Using Google Apps as a Directory Service

Written by Greg Keller on April 19, 2017

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We often hear folks pondering whether G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work) can also be their directory service. This topic really relates to whether Google Apps (GApps) can be your Active Directory®, OpenLDAP™, or Open Directory server as well – which makes a lot of sense from the IT admin’s perspective. Google Apps is a major shift to the cloud for most organizations. So the thought process is, since we’re already moving so much to the cloud, why don’t we do the same with our directory services infrastructure?

Google Apps as a Directory Service is Limited

Google Identity Management Challenges

Unfortunately, the answer is that you can’t just plug Google Apps in as a directory service.

Google Apps doesn’t have the capability to function as a central, authoritative directory service. In fact, that’s not really their intent with Google Apps Directory. The major initiative with Google Apps as a directory service is that it really is a user repository for GApps services and a few select other web applications. Google Apps won’t authenticate devices, networks, storage systems, or most applications. To a large extent, Google Apps’ vision is to leverage third parties to support the identity management needs of their customers.

Extend Google Apps Identities to Systems, Applications, & Networks 

google and jumpcloud sync integration

But there’s good news too. There are cloud identity management platforms that can serve as an organization’s core directory while tightly integrating with Google Apps. Directory-as-a-Service® is able to effectively function as a Google Apps directory service. As a cloud-hosted directory service, it eliminates the need for AD, LDAP, or Open Directory. The other good news is that you aren’t locked into Windows with AD or the LDAP protocol with OpenLDAP. Directory-as-a-Service functions independently. It treats Windows®, Macs®, and Linux® devices as equals. Also, it is a multi-protocol platform with support for LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, SSH, REST, and more. Users and IT resources can be located on-prem, in the cloud, or anywhere else in the world.

IT admins can leverage JumpCloud by importing their GApps users into it or creating their users from scratch. Any user data created, deleted, or modified in the cloud directory service ends up being synced to GApps. Unlike integration with legacy solutions, such as AD or LDAP, the integration is based on APIs and doesn’t require an additional server.

Using Google Apps and Directory-as-a-Service

If you are trying to use Google Apps as a directory service, drop us a note to learn more about why that doesn’t work. We can share with you the capabilities of GApps as well as the many features and functions of Directory-as-a-Service. Additionally, feel free to give our Identity-as-a-Service platform a try. Your first 10 users are free forever.

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