Is There A Better Alternative to Active Directory?

Written by Sean Blanton on January 27, 2021

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Updated on February 13, 2023

With a global pandemic underway, IT organizations are rethinking everything. Even foundational items that have existed for decades within networks are being rethought. Remote work, cloud, mobile device, and countless security threats have completely changed the game for IT organizations down to the core components. 

IT admins are asking: is there a better alternative to Active Directory? The answer is yes. There is a cloud replacement to Active Directory that is better suited for the challenges of now.

Before we dive into the alternative to AD, let’s step back and understand what IT organizations are looking for in an AD replacement and why.

The Rise of Active Directory

identity management active directory

Active Directory’s story actually begins in the 1980’s and 90’s. During this time frame, personal computers started appearing on every employee’s desk – virtually all running Microsoft Windows; the internet and the world wide web had emerged; and productivity software (Microsoft Office) and email (Microsoft Exchange and Outlook) became common tools for completing everyday tasks. Microsoft was at the center of computing literally and figuratively.

As the workplace transformed into the PC era, IT was at a loss for effectively and efficiently managing user access to these new resources. Then in 1999, Microsoft Active Directory was released.

Using LDAP and Kerberos, Active Directory provided IT with centralized user and system management over the Microsoft resources in their on-prem environment. The key words to pay attention to here are “Microsoft” and “on-prem”. At the time, infrastructure only existed on-prem, and virtually every resource that dominated the office was from Microsoft: Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Exchange.

As long as IT environments stuck to the Microsoft ecosystem, IT admins only had to leverage one solution to manage their company’s identities and access to IT resources, which were virtually all, of course, Windows-based applications.

Modern IT Calls for a Better Alternative to Active Directory

Active Directory fails in the cloud

Shortly after Active Directory was introduced, web-based applications took off, with Salesforce paving the way. Then, Mac and Linux systems started replacing Windows workstations. The cloud as we know it launched with AWS and others leading, and revolutionized infrastructure, file storage, processing, and development tools. The IT network today is starkly different than it was even a decade ago, or even a few years ago. Cloud innovations are accelerating and changing the landscape for how IT organizations operate.

Active Directory wasn’t built to integrate with Mac or Linux systems, web-based applications, or the cloud. As each of these new resources started to proliferate in the workplace, third-party solutions were created to help Active Directory connect to these non-Microsoft systems, applications, file servers, and networks.

Eventually, IT found themselves needing Active Directory and a plethora of other solutions just to maintain control over access to their disparate IT resources. This kind of setup has ended up being quite costly, and it has also created a cumbersome workflow for end users and IT admins, alike.

Additionally, this setup forces IT to hang onto their on-prem infrastructure. This prevents them from fully taking advantage of the efficiencies and low costs a cloud IT environment has to offer. For example, organizations that leverage an identity management solution from the cloud don’t have to worry about upgrading hardware every few years, software maintenance and patching, high availability and security, and more. Plus, a better alternative to Active Directory will embrace the variety of resources a modern organization uses on a daily basis in a remote, in-office, or hybrid environment.

The good news is that a better alternative to Active Directory does exist. It is called JumpCloud Directory Platform, and this modern cloud identity management platform is changing the game in IAM. In fact, JumpCloud Directory Platform is reimagining Active Directory and LDAP for the cloud era.

JumpCloud is a Better Alternative to Active Directory


JumpCloud acts as the core identity provider from the cloud, providing IT admins with one cloud directory platform that centralizes user and system management across their entire environment. 

Users enjoy seamless access to their system (Windows, Mac, and Linux), local and remote servers (AWS, GCP etc.), LDAP and SAML based applications, physical and virtual file storage, and VPN and WiFi networks via RADIUS. IT admins don’t have to worry about availability, maintenance, or management. Instead that is all taken care of by JumpCloud, and IT simply gets to enjoy the benefit of a cloud alternative to Active Directory.


JumpCloud MDM

Manage All Devices in One Platform

If you would like to learn more about a better alternative to Active Directory, please reach out to us. You are also encouraged to sign up for a JumpCloud Free account. You’ll be able to explore all of our features, and ten users and ten systems are free for however long you need them. You will also get our premium 24×7 in-app chat support to get you jump started.

Sean Blanton

Sean Blanton is the Director of Content at JumpCloud and has spent the past decade in the wide world of security, networking and IT and Infosec administration. When not at work Sean enjoys spending time with his young kids and geeking out on table top games.

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