As more IT organizations shift their identity and access management (IAM) infrastructure to the cloud, the competition for SaaS identity management solutions is intensifying. And with so many options, many admins are left overwhelmed with how to compare the different solutions. But choosing the right IAM provider is critical to organizational security and compliance, and for ensuring an efficient and scalable user experience.
In the web application single sign-on (SSO) landscape, admins are often comparing Azure Active Directory (Azure AD or AAD) and Okta. Interestingly, while both compete in the Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) or web app SSO market, they both also heavily rely on Microsoft Active Directory to function at a high-level.
While they may be competitors in web app SSO and multi-factor authentication (MFA or 2FA), they’re largely different beyond this similarity. Ultimately, both are separate tools that serve different needs for IT administrators. And while Azure AD and Okta may be two of the most popular IAM solutions, that doesn’t mean that either is the best choice for your organization.
In this article, we’ll compare two top IAM solutions; Okta, and Azure Active Directory, before offering a new third solution: JumpCloud + Google Workspace.
Okta: Features, Benefits, and Considerations
Okta, which went public in 2017, was one of the first cloud-based web application SSO solutions on the market. Web app SSO solutions, commonly referred to as first generation Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) platforms, are popular due to the wide use of web applications such as Slack, GitHub, Salesforce, and thousands of others.
Features and Benefits of Okta
Okta is a widely recognized IAM solution that offers several features and benefits.
- Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): Okta provides SSO capabilities, allowing users to access multiple applications and systems with a single set of credentials, and various MFA methods, such as SMS, email verification, push notifications, and hardware tokens.
- User Lifecycle Management: Okta offers user provisioning and deprovisioning capabilities. It integrates with HR systems and directories to automate user onboarding, offboarding, and role-based access control.
- Adaptive Access Policies: Okta’s adaptive access policies allow organizations to define granular access controls based on various factors such as user location, device, network, and behavior.
- Reporting and Auditing: Okta offers comprehensive reporting and auditing features, allowing organizations to track and monitor user activities, authentication events, and access requests.
- Integration Ecosystem: Okta has a broad ecosystem of pre-built integrations with popular applications and services, making it easier to connect and manage access for a wide range of cloud-based and on-premises applications.
These features and benefits make Okta a popular choice for organizations looking for a comprehensive and flexible IAM solution that enhances security, improves user experience, and simplifies access management processes.
Use Cases for Okta
While many IAM platforms can be a fit for more general identity and access use cases, there are a few specific situations in which Okta excels.
- Broad Application Ecosystem: Okta has a wide range of pre-built integrations with various cloud and on-premises applications. If your organization uses a diverse set of applications and services, Okta’s extensive application ecosystem simplifies the integration and management of access across these systems.
- Large-Scale Enterprises: Okta was designed to address the identity management challenges of large enterprises. The platform offers several advanced features to support large businesses, like certification campaigns, intelligent risk analysis, and workflow orchestration capabilities. While these features are rarely used in small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), they can be a big plus for large businesses.
- Developer-Friendly IAM: Okta offers developer tools and APIs that allow for customization and extension of IAM capabilities. If your organization has specific customization requirements or wants to build custom workflows or integrations, Okta provides a developer-friendly environment for these purposes.
Note that these are just a few use cases specific to Okta. There are, of course, many other situations in which Okta can be a good fit for your environment.
Limitations of Okta
While Okta is a popular IAM solution, it also has certain limitations that organizations should consider.
- Not a Standalone IAM solution: Okta must be paired with a core on-prem identity provider (almost always Active Directory). That means organizations using Okta become dependent on the vendor for ongoing support, updates, and maintenance.
- Complicated Infrastructure: Okta’s multi-product approach creates a complicated infrastructure for IT admins to navigate, and its various capabilities and features can require a significant learning curve for admins. Proper planning, configuration, and integration may require skilled resources and expertise, leading to higher costs.
- High Cost: Okta’s pricing model is subscription-based, and the cost can be a limiting factor for some organizations, particularly small businesses or those with budget constraints. As organizations scale and add more users or applications, the subscription costs increase accordingly.
