What is Cloud System Management?

Written by Natalie Bluhm on June 3, 2018

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Over the last few years, the cloud has proven itself to be a worthy ally among IT organizations. According to Suse, cloud resources improve efficiency, consolidation, productivity, and reduce costs. One IT component that has greatly benefited IT admins is cloud system management. What is cloud system management, exactly? How is it different from legacy system management solutions? What level of control can it provide over systems?

With any new solution, these are exactly the kinds of questions you want to be asking.

Before we answer them, though, let’s take a look at how systems were managed in the past.

System Management in the Past

In the past, system management was simpler because Microsoft® Windows® systems monopolized the workforce. Microsoft Windows’ popularity was so widespread, that it ended up dictating what IT resources IT admins would allow in their environment for two decades. How did this happen? Well, it all started with the personal computer.

System Management

A Brief History of Computers and Microsoft Windows

While computer systems have been a part of the workforce since the 1930s, it took the creation of the personal computer (PC) in the 1970’s for them to really take off as a productivity tool in the workplace. Around the same time that the use of personal computers exploded, Microsoft released their first graphical user interface (GUI) for Microsoft PCs – the Windows Operating System. Technically, Apple® was the first to release an affordable computer based off of a GUI, but there were a lot more Windows PC manufacturers, which drove the price of PCs down. As a result, organizations ended up preferring to purchase Windows PCs over Mac systems for their employees. This led to Microsoft having an 86% market share in the desktop OS space by the time the late 1990s rolled around.   

How IT Admins Managed Windows Systems

As Windows systems took off, Microsoft released SMS, now called the System Center Configuration Manager® (SCCM), and then Active Directory® (AD). Together, these solutions allowed IT admins to efficiently manage Windows systems and users, and user access to other Microsoft products like Office®, Outlook®, and Windows File Server® (these were also dominant in the workplace). There was one feature in particular that allowed IT admins to have pretty decent control over the Windows systems in their environment, and it was called Group Policy Objects (GPOs). GPOs allowed IT organizations to dictate what systems could or couldn’t do. For example, IT could use GPO’s to dictate whether or not users had access to the control panel or whether or not the guest account was enabled. Due to the efficient, centralized control IT had over their Microsoft-centric environment, most organizations implemented Windows systems and other Microsoft products and used AD and SCCM to manage them. For the last two decades, this setup has been the preferred method for managing an IT environment. However, the downside to this user and system management setup was that it only really worked for on-prem Windows-centric environments. Why was this a downside? Well, it has to do with how the workplace has changed since then.

The Modern IT Landscape

For some time now, the Windows platform has been losing out to Mac and Linux® systems. Since Active Directory and SCCM weren’t really designed to manage non-Windows systems, IT admins have been challenged with trying to bring their Mac and Linux fleets under control. Some have tried integrating Active Directory with third-party solutions known as directory extensions or identity bridges, but they leave a lot to be desired. Other organizations have resorted to manual management or no management at all, and both result in a significant decrease in security.

Modern IT Landscape

Matters have only gotten worse as more non-Microsoft solutions have found their way into the modern office. Today, users are leveraging web-based applications, remote data centers, wireless networks, and cheaper alternatives for file storage like Samba file servers and NAS appliances. These resources aren’t based on any one platform or provider, and most of them are cloud-based. Since Active Directory wasn’t built to support these kinds of digital tools, AD has lost its effectiveness.

Therefore, IT admins aren’t just looking for a way to manage their Mac and Linux systems from the cloud, but also all of their other IT resources like applications, networks, and file storage. Preferably, they would like to do it all with one identity management solution, and since so many components have moved to the cloud already, many IT admins are ready to run their directory service from the cloud as well. It’s been tough to find a true core directory service because so many cloud identity management solutions just focus on supporting one type of resource.

Luckily, there is a new cloud-based directory service called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. It offers deep cloud system management capabilities while enabling you to centralize identity and access management for virtually all of your IT resources.

JumpCloud – Cloud System Management and More

Cloud system management is just the tip of the iceberg in what JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service is capable of doing for your IT environment. For example, with cross-platform GPO-like capabilities, JumpCloud enables IT admins to gain control over their entire fleet of systems, whether they are Mac, Linux, or Windows. JumpCloud offers a growing library of Policies that can be applied with a few clicks, and IT organizations that need to create their own custom policies, can utilize JumpCloud Commands to script their own. In addition to integrating with all of your systems, JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service also supports LDAP and SAML based applications, virtual and physical file storage, and wired and WiFi networks. So, at the end of the day, JumpCloud provides you with a modern identity management solution that can securely empower your organization to use the IT resources that work best for them.  


Learn More

Learn more about cloud system management by watching this whiteboard video. If you’re ready to start testing our cloud based directory service, sign up for a free account. Your first ten users are free forever, and every single one of our features is available. You are also more than welcome to drop us a note. One of our JumpCloud team members will be happy to help.

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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