically favored its own product suite and Windows devices, which has made managing diverse and multi-OS environments difficult. Microsoft Intune was released to combat the problem by offering a mobile device management solution (MDM) for non-Windows devices; however, Intune is a product suite in and of itself and incurs additional licensing costs. It also continues to favor the Microsoft product suite in certain regards — for example, by requiring Microsoft Edge for certain functionalities.
It’s important that the solution you choose works with your environment, processes, and teams. Your IT team’s preferences and the solution’s ability to work with what you have in place can determine whether the solution is ultimately a good fit.
We recommend getting input from your IT teams on their preferences and testing out each solution in your environment. Both solutions have a free pricing tier, which could act as a trial account to enable teams to test drive each. You could also schedule demos of each and ask your IT team to join to see how each solution works and ask questions.
Reviews can help as well. Azure AD B2C, for example, scored an average user rating of 8.4 on TrustRadius. TrustRadius highlights the following pros that were commonly cited in user reviews:
- SSO with user-provided identities
- Monitoring access
It also highlights the following commonly cited cons:
- Confusing pricing
- The Azure AD Application Proxy
Auth0 received a slightly higher average user rating of 9 on TrustRadius. Commonly cited pros include:
- Social media login integration
- SSO login
- Separate domain login for apps and websites
Commonly cited cons include:
- Custom domain implementation could be made easier
- Pricing for paid plans could be further reduced
- Deployment integrations could be simplified for popular hosting platforms
While other user reviews can be helpful, usability lies in the eye of the coder: your IT teams’ preferences will likely outweigh third-party reviews and preferences.
Cost and Scalability
Pricing for both platforms is based on active user count. However, Auth0’s pricing is generally higher. Azure AD B2C offers a free tier for the first 50,000 active monthly users, while Auth0’s pricing tier makes the jump from free to paid at 7,000 active monthly users. This often makes Azure AD a more cost-friendly choice for larger companies and applications with a wider or fast-growing user base.
A key differentiator between Azure AD B2C and Auth0 is the fact that, as a Microsoft offering, Azure AD B2C is more inclined toward Microsoft-based and Azure-centric organizations (i.e., teams building applications on Azure). This may be a benefit for Microsoft-based environments, and could be a reason to consider Auth0.
In addition, usability may vary based on preference and your IT environment. Azure AD, for example, might win out in a Microsoft-centric environment, whereas Auth0 may beat out Azure AD for applications that need to use social media login integrations. However, usability is subjective. Your team’s input should help drive this factor.
Finally, there’s the difference in price. Auth0’s free tier is capped at 7,000 users, while Azure AD’s caps at 50,000. This may be a deal-breaker for businesses on a budget, high user-count applications, or applications that are projected to grow significantly.
In summary, when choosing between Auth0 and Azure AD B2C, the decision will likely come down to the compatibility, team preferences, and price point. Businesses should consider each solution’s compatibility within their environment, any preferences among their IT team in terms of usability, and their current and projected active user counts to account for cost.
Bigger Cloud IAM Needs
Similar to offloading customer IAM to a Azure AD or Auth0, IT admins and DevOps engineers are looking for ways to manage their internal users and their access to all of their resources. For the same reasons that Auth0 and Azure AD need to support a diversifying workplace, the internal IAM solution needs to be easy to use and effective regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location.
Enter the open directory platform.
Open directory platforms are designed to connect users to the resources they need to do their work securely and from any trusted device using the most appropriate authentication method. JumpCloud’s open directory platform can do as little or as much as you need to manage your environment. Some companies use JumpCloud for niche services like cloud LDAP, while others use it as their core, cloud-based directory, their mobile device manager (MDM) for any device (including Mac, Windows, Linux, and iOS mobile devices), their True Single Sign-On™ solution to connect users to all their resources, their password manager, and more.
Interested in trying out some of the functionality? Start a free trial today to experience the flexibility of an open directory platform in your environment.