Getting Rid of My Domain Controller

Written by Daniel Fay on September 4, 2020

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Managing and integrating Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) is a challenge for administrators looking to unify their environment. Active Directory works wonders if the environment is entirely Windows® and on-premises, but within the evolving remote work environment, this creates more challenges. Being able to integrate Mac®, Linux®, and applications outside of AD’s wheelhouse (e.g. web applications) leads to aggregating multiple third-party point solutions in a tangled mess of integrations, leading to higher investments both in time and money. Read further to understand how to easily migrate your current AD domain controller environment to the JumpCloud® cloud directory platform and leave the legacy on-prem architecture behind. 

Challenges, Friction, and Obstacles

Every admin dreams of a day when they have visibility of the environment, events, and configurations without having to jump between three or more different management portals. This is closer to reality than a pipedream. Before diving in deeper into how this unified world is achievable, let’s first take a look at some of the challenges running AD in the current environment. 

Since Active Directory’s initial release in late 1999, the architecture has remained the same. A domain is the logical grouping and structure of an organization and the relationships between objects like users, systems, policies, groups, and other units. To run a domain, you need a Windows Server, promoted to a Domain Controller (DC), in charge of running Active Directory Domain Services. AD DS is the fundamental service that provides the foundation of running Active Directory. Domains could have multiple DCs, but there comes added infrastructure costs such as site-to-site VPNs, hardware, and licensing. If there are any issues with replication or the underlying datastore within AD, critical failures could happen such as loss of Flexible Single-Master Operator (FSMO) roles or worse still, tombstoning. 

Even with the latter complexities, cost, and potential issues Microsoft has a majority of the market share on business end-points and devices used within organizations across the world. Recently there has been a dramatic increase in purchases and usage of Macs. Linux servers and virtualization are also on the rise to carry out backend and automation tasks for companies worldwide using platforms like AWS®. This creates friction for IT admins still fundamentally based in an Active Directory environment. 

Devices are only one part of an organization’s IT infrastructure. To add to the complexity, factor in WiFi networks, VPNs, SSO applications, NAS devices, LDAP applications, and auxiliary user databases like G Suite or Microsoft 365. Managing these resources together creates challenges, as not all resources play nicely with AD. Adding friction with remote-work in the current pandemic, managing and securing these technologies exponentially increases stress on the IT team. Thankfully, a solution is available to organizations to achieve secure unification by replacing their legacy Active Directory Domain Controller. 

Should I Stay or Should I Go? 

To say that DCs don’t do a lot is unfair, but in the current IT landscape, they don’t do enough alone without integrations to third-party solutions. As Macs, Linux, SSO apps, and other resources become more prevalent, the discussion around replacing AD becomes stronger. JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform can be the solution for not only migrating off of AD, but empowering admins to unify, manage, and secure their organization from anywhere. 

Unlike Active Directory, JumpCloud doesn’t rely on physical hardware, Domain Controllers, or the theory of a domain. Instead, JumpCloud’s domainless enterprise approach is cloud-forward, vendor-agnostic, and protocol-based. All operating systems are welcome and easily managed via a system agent and MDM. Additionally, JumpCloud supports hundreds of critical business applications like Salesforce®, AWS, GitHub®, Atlassian Cloud®, and many more via SSO. Networks can be secured via JumpCloud RADIUS, which individualizes access to WiFi and VPN networks instead of shared-keys like WEP or WPA2 keys. We’ll not cover the entirety of the JumpCloud platform in this article, but read more on JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform. 

Making a decision to leave Active Directory behind can be a heavy decision, although a progressive one. JumpCloud has different methods to help IT admins from different comfort levels and timelines migrate from AD to its cloud directory platform. 

For admins looking to extend first while slowly weaning off of AD, JumpCloud’s Active Directory Integration allows admins to easily create a two-way sync between their Domain Controllers and JumpCloud, assisting cross management of users, groups, attributes, and group membership. This two-way sync gives admins the ability to manage users, access, and passwords within a single console. When the organization is ready to cut the cord, admins can sever the link to Active Directory making the users and groups under JumpCloud’s governance. 

Organizations looking to rapidly migrate off Active Directory and into JumpCloud have many different approaches that allow quick and seamless transition to the cloud. Admins can instantly import users from either CSV, G Suite, or Microsoft 365. Once the users are within JumpCloud, admins can integrate with devices, apps, cloud services, and LDAP resources rapidly. For AD-bound devices, JumpCloud’s Active Directory Migration Utility (ADMU) quickly converts the system and user to a JumpCloud-managed user and device. In a recent webinar, John Ellis from TechSoft 3D discussed how they implemented JumpCloud to ditch their domain controllers and migrate entirely to the cloud. Rapid transition to a comprehensive cloud directory platform doesn’t have to be arduous, stressful, or complicated. 

Try JumpCloud’s Cloud Directory Platform

Try JumpCloud and see how it can help you leave Active Directory and Domain Controllers behind. JumpCloud Free grants new admins 10 systems and 10 users free forever to help evaluate or use the entirety of the product. Once you create your organization, you receive 10 days of Premium in-app chat support to help with any questions or issues. Sign up today for your free account!

Daniel Fay

Daniel Fay is a Product Marketing Manager at JumpCloud.

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