By Zach DeMeyer Posted November 4, 2019
Directory-as-a-Service® is free for an organization’s first 10 users. The practice gives IT admins the chance to sandbox JumpCloud for their organization without having to purchase anything. For growing organizations that have 10 users or fewer, they can immediately take advantage of everything Directory-as-a-Service has to offer — for free.
One such organization is SMILE, a Birmingham, UK-based company that facilitates the online presence of higher education organizations in the UK and North America. We had the opportunity to speak with Nathan Monk, SMILE’s Solutions Architect, about his journey with JumpCloud so far.
Can you tell us a bit about SMILE and your role there?
Nathan: SMILE is an agency that works predominantly with universities and colleges in the UK and North America. We build their websites, but we also build out web applications, too. There are ten people in our company currently, and we’re 100% Mac®.
My role is to make sure the projects that we run for our customers allow them to scale. We’re dealing with universities, easily one million-plus sessions a month, so what we do is important; it has to be built properly. That means I am involved with system administration as well.
What was your directory setup before you came across JumpCloud?
Nathan: We messed around with macOS® Server® for a little while, and we’ve been through many different iterations. We tried it on a Mac Mini®, on an old Mac Pro® lying about… We tried it in various guises and even bought a RAID array to try and get it set up properly. It never seemed to be straightforward as something like Linux® and was constantly falling over and doing weird things. Just maintaining it was a hassle for us, and making the macOS Server work outside of the local area network was tough. Because nobody could keep a constant eye on it, it was a total mess.
We got to a point where all we really wanted was the ability for people to be able to log on to different computers with the same credentials. We did take advantage of Mobile Accounts — they were really cool, when they worked. But, our overall setup was so unreliable.
We did this at a time when we were looking to hire our first employee and we thought, “We need to do this right; we need to go on and execute a proper setup.” After the fourth employee or so, we just asked, “Does this even work?” Error messages kept popping up on people’s computers. It was more trouble than it was worth at that point.
How did you find JumpCloud, and what were your first thoughts?
Nathan: One day I thought, “Well, this is ridiculous. There’s got to be something in the cloud that can take care of all of this, or at least 90% of it.” I started googling around, I saw various options. I’m not going to lie: JumpCloud’s ‘less than 10 users for free’ caught my attention. I thought, “Oh, that’s snazzy.”
We are really heavily invested in Google® G Suite™, so we needed something that could integrate with that. And, with GDPR happening last year, I was really keen to lock down passwords as well.
We’d actually done SAML integrations for some of our customers, and I really saw the allure of it. It got me thinking, “Man, I’ve got to have a piece of that for myself.”
What made you stick with JumpCloud then?
Nathan: When I realized that JumpCloud was synchronized between G Suite and basically everything else, I was thinking, “Brilliant, I can provision everything through G Suite and then, magically, one credential works for everything.” But JumpCloud makes life so much better because I don’t even provision through G Suite anymore. I let JumpCloud provision G Suite. That’s awesome.
Onboarding is the biggest challenge as a small company. I buy someone a Macbook and then set it up. Before, I got sick of all the nonsense: I would have to make an account locally, jot down the admin password… It was just a mess. Then, when I realized that I could basically just log into JumpCloud, press some buttons, and, boom, it all happens, I was relieved. Offboarding, onboarding — nice and easy.
We also have a load of Macs around the office, dedicated for conferencing. At first, my co-director thought, “Oh, we’re going to need to make all the logins for this,” but I said “Nope, JumpCloud has got us.” Bish bash bosh, I got all the accounts on there and now it’s happy days.
Can you tell us a bit more about G Suite, SAML, and Mac management with JumpCloud?
Nathan: G Suite integration is invaluable. I couldn’t do without it. It’s not so much an added benefit: It’s a core functionality. It’s got to be there, otherwise JumpCloud wouldn’t really work for us.
We use SAML a lot, and love it. We used it straight away and we’re going to integrate with our own stuff as well.
We have to have FileVault® enabled on our Macs for some of our GDPR policies and certifications. Before JumpCloud, we had some difficulty managing it on Macs, especially after High Sierra®. You’d have to log into a machine locally and get the user to activate it manually. It was a hassle. But now, JumpCloud just does everything automatically, which is awesome. It’s almost too easy now. I don’t even think about it. I set somebody’s Mac up a couple of weeks ago and just created their JumpCloud account, added them to a machine, and everything was done. It’s really good.
What would you say are some other benefits that you’ve experienced throughout your time using JumpCloud?
Nathan: I think it’d probably be an exaggeration to say better mental health, but I definitely have less stress. The onboarding and offboarding part of my job is so much easier now.
We’ve had JumpCloud about six months and I already feel more in control. I’m more productive, and I feel like JumpCloud is just more reliable than some on-prem solution.
I think it’s also the confidence that, God forbid, if anything got stolen or lost, I know that I have the control to be able to wipe, lock, or even find the device. Those are really what I consider to be the benefits; it makes my life easier.
Do you have anything to say to someone who is unsure about trying JumpCloud?
Nathan: Just do it. Try it out now. Obviously, it depends on your needs. But, also it begs the question, “Why are you unsure about it? Why?” I don’t see any reason to be unsure. JumpCloud’s pricing is quite reasonable and makes a lot of financial sense for what it delivers. There’s no front at which JumpCloud isn’t good enough.
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