Updated on January 29, 2024
FreeRADIUS servers offer a tremendous amount of flexibility and power but come with a steep learning curve. This is exacerbated by the fact that a FreeRADIUS graphical user interface (GUI) is not built into the standard FreeRADIUS software solution.
There used to be a few commonly used FreeRADIUS GUI solutions such as daloRADIUS and RADIUSdesk, both of which are now outdated and no longer useful. Many are finding that cloud-based RADIUS solutions with a GUI are a better way to go, but either way, it’s helpful to have a general understanding of FreeRADIUS and the RADIUS protocol.
Understanding Demand for FreeRADIUS and the RADIUS Protocol
RADIUS is a tried and true protocol that has helped shape the modern internet. It was first used to connect users to remote resources via telephone lines and modems (think days of dial-up bulletin board services and internet access). Of course this use case is no longer the norm. Today, RADIUS provides a large variety of benefits that make it invaluable in modern IT environments — especially with how many remote employees there are globally that use VPNs/WiFi with RADIUS.
When you use FreeRADIUS to handle your network authentications, every user gets their own set of credentials. As a result, the security of your network is substantially stronger because each authentication is unique. Your team no longer has to pass around the same sticky note that’s been misplaced and re-written 20 times or simply look at the office whiteboard to gain access to your entire network.
Open-source software has been iterated and built upon over time, meaning that it often remains agile and flexible as people learn and contribute to it. The fact that open-source software is easily accessible for anyone to download, utilize, and update makes it a valuable resource. However, the absence of a well-maintained FreeRadius GUI leads to a less than ideal admin experience.
RADIUS connects user identities to a wide range of network infrastructure including wireless access points (WAPs), switches, routers, VPNs, and more. At this point in time, there are modern serverless RADIUS options on top of traditional on-prem FreeRADIUS server options that you can choose for your organization. Both allow users to connect to just about any piece of networking infrastructure with one unique set of credentials, all without IT admins having to create user profiles for every piece of infrastructure.
For heterogeneous IT environments, FreeRADIUS works with all major systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux, provided they have the correct supplicant (a piece of software that transports user information to RADIUS components). Most major operating systems have them built-in, but they’re easily installable ad hoc should that be required.
Choice of Authentication Protocols
The flexibility of RADIUS extends out to authentication protocols — a variety of authentication protocols can be used for network authentication. This ability within the RADIUS infrastructure to leverage a vast range of protocols means that FreeRADIUS servers fit into many types of IT environments. Plus, the ability to choose from an array of authentication protocols empowers IT admins to secure their networks in a way that works for their organization specifically.
Finally, in a typical FreeRADIUS setup, you’d have a directory service that acts as your single source of truth for identity management. Here, the RADIUS server searches for user information and validates that the users attempting to access network resources are actually allowed that access. FreeRADIUS can act as its own user store, but it is most often backended with OpenLDAP, Microsoft Active Directory, a cloud directory platform like JumpCloud, or one of many other directory service solutions.
Unfortunately, all of these benefits require a considerable amount of configuration to be realized. That means becoming proficient at the command line or finding a FreeRADIUS GUI solution that is capable of realizing these benefits, well-maintained, and intuitive enough to learn without eating into both time and budgetary constraints is essential for taking advantage of FreeRADIUS.
FreeRADIUS GUI Woes and Setup Challenges
If you’re not well-versed in the FreeRADIUS command line, configuring the server to work with all of your endpoints, switches, VPNs, routers, etc. is a tough task. If you do leverage a FreeRADIUS GUI solution, learning how to use the software may be challenging and inefficient when it comes down to the bottom-line.
Aside from the software configuration work needed, physically setting up your FreeRADIUS server is no walk in the park. Going the DIY route means finding hardware that is compatible with the FreeRADIUS software. You can also purchase pre-built solutions, but they are often cost prohibitive. Then, after you purchase the solution, you have to connect that hardware with all of the infrastructure in your environment, which can be quite challenging.
On top of all of this, many of today’s IT admins do not want or simply cannot have any hardware on-prem. Ultimately, as the shift from on-prem to cloud infrastructure continues, more and more IT admins are looking for cloud RADIUS solutions due to their simplicity in setup and configuration.
To see all the benefits of RADIUS, check out our Definitive Guide to RADIUS.
Cloud-Based RADIUS Solutions
No matter your level of experience with FreeRADIUS servers and the RADIUS protocol, Cloud RADIUS addresses many of the challenges brought forth by setting up your own FreeRADIUS server. A key aspect of the JumpCloud Directory Platform, Cloud RADIUS is built with an easy-to-use, web-based GUI that streamlines the configuration/integration activities inherent to setting up FreeRADIUS.
Simply add your users to the built-in directory using the GUI, PowerShell module, or Google Workspace/M365 integrations and point your networking infrastructure to JumpCloud’s pre-configured RADIUS servers. From there, you have full control over the security and provisioning of resource access including placing users in dynamic VLANs or adding multi-factor authentication to VPN access, for example.
Like RADIUS, JumpCloud is designed to work with a myriad of IT equipment so you can use what’s best for your organization. You choose the systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), authentication protocols, networking infrastructure, etc., and the JumpCloud Directory Platform fits seamlessly into your environment. Instead of configuring significant on-prem infrastructure, you get to leave the server configuration, maintenance, and the rest to us.
Try Cloud RADIUS for Free Today
If you’re seeking a cloud-based RADIUS solution, check out JumpCloud’s Cloud RADIUS when you sign up for a trial of JumpCloud’s open directory platform.