Cloud RADIUS 101

Written by Brandon White on September 30, 2020

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The staying power of the RADIUS protocol is a rare exception in our constantly evolving tech world — after more than 30 years, RADIUS still delivers value to IT networking.

Created in 1991 for dial-up access and accounting management, RADIUS historically was a protocol used to authenticate and control access to networking hardware. Today, we’re a long way from dial-up, and RADIUS is primarily used for access to WiFi networks, VPNs, and networking gear like switches and routers. A new generation of online RADIUS solutions is thriving, and these new tools help IT organizations control their WiFi and VPN infrastructure and allow users to securely authenticate for access.

Enter: the Cloud

The move to WiFi has been an important transition for organizations. WiFi is not only a game changer for how organizations work, it has completely changed the face of IT. WiFi gives employees flexibility and agility in how they work and function, which became more lifesaver than game changer during the quick COVID-19 pivot to work from home earlier this year. It allowed productivity and collaboration to continue while people worked from anywhere.

For IT administrators, WiFi has changed the shape of networks. Instead of viewing WiFi networks as a one-to-one replacement for wired infrastructure, many organizations are using it as the catalyst to shift to the cloud.

While WiFi doesn’t require moving to the cloud, the cloud allows IT organizations to think about their on-premises networks differently. For many, users connect to the internet, but their infrastructure lives in the cloud. By moving to the cloud, RADIUS is more integrated into an organization’s core infrastructure.

Security First

Security is one of the reasons IT organizations started moving their infrastructure to the cloud. WiFi networks are inherently less secure because you can’t control where the signal goes.

RADIUS connects users to their network infrastructure gear, such as VPNs, switches, and routers. Unlike standard WiFi authentication, which uses shared SSID and passphrases as login credentials, RADIUS uses unique credentials for authentication, creating a more secure wireless network overall. It only lets in identities that are trusted by the network.

Traditionally, though, the price of those RADIUS security measures was a complex implementation. There was a need to implement FreeRADIUS, Active Directory®, and, often, a bridge between the two. Monitoring, uptime, backups, and security all needed to be addressed. A local client might have required installation on each device as well. 

A managed RADIUS solution addresses that by pointing WiFi authentication to a cloud RADIUS server and by eliminating the need to manage both the RADIUS server and directory service. You’re as secure as a wired network, and your users authenticate to your WiFi with their unique credentials while gaining the flexibility of being mobile within your space.

Cloud RADIUS from a Cloud Directory Platform

The concept of a managed RADIUS approach is implemented by a JumpCloud directory platform where cloud RADIUS is one of the many features and functions. To use it, IT admins simply point their networking infrastructure (e.g. VPNs, WiFi access points, etc.) to authenticate to the cloud RADIUS endpoints. The RADIUS servers are managed by the third-party provider rather than implemented and managed by the IT team.

With cloud RADIUS from a JumpCloud, admins get security and ease.

An integrated RADIUS and directory service combination allows IT admins to offload the heavy lifting while still realizing all the benefits. And, the cloud RADIUS platform supports the common RADIUS protocols. 

To learn more about JumpCloud®’s RADIUS service and how it can help you secure your WiFi network, sign up for JumpCloud Free to test the platform’s full functionality for up to 10 users and 10 devices. Use 10 days of free in-app chat support too to get the most out of the first days in your new account.
Still have questions? We’d love to talk.

Brandon White

Brandon is an enthusiast, solutionist, and JumpCloud’s Technical Evangelist, active in journalism and IT in cities across the US for over 25 years. Pick his brain on Slack in the JumpCloud Lounge:

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