Depending on your specific use case, you may find that Okta’s downsides don’t justify the steep learning curve, high cost, and continued reliance on Active Directory that Okta requires.
Azure AD: Features, Benefits, and Considerations
Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is the user authentication infrastructure for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service that competes with AWS and GCP, Microsoft 365, and web single sign-on solutions. While many IT organizations assume Azure AD is the cloud-based directory services replacement for Active Directory, this is not the case. With Azure AD, Active Directory is still hosted on-premises, while AAD Azure AD is the user management system for cloud and web applications.
Features and Benefits of Azure AD
Azure AD was custom-built for Microsoft, by Microsoft, and allows organizations in Microsoft-based environments to extend their capabilities to the cloud. Here are some key features and benefits of Azure AD:
- Created for Windows-based Infrastructures: highly tailored for Windows servers and Windows-based infrastructures hosted in Azure and gives Microsoft / Windows users an opportunity to shift their infrastructure from on-prem into a data center.
- SSO and MFA: Azure AD enables users to access multiple applications and services with a single set of credentials and supports multiple MFA methods, including phone calls, text messages, mobile app notifications, and biometric factors.
- Directory Services: Azure AD serves as a cloud-based directory service, allowing organizations to manage user identities, group memberships, and access rights centrally.
- Conditional Access Policies: Azure AD allows organizations to define conditional access policies based on various factors such as user location, device health, and risk level.
While Azure Active Directory has a variety of features and capabilities, it’s important to note that it has one major drawback: it is not platform-agnostic, and requires the support of an on-prem Active Directory instance, and for your organization to further integrate within the Microsoft ecosystem.
Use Cases for Azure AD
While many IAM platforms can be a fit for more general identity and access use cases, there are a few specific situations in which Azure AD excels.
- Microsoft Ecosystem: If your organization heavily relies on Microsoft technologies such as Office 365, Azure services, and Windows environments, Azure AD could be the right fit. It offers native integration and provides enhanced features and compatibility.
- Hybrid Environments: Azure AD is well-suited for organizations with existing on-prem Active Directory looking to expand into the cloud. When paired with Azure AD Connect, It offers robust capabilities for integrating and managing user identities and access across both cloud-based and on-premises resources.
- Azure-Based Applications: If your organization develops or uses applications hosted on the Azure platform, Azure AD provides seamless integration and authentication capabilities. It allows for secure access control and identity management for Azure-based applications.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all use cases for Azure AD. Do your own research to compare your company’s needs to Azure AD’s capabilities to determine if it fits your specific use case.
Limitations of Azure AD
While Azure AD provides decent user experience for those who already have an on-prem Active Directory and are deeply entrenched in the Microsoft environment, it’s not without its own unique challenges.
- Limited System Authentication: Out-of-the-box, Azure AD can’t authenticate users to on-prem or remote systems like Windows® (other than Windows 10), Mac® and Linux® machines, cloud infrastructure hosted at AWS® or GCP™ (Google Cloud Platform), on-prem network resources (VPNs, WiFi), on-prem Samba-based file servers, or anything else that operates outside of the Microsoft Azure ecosystem (except for web apps).
- Microsoft Dependent: While Azure Active Directory may be a significant stride towards a cloud-based user management system, it still ties organizations to Microsoft; even Microsoft’s own reference architecture requires AD on-prem (and the bridge technology Azure AD Connect).
- Complicated IT Management: Because Azure AD isn’t a standalone IAM solution, adding it to an existing on-prem Active Directory instance complicates your infrastructure. What’s more, while Azure AD supports hybrid environments and offers integration with on-premises Active Directory (AD), the initial setup and configuration can be quite complex.
If you’re committed to remaining in the Microsoft user environment long-term, these drawbacks may not be deal breakers for you. But if your company is planning to scale at any time in the future, you may discover that you need the flexibility of a platform-agnostic solution.
JumpCloud + Google Workspace: Features, Benefits and Considerations
Today, many businesses are diversifying their operating systems and platforms. These modern organizations want to make remote work happen wherever in the world their employees are located, and on whichever operating system they prefer. For flexible, secure organizational needs like these, JumpCloud + Google Workspace is the ideal solution.
