Cloud-Hosted Microsoft Active Directory: The Ultimate AD Hosting Solution

Written by Rajat Bhargava on January 14, 2016

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Microsoft Active Directory (AD) is the current market-leading directory services solution. AD was first introduced in 1999 and has since become the de facto choice for directory services, owning the lion’s share of the market. Other than the open source OpenLDAP directory service, few other on-premises directory options exist for organizations. As the world moves to the cloud, though, the challenge for IT admins is figuring out how to integrate disparate IT resources into their on-premise AD solution. Because of this significant challenge, IT admins are now searching for a cloud-hosted Active Directory solution. In theory the idea sounds like the right step, but the implementation of a cloud-based Active Directory solution leaves a number of gaps.

Cracks in On-Premise Microsoft Active Directory Infrastructure

Microsoft Active Directory was adopted because IT networks in the early 2000s were almost exclusively Microsoft Windows based. The desktops, laptops, and servers were Windows, along with the applications users needed. Additionally, most of the network was behind the firewall, so an on-premises user directory provided by Microsoft made sense. As the world moved to the cloud over the last decade, cracks in the on-premise AD infrastructure began to emerge. For example, it is difficult to connect AD to web applications. As a result, a new category for web application single sign-on solutions, or SSOs, has appeared. Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers also introduces additional choice since they are an independent infrastructure hosted in the cloud. Plus, new cloud-hosted server user management solutions also now exist, which has contributed to companies moving to the cloud. The amount of infrastructure controlled by Active Directory has since dropped due to these new options.

Holes in Cloud-Hosted Directory Services

IT admins hoped that Microsoft Active Directory’s move to the cloud, with Azure Active Directory, would solve the problem. Unfortunately, IT organizations soon realized that Microsoft’s cloud-based directory service doesn’t solve the fundamental issues for cloud-forward organizations. Modern organizations need to find a solution that allows them to connect users to a wide variety of IT resources, not just those based on the Windows platform. As a result, many of these organizations now leverage Google Apps, not Microsoft Exchange, Office, or Office 365, because Macs and Linux machines are prevalent throughout the network. What’s more, applications that need supported range from those leveraging LDAP authentication to web applications needing SAML. All of these challenges point IT admins to an independent cloud-based directory service.

Directory-as-a-Service: The Vendor-Agnostic True SSO Solution

AD Hosting Solution

Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a vendor-agnostic platform that connects users to the IT resources they need. DaaS supports Windows, Mac, and Linux systems hosted on-premise or in the cloud, as well as applications that are based on LDAP, those hosted internally, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications connecting users via SAML. Google Apps can also be seamlessly integrated into Directory-as-a-Service, whether or not the organization uses Microsoft Office. Additionally, DaaS can serve as the RADIUS infrastructure to secure the WiFi network. This modern identity provider approach is a True Single Sign-On platform.

To learn more about how JumpCloud’s Identity-as-a-Service platform, and its Directory-as-a-Service, is replacing the notion of a cloud-hosted Microsoft Active Directory, drop us a note. We’d be happy to walk you through the pros and cons of today’s many choices, so you make the right decision for your organization. Or give JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service a try for yourself. Your first 10 users are a free forever.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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