Is There A Cheaper Alternative to Active Directory®?

Written by Natalie Bluhm on February 5, 2018

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For larger enterprises worldwide, the choice to leverage Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) has hardly been a choice at all. Microsoft’s flagship directory solution may not be as much of a household name as Microsoft Word, but AD’s market share in the enterprise is second to none. Still most IT admins don’t exactly love Active Directory – and neither do their CFOs. That’s why many are wondering if there is a cheaper alternative to Active Directory.

There are a number of reasons why IT organizations are searching for a replacement to Active Directory. While cost is a significant factor, which we’ll discuss below, part of the interest in eliminating AD also has to do with its inability to manage user access to non-Windows solutions. We’ll unpack this a little more by taking a step back and looking at how the IT landscape has evolved over the last two decades.

Active Directory and the Changing IT Landscape

Active Directory fails in the cloud

When Microsoft initially released Active Directory, a majority of workplaces were filled to the brim with Microsoft products. From systems to productivity software, Microsoft had a firm grasp on the office, and in return, Active Directory worked very well for IT admins in this environment. Additionally, IT resources only had the option of existing on-prem, so paying for expensive hardware and licenses was just part of the deal. Then, some new advances in technology began to chip away at Microsoft’s monolithic presence.

A flood of web-based applications, the rise of Mac and Linux, and the emergence of cloud-based infrastructure are some of the changes impacting the IT landscape. Microsoft and  the identity management space as a whole have both been significantly impacted. These new resources have provided organizations with sufficient alternatives to most Microsoft technology, so Microsoft’s dominance is slowly fading away. As users migrate away from on-prem, Microsoft solutions, Active Directory has started to lose its ability to help IT admins manage their environment. AD doesn’t work with these modern resources, and it doesn’t help that new ones are appearing all the time. So, AD’s growing struggles are one reason why IT admins have been on the lookout for alternatives to Active Directory.  

Active Directory Comes at a High Cost

cost of ownership

Another core issue for IT organizations is cost. Microsoft’s market dominance, of course, translates into the ability to charge at the premium level. Active Directory pricing – while technically “free” – requires Windows Server and CAL licensing to work. This can get pricey depending on the number of users in an environment and on how IT intends to use the Windows Server platform. The costs don’t stop there though. There are indirect costs with running Active Directory like paying personnel to manage, maintain, and configure Active Directory. Furthermore, it is no longer enough to just have Active Directory, so you also have to budget for a variety of third-party solutions that help AD connect to web-based apps, Mac systems, and wireless networks. As you can see, there are a lot of costs involved with Active Directory, and these challenges have led IT organizations to wonder if there is a cheaper alternative to AD. The answer is yes. There is something more cost-effective, and potentially a better fit for cloud-forward, mixed platform organizations.

JumpCloud is a Cheaper Alternative to Active Directory


This solution, called JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service®, is a cross platform cloud directory service that is sold as a SaaS service. IT organizations pay one flat rate and all functionality is included. Further, there is no software and hardware for IT admins to maintain, which decreases the overall cost of ownership. Furthermore, JumpCloud’s modern approach to directory services enables IT admins to centralize user authentication to systems (Mac, Linux, and Windows), on-prem and cloud servers (AWS, GSP), legacy and web-based applications (JIRA, Salesforce), physical and virtual file storage (Dropbox, NAS appliances, Samba file servers), and wired and wireless networks. IT admins not only gain a much more cost effective core identity provider, but also a directory service that can aid them in managing their modern, cloud-forward environment.

Consider watching the webinar below to learn more about the true cost of running Active Directory. If you are ready to find out more about a cheaper alternative to Active Directory, please consider reaching out to us. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. We also encourage you to start testing our cloud identity provider by signing up for a free account. You’ll be able to explore all of our features, and your first ten users are free forever.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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