Features and Benefits of JumpCloud + Google Workspace
When you combine the capabilities of JumpCloud and Google Workspace, you get to enjoy many of the same features and capabilities Azure AD and Okta offer – with fewer limitations. Here’s just a few benefits of this partnership:
- Multi-Platform Support: JumpCloud + Google Workspace support a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and mobile devices.
- Unified Device Management: Extend your Google Workspace identities to enjoy robust device management capabilities like enforcing policies, configurations, and security settings across your systems. Meanwhile, users have just one identity for everything they need.
- Directory Insights: Admins get the benefit of JumpCloud’s Directory Insights, a feature that provides visibility and auditing capabilities into Google Workspace user and system activities. It allows administrators to monitor and analyze user behavior, system access patterns, and security events to identify potential risks or anomalies.
- Conditional Access Policies: JumpCloud includes robust conditional access policies that allows organizations to define Google Workspace user access controls based on factors like user attributes, device characteristics, and network conditions.
- No Vendor Lock-In: Unify identity, access, and cross-OS device management, in a cost-effective manner that doesn’t sacrifice security or functionality and avoids vendor lock-in.
Using JumpCloud and Google Workspace together provides a cost-effective, best-in-class alternative to legacy single-vendor solutions that’s easier than ever to implement and roll out. It combines the benefits of Google’s productivity solution with a cloud-based open directory platform to form a modern identity, access, and device management solution – one that eliminates the need for many point solutions that bog down IT environments.
Use Cases for JumpCloud + Google Workspace
Due to their platform-agnostic, cloud-native natures, both JumpCloud and Google Workspace are ideal solutions for organizations of every shape and size. But there’s a few use cases that are particularly well-suited for this partnership.
- Google Users: If your organization already uses Google Workspace, adding JumpCloud is a no-brainer. This partnership allows Google users to extend their Google Workspace identities with JumpCloud.
- Cloud-based Organizations: Because JumpCloud and Google Workspace are fully remote platforms, this partnership lends itself naturally to modern organizations that are already hosting on the cloud. No on-prem or Active Directory required.
- Platform-agnostic Infrastructures: Both JumpCloud and Google Workspace are platform-agnostic – that is, they work on Mac, Linux, PC, and mobile operating systems. If your organization utilizes multiple platforms, management is complicated with Okta or Azure AD – but simple with JumpCloud + Google Workspace.
- Companies Looking to Scale: Because of their cloud-native environments, JumpCloud + Google Workspace makes scaling and expansion easy and cost-effective for organizations. Instead of rebuilding or expanding on-prem support, scaling becomes as simple as adding users with JumpCloud and Google Workspace.
For any company looking to grow and modernize in the coming years, moving to a cloud-based IAM environment is a critical step. That makes the JumpCloud + Google Workspace partnership ideal for many different organizations.
Comparing Okta, Azure AD and JumpCloud + Google Workspace
We’ve now reviewed three separate IAM solutions to show that Okta is primarily a web app SSO provider, Azure AD provides user management for Azure, M365, and SSO to select web apps, and JumpCloud + Google Workspace provides platform-agnostic, cloud-based IAM for many different operating systems and platforms. Now, let’s compare these solutions across three major considerations: functionality, pricing, and user experience.
When it comes to functionality, you need to consider the identity and access management features that are most critical to your organization.
To start, Okta, Azure Active Directory and JumpCloud + Google Workspace all share some common IAM capabilities, like user management, authentication, single sign-on, user provisioning, and multi-factor authentication. Beyond that, each solution’s functionalities begin to break down based on what they were designed for.
For example, Okta’s SSO is their primary focus, so the platform does not offer the depth or breadth of options that JumpCloud does in areas like endpoint device management, directory services integrations, and least-privilege functionality. Likewise, while JumpCloud offers a variety of pre-built integrations, policy enforcement and compliance control options, Azure AD does not.
Perhaps where the three platforms differ the greatest in functionality, though, is in the operating systems they support. As many IT admins realize quickly, Azure AD and Okta are only pieces of the overall identity management puzzle that they are trying to solve. For organizations that need to control access to macOS and Linux systems, on-prem applications, on-prem VPN and WiFi networks, as well as cloud-based applications and Windows systems, JumpCloud + Google Workspace is the clear winner.
Ease of Use
When comparing Okta, Azure AD, and JumpCloud in terms of usability it’s important to consider the user experience, administrative interface, and deployment process.
All three platforms provide a fairly straightforward experience for the end user. The Okta portal is easy for users to navigate, and they can quickly access applications via SSO. Okta also has self-service password reset and MFA enrollment for a streamlined experience. For Azure AD, if the user is already in the Microsoft ecosystem, the experience doesn’t change, as they still access all their resources via their Microsoft credentials. JumpCloud, too, provides a user-friendly interface with a clean, intuitive design. Users can access applications using SSO and manage their account settings easily.
For admins, both Okta and Azure AD can be a lot of work to fully understand the functionalities and how to carry out tasks. Okta’s interface allows administrators to manage users, applications, and security policies with a high level of configurability, but comes with a steep learning curve for new admins. Azure AD offers an administrative interface integrated within the Azure portal, but if you aren’t familiar with the Azure ecosystem, once again – expect a learning curve. On the other hand, JumpCloud was built to have a user-friendly admin interface that’s simple to navigate and manage. Admins can oversee all their user accounts, applications, and devices from a single pane of glass in the JumpCloud portal, offering unparalleled visibility and convenience.
When it comes to deployment, both Okta and Azure AD fall short in comparison to JumpCloud.
While Okta provides deployment guides and tools to assist in integrating applications and configuring SSO, the complexity of integration can vary depending on the specific applications and systems used. For Azure AD, organizations already using Microsoft services will find the deployment process relatively straightforward. But when it comes to integrating non-Microsoft applications and systems, expect to need to phone a friend. On the other hand, JumpCloud + Google Workspace Offers a straightforward deployment process with step-by-step guides and documentation. JumpCloud provides agents and connectors for system integration, making it relatively easy to enroll and manage devices. The process is designed to be platform-agnostic, allowing for easy integration across different operating systems.
Cost is the most important consideration for a lot of businesses shopping their IAM solution, but it’s also the trickiest to compare in a blog article. Each company’s pricing structure is different, and your organization’s total cost will often be based on a lot of different factors, like your current system, the size of your workforce, and the unique features you need. That being said, the biggest difference in pricing with these three platforms comes down to Active Directory.
Okta is known for its complex systems, high functionality…and higher price. And that price is stacked on top of the costs of continuing to maintain and manage your on-prem Active Directory instance, and doesn’t include various add-on features you’ll need to create a fully functional system. Likewise, Azure AD also requires the ongoing maintenance and management of on-prem Active Directory – and Azure AD Connect, to link your on-prem to your cloud-based IAM solutions. The pricing for these products, the cost of the IT admin(s) needed to oversee your on-prem instance, and the ongoing management of AD all must be considered as part of the price.
On the flip side, you can get JumpCloud + Google Workspace without needing additional labor to manage them, or physical space to store them. The package consists of Google’s Workspace Enterprise and Enterprise Plus, which includes its well-established workforce collaboration suite, unlimited storage, data loss prevention, and enhanced Meets capabilities. You also get JumpCloud’s open directory platform, which unifies single sign-on (SSO), mobile device management (MDM), password management, patch management, and much more into a single, cloud-based directory with complete identity and access management (IAM) capabilities.
Choosing the Best IAM Provider for Your Needs
Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right IAM provider for your organization’s unique structure and needs. While Okta and Azure AD both have different strengths and weaknesses for use within the Microsoft instance, JumpCloud + Google Workspace offers many similar features without the platform or on-prem limitations. This makes it a better choice for any organizations running multiple platforms, planning to modernize, or wanting to scale their business in the future.
Using the JumpCloud Directory Platform and Google Workspace together provides a cost-effective, best-in-class alternative to legacy single-vendor solutions that’s easier than ever to implement and roll out. It combines the benefits of Google’s productivity solution with a cloud-based open directory platform to form a modern collaboration and identity, access, and device management solution, one that eliminates the need for many point solutions that bog down IT environments.
Learn more about the partnership between JumpCloud and Google Workspace, or contact us to learn more.